What offensive slump? Rays win 15-3
By MARC TOPKIN
Times Staff Writer
MIAMI — Oh by the way, James Shields won his first game in more than six weeks.
Had to get that out of the way first, because the rest of the story Wednesday was all about the season-high outburst from the previously anemic — and potentially concerning — Rays offense: 10 runs in one inning, four home runs and a 15-3 Citrus Series-clinching victory over the Marlins.
“It was nice to watch, I’ll tell you that,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We just needed that kind of an explosion. Hopefully that gets us going.
“And you get it through confidence. The work’s there, the mechanics are there, all that other kind of stuff. It’s about how you feel about yourselves. So maybe after tonight we have a better feeling.”
The Rays moved to a record 15 games over .500 at 46-31 and on a pace for 97 wins, though it wasn’t a perfect night as they remained one game behind the Red Sox in the AL East.
And they made four errors, their most in nearly two seasons, including the first of the year by Akinori Iwamura, who’d been the only American League second baseman without one.
But who’s to quibble?
After scoring 10 runs in a game only twice in the past month, they did it Wednesday in a 14-batter, 27-minute, 59-pitch top of the fifth inning.
The first nine Rays reached based and scored — which had never happened in their first 1,693 games — as they rapped seven hits, including homers by Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria.
“That was something special,” Longoria said.
“It was fun to do,” Crawford said.
And after 10 of their past 16 wins were by one or two runs, they enjoyed the relaxed margin, largest of the year.
The season-high-matching four home runs included a pair by Crawford, for the fourth time in his career and first in nearly two years, and resulted in a career-best five RBIs (and gave him a team-best 43). In seven games since coming back from his suspension, Crawford is 11-for-23.
Longoria hit his team-high 13th, and there was some redemption for Ben Zobrist, who was called up from the minors to fill in for shortstop Jason Bartlett and booted the first two balls hit to him but later homered.
As much as the Rays accomplished — they also matched season highs with eight extra-base hits and nine walks — it will only really matter if they carry it over.
“Everything’s in place; we just have to go out and execute it,” Maddon said. “It’s just like any other facet of the game. You get hot at it and all of a sudden — boom — it takes off. And maybe this is something that could get us unstuck and get us going in the right direction.”
“We don’t click too often,” Longoria said. “We find ways to win games, but that’s really what we’re capable of when everybody starts doing what they can do.”
Every Rays starter had at least one hit as they totaled 15, which brings us back to Shields. In addition to working seven solid innings, he singled ahead of Crawford’s three-run homer in the third and reached on an error (picking up an RBI) and scored in the seemingly endless fifth.
“I was a little tired after that,” he said.