Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Desmond Jennings swings, gets hit on first pitch of game again for Tampa Bay Rays

MINNEAPOLIS — LF Desmond Jennings got things started quickly for the Rays again Saturday.

For the sixth time in 15 games since being reinstalled in the leadoff spot July 24, and for the second straight night, Jennings ripped a hit on the first pitch of the game to the Rays. He swung at the first pitch in four other games, with three misses and a foul ball.

You'd think the other teams might notice that on their scouting reports.

"Until it stops working, I'm going to keep doing it," Jennings said. "First pitch of the game, you pretty much know it's going to be a strike."

Manager Joe Maddon is all for the aggressive approach. "If he gets out and starts our games like that — you can't do it every night — but does it a little bit more often, he absolutely can be a catalyst for us," he said.

RECORD NIGHT: RHP Fernando Rodney broke the team record, previously shared by Roberto Hernandez (1999) and Rafael Soriano (2010), by converting his 20th consecutive save, his major-league-leading 35th in 36 tries. "What can you say — the superlatives, there aren't enough,'' Maddon said. … For LHP David Price to share the team record for consecutive quality starts (six or more innings, three or fewer runs) is no surprise. What is surprising is that he matched Julio Santana, who did so in the 1998 inaugural season. Price is also the first Rays pitcher with two seasons of 15 or more wins.

SHIELDS ROLLING: After muddling through a 15-start stretch with a 3-7, 5.16 record, RHP James Shields takes the mound today coming off back-to-back impressive outings.

One technical difference is that he has made more use of his fastball, throwing it 50 percent of the time (107 of 214 pitches, per fangraphs.com) compared to 27.7 percent previously. The change was by design, part of an overall strategy to be more aggressive, Shields said. But it also depends on him having a good feel for the fastball when he gets on the mound, the opponent and the game situation.

Another was more internal.

"I definitely wanted to do better in that stretch," he said. "David (Price) has been phenomenal all year. He's really picked up the slack for me and so have the other guys, so now it's my time to rise."

LONGO UPDATE: For the second straight day, Maddon came to the stadium thinking he wouldn't play Evan Longoria and changed his plans after talking to him and head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield. "He came in adamant that he felt way better (Saturday) than he did (Friday)," Maddon said.

Longoria, who missed 85 games with a left hamstring injury, was 0-for-4 Saturday. He is 5-for-19 in his first five games.

GLOVE LOVE: The Rays tied the team record with their 10th consecutive errorless game, continuing their marked improvement since the All-Star break. After making 71 errors in the 86 games before the break (second most in the majors), they have made only seven in their first 27 after the break, matching the fewest.

REHAB REPORT: Luke Scott was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts as the DH for advanced Class A Charlotte in his first rehab game. Scott, out since July 21 with a mild oblique strain, is scheduled to play again today and be re-evaluated Monday, looking to rejoin the Rays this week.

MISCELLANY: B.J. Upton and Matt Joyce, extending his hitting streak to 10 games, teamed for the Rays' third back-to-back homers of the season. … Upton on the 425- and 433-foot blasts: "That's all I got.'' … For just the fourth time this season, Maddon used the same lineup and batting order in consecutive games. … Ben Zobrist started his third straight game at shortstop, Maddon again praised his play. … The five-game winning streak is one shy of their season high, done twice.

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