Thursday, June 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Even without Price, Rays pitching stays sharp

ST. PETERSBURG — It's nearly impossible to argue that trading LHP David Price to Detroit improved the Rays' pitching staff.

Nonetheless, as Price returns to Tropicana Field for today's three-game series against the Rays, his former team's statistics have improved.

The Rays have improved their ERA every month this season, and they've gone from a 2.71 in July to a 2.49 so far in August without Price. That August ERA is the second-best in the league, behind Seattle (1.89). The Rays' 161 strikeouts this month are 11 more than the next-best Tigers in the AL.

"David did a wonderful job of setting a great example for all these guys, just like (James) Shields had done for him in the past," manager Joe Maddon said. "Now it's everybody else's turn. They're all taking to it."

Although the Rays' streak of 12 games allowing three or fewer runs ended Sunday, they haven't given up more than four in their past 13. That ties San Diego for the second-longest streak in the majors this year.

LONGORIA COMING AROUND: After struggling early in the season, 3B Evan Longoria's offense has started to resemble his All-Star form.

He had both of the Rays' RBIs in Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Yankees and leads the team with 66. In 27 games since the All-Star break, Longoria has knocked in 22 runs; he had 44 in the previous 97 games before the break. His slugging percentage is also up 23 points since the break.

"I'd like to believe it's really close," Maddon said. "The ball's coming off the bat hotter. That's just a confidence issue right there. It happens to everybody. As his confidence continues to build, you're going to see more solid contact, no doubt."

ON ARCHER: The Tigers' potent offense has given plenty of pitchers trouble this year — but not today's starter, RHP Chris Archer.

Archer had one of the best performances of his career July 5 in Detroit, working into the ninth inning of the Rays' 7-2 win. He allowed only six hits in those 8 1/3 innings and will try to replicate the same fastball command today that he had last month.

"Really everything stems off fastball command for me," said Archer, who has allowed only five earned runs in 19 innings this month. "If my fastball's going, my slider and my changeup are working right off of that."

MINOR MATTERS: Triple-A Durham INF Mike Fontenot was named the International League's player of the week Monday after batting .542 with nine RBIs. He had two four-hit games and six extra-base hits. … INF Nick Franklin is batting .200 with two home runs and five RBIs in 15 games since joining Durham after the Price trade. … SS Willy Adames has a .275 batting average with nine runs scored in 14 games for Low Class A Bowling Green.

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