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New lineup helps Tampa Bay Rays batter Kansas City Royals ace Zack Greinke and win three of four in series

ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon typically uses his daily bike rides to think about all sorts of things.

Today's trip around Davis Islands, for instance, he said he plans to ponder how to pay for his son's photography equipment. But he also will "chew on" his lineup, deciding whether to make changes at the leadoff spot and at designated hitter for tonight's matchup with the Red Sox, and maybe even beyond.

"By the time I get back," Maddon said. "I'll have all the answers."

This came after Maddon made all the right moves in Monday's 10-4 drubbing of the Royals and ace Zack Greinke in front of 24,219 at Tropicana Field. He used the Monday noon start to give a few guys a day off and tweak the lineup, putting Jason Bartlett in the leadoff spot, Willy Aybar at DH and Michel Hernandez behind the plate.

Bartlett responded by reaching base four times on three hits and a walk. Aybar, filling in for the slumping Pat Burrell, hit home runs from both sides of the plate. Hernandez picked up two hits and his first career triple. And Gabe Kapler, who gave B.J. Upton a day off in center, made a spectacular, Upton-like running catch near the warning track.

"It was a good all-around day," Maddon said.

A day after one of Tampa Bay's most disappointing offensive efforts of the season, a 4-1 loss in which Maddon didn't like the way his team attacked the day, the way the Rays (58-48) worked each at-bat Monday had an entirely different feel.

"They battled all day," said Royals bench coach John Gibbons, filling in as manager Trey Hillman tended to a family matter. "That's where their team is really tough."

So was Rays left-hander Scott Kazmir (6-6), who set the tone with his second straight quality start, walking just one in an outing in which he was able to throw all his various pitches for strikes.

The Rays gave him a 4-0 lead after two innings, with Bartlett (3-for-4, two RBIs) and Carl Crawford (3-for-5, three RBIs) a formidable 1-2 combo and Carlos Peña adding a big two-run single.

Bartlett — who said Greinke didn't have his best stuff, struggling to throw first-pitch strikes — enjoyed the leadoff spot. "Obviously I liked it; we had a good game, I had a good game," said Bartlett, who is hitting .337 with a .387 on-base percentage. "If that's what (Maddon) wants to do, I'm more than happy to do that."

The Rays have been more than happy with Aybar, who always seems to step up in his sporadic starts or pinch-hit duties. Aybar, who is hitting .282, has 10 homers in just 42 starts.

"Willy's unbelievable," Peña said. "One word: unbelievable."

Maddon said he has wanted to show players consistency, not "jumping all over the place haphazardly being a bandwagon kind of a manager." He has talked about supporting players through difficult moments, as in the case of Upton (.244) early in the season as well as Burrell (.225, with 11 strikeouts this homestand) now. But Maddon has also shown he's willing to make changes, even with a popular player, recently dropping Peña from the cleanup spot.

"If I choose to make an adjustment, it has to be that I'm satisfied that all the other avenues have been explored," Maddon said.

One of Maddon's oft-used phrases is "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result."

On Monday, Maddon was reminded of that. He smiled and said, "I don't want to be insane."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com

Rays 10

Royals 4

New lineup helps Tampa Bay Rays batter Kansas City Royals ace Zack Greinke and win three of four in series 08/03/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 7, 2009 2:34pm]
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