ST. PETERSBURG — The narrative of the Rays' entire offseason manifest, scripted by the players they brought in and the corresponding moves to make room for them, has been to bolster the offense.
But through the first 10 games — and, yes, just the first 10 — that plan had not provided many happy endings, as they had won just three times and ranked at or near the bottom by almost any offensive measure.
Going into Saturday, they had been shut out in their previous 19 innings, and scored once in their past 27, in losing three straight, and would be without catalysts Logan Forsythe and Kevin Kiermaier.
But coming out, they were feeling a little better, showing at least a glimpse of what they can do in a 7-2 win over the White Sox. They set a season high for runs and matched their best with 10 hits, three of them homers, including one by shortstop Brad Miller, whose struggles had been a big part of their malaise.
"Obviously it's early in the season and you want everything to go well, but this offense is fine,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "You've got to look at the pitchers we've just faced over the (previous) four days, and sometimes you have to credit those guys. We're going to face a lot of good pitching; I don't know if there's going to be much better than that grouping throughout the course of the season, four in a row.''
Certainly, the back-to-back-to-back-to-back challenge of Cleveland's Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, followed by Chicago's Chris Sale on Friday, was extraordinarily rigorous. But there aren't many easy days, especially playing in the American League East.
"We've got to figure out a way to beat good pitchers,'' Cash said. "It's been pretty quiet in the dugout. … It was nice to see the guys break out a little bit.''
The offense was the headline, before a Kiermaier bobblehead-induced crowd of 30,451, but not the whole story.
Erasmo Ramirez had no problem moving back from the bullpen to the rotation, giving the Rays exactly what they needed for the spot start: 52/3 shutout innings in remarkable efficiency, on 66 pitches, one over the limit Cash gave him.
"When they already tell you what your pitch limit is when you start the game, you just think about attacking,'' Ramirez said. "For sure. You don't think about how many pitches you have at that moment, you just want to execute any pitch you are throwing and get deeper, as deeper as you can.''
Third baseman Evan Longoria chipped in with the game's best defensive play, reaching well into the stands to catch a Melky Cabrera foul ball to end the fourth. And Brandon Guyer and Desmond Jennings also homered.
But Miller had the biggest reason to smile. Or at least exhale.
Miller, acquired from Seattle in the offseason, had been off to a miserable start: two hits in his first 28 at-bats. And he was playing Saturday against Sox lefty John Danks only because Tim Beckham moved over to second base to fill in for Forsythe.
But Miller made the best of it, hitting a two-run homer in the fourth off Danks — just his third career homer off a lefty — and doubling in a run in the eighth.
"I think it's just wanting, sometimes wanting too much or trying too hard,'' Miller said. "I think the biggest thing is being a new guy, you want to contribute, you want to earn your teammates' and your coaches' respect by how you go about your business and going out there battling.
"The biggest thing was that it felt good to reward their confidence in me, for sure. And everybody was kind of picking each other up (Saturday night). It was a lot of fun.''
That's a different story altogether.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.