Thursday, August 16, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays hit three homers, complete sweep of Blue Jays (w/ video)

TORONTO — Manager Kevin Cash first noticed the signs in Anaheim over Mother's Day weekend that his Rays hitters were starting to take better approaches and cobble together some productive innings.

They have built from there, even through the ensuing losses to the Mariners and A's, making individual and collective adjustments, and it manifested this week in Toronto.

With Wednesday's 6-3 sweep-sealing win over the Blue Jays, the Rays capped a three-game series that was one of their most offensive — in a very good way.

The 44 hits, and 20 for extra bases, broke franchise records for a three-game set. The 31 runs were their most for a trio of road games.

And, as a byproduct, they ended the night leading the majors — imagine that? — with 58 homers.

"We're capable of having a very good offense," Cash said. "Is it sustainable to go out and do what we just did over a three-game series? That's probably not the most realistic approach. We're still built around our pitching. But it was nice."

What changed?

In short, a bunch of little things: better approaches, improvement with runners in scoring position, increased confidence.

"It just kind of goes down the line," Cash said. "It has gotten a little contagious, obviously, the last three days."

After roaring through the first two games, piling up 17 hits each night in winning 13-2 and 12-2 against top Toronto starters J.A. Happ and Marcus Stroman, the Rays didn't start as well against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, held scoreless until the fourth.

And with Jake Odorizzi battling through what he said was his worst command in more than a year, it didn't look particularly promising.

Odorizzi allowed two runs and two hits but was pulled — unexpectedly, he said — after five innings and 87 pitches, though he did get his first win. That was the fourth time in his past six starts he hasn't gotten past five innings, the 16th time overall for the Rays in 38 games, which they somehow have split to go 19-19. Erasmo Ramirez worked into the eighth, and Alex Colome got four outs.

Once they starting scoring in the fourth, they got rolling.

Logan Morrison, who Tuesday snapped his season-long RBI drought, delivered his first home run, a 429-foot blast as part of a three-hit night. Desmond Jennings, getting what is now a rare start, followed with a shot to left, producing the team's first back-to-back homers of the season.

After adding a run on a Tim Beckham double and Evan Longoria single plus an error, they went back to the long ball, Kevin Kiermaier lashing a two-run homer into the second deck in right.

Beckham hustled them to an insurance run in the ninth, running hard to stretch a single into a double, then racing home to score from second — standing up — on a wild pitch as catcher Josh Thole couldn't find the ball.

Like Cash, Morrison said there was no one reason for the increased offense.

"For the most part, it's having the confidence that he got a hit, I can get a hit, whatever it may be,'' he said. "We're in a good place right now, and we're looking to keep it rolling in Detroit.''

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