Sunday, May 27, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Joe Maddon keeping lineup stable

HOUSTON — Joe Maddon insists that he's not going crazy.

But for a manager who typically changes lineups as often as he switches socks, Maddon has been abnormally consistent recently. The Rays had the same lineup Saturday for the third consecutive game, the first time that has happened since Aug. 21-23, 2010. The top seven in the batting order were identical for the sixth game in a row.

With the Rays' offense struggling all season, Maddon said he wanted to "establish some kind of consistency for their sake" and make hitters comfortable. Plus, Maddon said, there's another reason.

"For those fans that are really concerned about me, we're only seeing right-handers and we're going to see more right-handers," Maddon quipped. "So understand that."

The Rays faced right-handed starters in 11 of their past 12 games and will face them in three of the next four, the exception Monday with Orioles LHP Wei-Yin Chen.

Maddon has liked the "catalytic" possibility of CF Desmond Jennings and RF Kevin Kiermaier in the top two spots. Kiermaier had two doubles Saturday in a 7-3 loss to the Astros and has 12 extra-base hits in 21 games.

Maddon is concerned opponents are pitching around OF Matt Joyce at No. 7, until SS Yunel Escobar and C Ryan Hanigan step up. But players have liked the boring lineup. "It feels good to stick in one spot as opposed to bounce around," Jennings said.

RED FLAG: Maddon was stunned when his third-inning challenge was not successful Saturday. Kiermaier was called out trying to steal third base with one out and Evan Longoria up. After a 2 minute, 7 second review, the call stood.

Kiermaier said the play happened so fast, he didn't know if he was safe or out, but everyone in the dugout told him he was safe. "I think I was," he said.

"If that play can't be overturned, I don't know what can, based on what I'm seeing," Maddon said. "We have to understand any particular closeness, it's going to side with the call on the field. Everything I saw indicated he was safe. I was really, really surprised it was not overturned."

Maddon, saying he has been fined once this year for arguing with umpires, playfully suggested a "Skyping system" where they could yell at those making replay decisions at the league office. "It'd be kind of cool," he said.

BREAKING THROUGH: Hanigan was certainly relieved to snap a career-long 0-for-28 skid with back-to-back singles Friday night against the Astros. He had another hit Saturday.

"It's been a while," Hanigan said.

Hanigan had been hitless since May 12, a drought that included playing with a sore right hamstring and a two-week stint on the disabled list.

"It's a hard game. I've been there before," Hanigan said. "I felt I was hitting the ball all right, actually, but nothing was dropping."

Hanigan said he feels great behind the plate, but Maddon doesn't want to put too much of a load on him to help keep him from getting hurt again.

PRICE CHECK: LHP David Price enters today's start having gone five starts without a win, one shy of a career high, but believes it's not reflective of how he's pitching. "I feel I'm hands-down a better pitcher than I've ever been in my entire life," Price said. "Everything has gotten better. Just hoping I can get some better results soon." Price leads the majors in strikeout-to-walk ratio (11.1-1) and double-digit strikeout games (five). But he has given up 20 runs total in his past five starts. "He's had a couple games where just one inning kind of caught him a little bit," Maddon said.

MEDICAL MATTERS: OF Brandon Guyer (left thumb) was DH for Triple-A Durham on Saturday and is scheduled to play the field today.

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