Saturday, February 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays move atop AL East

NEW YORK — When the Rays last visited New York, in late June, they were barely above .500 and at the bottom of the American League East standings.

A win in the June 23 series finale started them on what has been a remarkable run, and after a 10-6 win Friday night that was their 23rd in the 28 games since, they walked out of Yankee Stadium in first place.

"It's always good to validate what you had been doing," manager Joe Maddon said. "You get to that particular point, and you're there, and you want to stay there. There's no question. Now it's up to us. We have to continue to play the game properly."

The climb has been slow and stunning, as the Rays kept winning but had trouble gaining on the Red Sox, who had led since May 27. But the Rays took two of three in Boston this week — the scheduled fourth game, rained out Thursday, is rescheduled for Monday — and when the Sox lost Friday in Baltimore and the Rays won, the ascension was complete.

Now the Rays (61-42) just have to hang on for the final 59 games.

"Right now it feels good," pitcher Jeremy Hellickson said. "But we've got to keep winning."

They've done that pretty well, going 6-1 on this road trip, winning 16 of 18, 20 of 23 and 23 of 28. Since a 14-18 start, the Rays are a major-league-best 47-24 and overall on a pace for 96 wins.

Friday's victory wasn't as easy as it should been, though the Rays continued their mastery of Yankees lefty CC Sabathia (4-11 with a 4.47 ERA in his 22 starts against them in pinstripes) with a six-run second inning, and they held a 10-1 lead with five outs to go.

Hellickson made it uncomfortable working through six innings for his 10th win, and then it got downright uneasy as the Yankees rallied and Maddon had to use four pitchers in the ninth, including closer Fernando Rodney.

The Rays had several big hits: a three-run homer by James Loney, a two-run double by Evan Longoria, a two-out single by Sam Fuld and a bunt by Desmond Jennings.

Hellickson started well, and he flashed his Gold Glove skills, snagging a liner by Ichiro Suzuki that would have his hit jaw — "It was really close. I saw it off the bat, thank God." — and making four other plays. But it got messy in the third, when the Yankees scored their first run, and concerning in the fourth, when they got their first two batters on.

"I kind of lost everything there in that fourth inning," Hellickson said. "I was trying to basically throw it down the middle and keep it down, and I couldn't even do that. It just got away from me for a little bit."

There was more unnecessary stress later. Kyle Farnsworth got through the seventh, but Cesar Ramos gave up two runs in the eighth. After he got the first out of the ninth, Jamey Wright was supposed to finish it. Instead, he faced five batters without retiring any, and Maddon had to turn to Jake McGee and then Rodney.

"You don't want that kind of under-duress moment where you have a 10-1 lead and have to kind of sweat out the last out," Maddon said. "That's not cool."

But by the end of the long night, the Rays were quite pleased with where they were, though noting there was a long way to go. "It doesn't mean anything at this point to be in first place," Longoria said. "But it's better than being at the basement."

Comments
Inside the Raysí plan to prove the tanking truthers wrong

Inside the Raysí plan to prove the tanking truthers wrong

PORT CHARLOTTE – The Rays know tanking."We tanked in 2006 and '07, if you want to call it that," principal owner Stuart Sternberg said. "We were the original tankers. Or tankees. It seems to be all the fad now."In losing 101 and 96 games in the...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays Journal: Duffy not just playing but playing well, Faria struggles, more

Rays Journal: Duffy not just playing but playing well, Faria struggles, more

FORT MYERS – Just playing on back-to-back days was significant for Rays 3B Matt Duffy.Playing well has made the start of spring training even better."Really liked the way Duffy has continued to play," manager Kevin Cash said after a 4-3 loss to...
Updated: 7 hours ago
That guy standing by Cash in the dugout? All part of Raysí plan

That guy standing by Cash in the dugout? All part of Raysí plan

Jonathan ErlichmanFor a moment Friday, it looked as if a young businessman, accountant or computer guy had won one of those charity auctions to spend a game in uniform in the Rays dugout.Actually, it was Rays analytics director Jonathan Erlichman, a ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
For starters: Back to back starts for Duffy as Rays face Red Sox, 1:05

For starters: Back to back starts for Duffy as Rays face Red Sox, 1:05

UPDATE, 11:36: Manager Kevin Cash said the plan is to play Duffy on back to back days a couple times early in spring, believing the short bursts of activity will best help him build up after missing all of 2017. … Matt Andriese will come out of...
Published: 02/24/18
The truth about the Tampa Bay Raysí reset

The truth about the Tampa Bay Raysí reset

The Tampa Bay Rays are not going to be very good this year.We already knew that.They have gutted a team that won 80 games last season. Among those sent packing: Evan Longoria, Corey Dickerson, Jake Odorizzi and team MVP Steven Souza Jr.Yeah, this thi...
Published: 02/24/18
Rays spring training info: Saturday at Red Sox, 1:05

Rays spring training info: Saturday at Red Sox, 1:05

Rays Saturday scheduleAt Red Sox1:05, JetBlue Park, 11500 Fenway South Drive, Fort MyersPitchers: Rays – RH Jake Faria, RH Matt Andriese, RH Dustin McGowan, LH Ryan Yarbrough, RF Chaz Roe, LH Jose Alvarado, RH Evan Scribner, RH Jose Mujica; Red...
Published: 02/24/18
Impact of Tommy John surgery cuts deeply for Brent Honeywell, Rays

Impact of Tommy John surgery cuts deeply for Brent Honeywell, Rays

PORT CHARLOTTE – Two things that tell you a lot about Rays cocksure top prospect Brent Honeywell given Friday's crushing news that he indeed tore a ligament in his prized right arm and is headed for Tommy John surgery that will sideline him wel...
Published: 02/23/18
Rasmus says he ditched Rays to spend time with family

Rasmus says he ditched Rays to spend time with family

SARASOTA — Colby Rasmus is making a new start with the Baltimore Orioles after taking an eight-month break from baseball.Rasmus signed a minor-league contract with the Orioles this week, after abruptly leaving the Rays in midseason. The contrac...
Published: 02/23/18
Rays open exhibition season with 6-3 win over Pirates

Rays open exhibition season with 6-3 win over Pirates

The Rays won the home game of their opening-day, split-squad set, beating the Pirates, 6-3.1B Brad Miller, with an opposite-field double off the wall, and CF Kevin Kiermaier, with a bloop single to shallow center, provided the early offense.2B Daniel...
Published: 02/23/18
Rays journal: Miller time could be a good time, and more from openers

Rays journal: Miller time could be a good time, and more from openers

PORT CHARLOTTE — One of the key story lines in Rays camp is seeing what kind of bounce-back season they can get out of a healthy Brad Miller, coming off October core muscle repair surgery.And while Miller isn't feeling 100 percent — he st...
Published: 02/23/18