Monday, January 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays snap out of offensive slump with win over Blue Jays (w/video)

TORONTO — The extended batting slump was so enveloping and, in the words of Evan Longoria, embarrassing over 10 games that one improved night isn't enough to convince anyone that the Rays are over it.

But it sure is a better place to start.

That's because Tuesday they scored six runs and rapped 13 hits — yes, all in the same game — temporarily halting their slide in beating the Blue Jays 6-4.

Sophomore lefty Blake Snell worked six good-enough innings for his first win in 16 tries this season, and there were defensive gems all around the field, but the headline of the night had to be the rejuvenated offense.

That's because it looked for the past two weeks that it would be the story of how their season went awry.

"We won't know until (tonight) after the game, but the hope is it gets us going, for sure," manager Kevin Cash said. "There were a lot of smiles, a lot of cheering going right now. That's important because we ask a lot of the guys. We want them to come in here and be positive. They have stayed positive for the most part throughout this, and hopefully there is a carryover."

The Rays need there to be as the win snapped a four-game losing streak and was just their third in 11 games. They improved to 60-61 and at least held their ground in the crowded American League wild-card field.

"It was outstanding to get some runs on the board," Cash said. "There was a genuine feeling of a little bit of relief. They know what they've gone through. They haven't changed the way they've gone about it.

"I think I was most impressed with the looseness we had throughout the game. There were jokes, they were cutting up. You wouldn't have guessed to see that with a team that has gone through maybe what we've gone through the last two weeks."

 

It was something historic.

Consider that before Tuesday's breakout, the Rays had scored only 12 runs total in their previous 10 games.

If you felt like you hadn't seen anything like it, that's because you probably hadn't.

To find an American League team as feeble as the Rays had been, you had to go back a ways. Past the '00s, the '90s, the '80s and, for those of you who still have recall, most of the '70s.

Back to before pitchers stopped hitting in games so another bat could be added with the 1973 implementation of the DH rule.

The 1972 California Angels, a squad led that year by Bob Oliver and Vada Pinson, were the ones, also scoring just 12 in a 10-game July stretch.

And this isn't just an AL thing.

Only two NL teams were that bad in the same stretch, and they were very bad teams. The 2006 Cubs, on their way to 96 losses under Dusty Baker, scored 11 in 10 early games. And the 2004 Expos, who would lose 95 under Frank Robinson in their last season in Montreal, totaled 12 in 10 games.

Not really the kind of company the Rays want to be in.

"It's kind of embarrassing, for lack of a better explanation," Longoria said before the game. "I wouldn't think it's for lack of effort, and I don't think it's for lack of belief. I don't really have an explanation for it."

As had others, Longoria said it has been a group effort and there is no one person — not Cash, hitting coach Chad Mottola or any player — to blame.

That they had a team .166 average during those 10 games, and were a pathetic 3-for-45 (.067) with runners in scoring position, kind of accentuates that.

"There's nobody to blame but ourselves," Longoria said. "There's no excuse for it. And something has got to change or it's going to be a long final month, month-and-a-half of the year."

Tuesday provided some hope. They will need to do so again tonight, or at least for a couple of days, to show they are truly out of it, especially since two of their runs came on bases-loaded walks by Jays starter Marco Estrada, whom they are now 8-1 against.

They scored in bunches, which also was encouraging. They got two in the third on a Daniel Robertson single and a Lucas Duda homer. They got two in the fourth on a Wilson Ramos homer and a Corey Dickerson RBI single. And two in the fifth when three singles loaded the bases and Estrada made a mess.

"It's definitely a good feeling," Longoria said after the game. "You need one of those games when you're in a stretch like we were. Hopefully, moving forward, everybody is a little more relaxed."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected].

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