Thursday, April 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays pleased with Jennings' hot streak at plate, in field

ST. PETERSBURG — Maybe it was not seeing his name in the lineup for several days. Maybe it was the public criticism of his play, led by Rays TV analyst Brian Anderson in a radio interview. Maybe it was the speculation that the Rays would take advantage of his remaining option and send him to Triple A for a stunning demotion.

For whatever reason, OF Desmond Jennings responded in a big way during the most recent series in Arizona.

And the Rays — still reeling from the May loss of standout CF Kevin Kiermaier — couldn't have been happier to see it.

Jennings went 5-for-11 with two homers and three RBIs and made several strong defensive plays during the three games.

That after going 8-for-70 with two homers and six RBIs and looking lackadaisical and disinterested at times during his previous 27 games, and spending a lot of time on the bench.

"He broke out," manager Kevin Cash said. "He carried us in a lot of ways this series, for sue. We saw that electric player that we know is there. And good for him for doing it."

With Kiermaier likely out until early August, and then one of his replacements, Brandon Guyer, being sidelined with a hamstring strain, the Rays have been hoping Jennings or Mikie Mahtook would grab the job.

THE COREY STORY: Having seen SS Brad Miller and 1B Logan Morrison rebound from slow starts, the team is hoping OF/DH Corey Dickerson is next.

Dickerson has been streaky, with a 3-for-30 stretch dragging his average down to .189 going into Wednesday's game, when he was 3-for-4 with two homers, giving him 11.

"It's big to feel like yourself again," Dickerson said. "To feel like your swing is back, you're driving the ball to all fields. It definitely makes you feel good. You relax a little more and realize it's still there, you've just got to be yourself."

Dickerson said his only adjustment was going back to what worked before being traded from Colorado. "I just did everything I used to do when I played with the Rockies," he said. "I decided to just be me. Don't manipulate my stance. Don't manipulate my hands. Don't do anything different. Just go up there and just think about seeing the baseball and let my natural ability take over."

Dickerson is still having trouble with the adjustment to DH, hitting .165 in 109 at-bats there, .291 in 55 at-bats playing the field. (He is also 1-for-9 as a pinch-hitter.)

HOME BOYS: While the Rays are a respectable 16-16 on the road, they are a disappointing 13-16 at the Trop, the third-worst home mark in the AL. And that's especially important as they play 20 of their next 27 at home.

"We need to find a way to win at home," Cash said. "We're totally capable of winning at home, but … we've got to find a way to make that happen and create some homefield advantage because I don't think we have this year."

Of potential relevance, their average attendance of 16,702 is second worst in the majors.

TO THE MATT: Despite spending Tuesday on-call in the bullpen and doing his usual between-starts throwing during the game, RHP Matt Andriese is set to start tonight with his usual goal of keeping the Rays in the game, as they have won four of his six starts.

"That's the key for a starting pitcher," Andriese said. "You want good numbers, but ultimately you want to give your team a chance to win. I think you build off each one of those outings and try to take the same mentality into the next start."

MISCELLANY: INF Steve Pearce is hopeful of returning to second base tonight, having been limited to bench duty the past eight games due to a sore right elbow. … MLB Ambassador for Inclusion Billy Bean will throw out the first pitch June 17 as part of Pride Night festivities.

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