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Tampa Bay Rays' Carlos Peña slumping again

TORONTO — Typically, 1B Carlos Peña's struggles occur because he's swinging at and missing too many pitches.

Now he's slumping because he's hitting the wrong pitches.

"Without being too specific, I see him swinging at pitches now that he had not been swinging at. And now he's putting these into play, and they're not being put in play with any kind of authority," manager Joe Maddon said.

"He needs to lay off those and get back to the pitches he handles well."

Instead of driving the ball, Peña is popping up and grounding out. And thus, he's not providing much support behind red-hot No. 3 hitter Carl Crawford and relatively warm cleanup man Evan Longoria.

"Getting the middle of this batting order rolling really would make a huge difference over the next couple weeks and then, hopefully, moving forward," Maddon said.

"Those three guys in the middle are our RBI guys, and we've got to get those guys seeing the pitch they like and putting it in play hard. Carl's done a great job of that, and Longo, for the most part, has recently. If we can get the three-headed monster working at the same time, it's good for the Rays. So we'd like to get Carlos back there."

After a decent April, Peña went into an extended funk that dropped his batting average to a season-low .169 on June 5. After building it back up to .214 with a solid 61-game stretch (.254, 18 homers, 44 RBIs), he has fallen off again, going 0-for-September until a fifth-inning single on Wednesday. And after going 0-for-4 with a walk Friday, he is just 1-for-his-past-30, dropping his average to .201.

WOOD CHIPPER: B.J. Upton singled in the first and hit his 17th homer (and fourth in five games) in the fourth.

But when the centerfielder struck out with two on and the score tied in the eighth, he took it out on his bat, bidding a violent goodbye by splintering it on the dugout bat rack.

"It was what have you done for me lately,'' Upton said. "I won that fight.''

PITCHING IN: RHP Wade Davis is eager to get back on the mound today after lasting just five innings (though throwing 103 pitches) on Sunday in Baltimore.

"I feel great," Davis said. "I think that kind of surprised me my last outing. I felt so good that I think maybe I tried to do a little too much and was a little erratic."

Maddon is convinced the Rays will see better out of Davis as well as struggling RHP Jeff Niemann on Sunday.

"(Davis) threw the ball well the last time physically. Niemann did the same thing," Maddon said. "We've just got to get them back out there and be successful, get their confidence back to where it needs to be."

Maddon said he wasn't concerned with RHP Matt Garza's mention of experiencing "September soreness" after Wednesday's rough start.

"Physically, I thought he was fine," Maddon said "He was not throwing the ball where he wanted to throw it."

MINOR MATTERS: Class A Charlotte lost Game 1 of the best-of-five Florida State League championship series at home 5-2 to Tampa (Yankees). Deivis Maravez gave up four runs (two earned) and walked five over two innings. Game 2 is tonight in Port Charlotte, then the series shifts to Tampa. … Triple-A Durham lost Game 3 of the best-of-five opening round International League playoffs at home 2-1 to Louisville (Reds). RHP Alex Cobb, just promoted from Double-A Montgomery, allowed two runs and three hits while striking out 10 over 62/3 innings. Louisville leads the series 2-1 with Game 4 tonight at Durham.

TIME CHANGE: The Sept. 18 game against the Angels was moved back from 6:10 to 7:10 due to logistical issues involving Adam Lambert's postgame concert. There is still no local TV coverage of the game.

PENNANT FEVER? As of Friday afternoon, the Rays said tickets remained available in all seating categories for all three games with the Yankees, including Monday's featuring the David Price-CC Sabathia matchup.

MISCELLANY: The Rays improved to 5-17 on Fridays. … The Rays' previous six-run first inning was Aug. 31, 2009, at Detroit. … The Rays and the city of Clearwater will team to renovate two baseball fields at Ross Norton Park. … The Rogers Centre roof was open with a first-pitch temperature of 57 degrees.

Tampa Bay Rays' Carlos Peña slumping again 09/10/10 [Last modified: Saturday, September 11, 2010 3:49pm]
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