KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Rays officials continue to maintain they have confidence in struggling OF/DH Hideki Matsui and expect him to help them win games.
But with a chance to do so in the eighth inning Wednesday, the go-ahead run on third with one out, manager Joe Maddon opted instead to use INF Will Rhymes, who'd had one plate appearance since Saturday, as a pinch-hitter for Sean Rodriguez.
Rhymes failed, as he hit a sharp ground ball to shortstop and Ben Zobrist, breaking for home on contact, was thrown out. But Maddon said Rhymes was still the better choice than hoping Matsui (hitting .162) would deliver a hit or a sac fly.
"I was looking for contact," Maddon said. "I thought with a runner on third base and less than two outs, among all our candidates (which were just Rhymes, Matsui and Jose Lobaton), Will had the best chance to make contact. His strikeout rate is among the lowest in baseball. We're just looking to have the ball moved right there, and he did."
Matsui was then used with two outs and two on and struck out.
Maddon admitted that the team's overall offensive struggles played into his decision. "Not wanting to keep waiting for the hit with two outs; that hasn't been forthcoming for us," he said.
BURKE'S BOMB: RHP Burke Badenhop had a fairly simple description of what happened on the game-deciding homer he allowed in the eighth to Billy Butler: "I got behind him, I threw a really flat sinker, he hit the crap out of it. That's it pretty much in a nutshell."
YOUNG GUNS: As disappointed as the Rays were in losing the three games, they got some satisfaction out of the performances of their young starters, from the way Alex Cobb battled to complete Monday's game to the good-enough-to-win outings they got from rookies Chris Archer on Tuesday and Matt Moore on Wednesday.
Moore worked a career high 7⅓ innings, allowing two solo home runs and two runs on a chopper over the infield, though 10 hits overall. "He pitched really, really well," Maddon said. "He kept his composure, he had great stuff. I thought he was outstanding."
Moore was pleased overall but frustrated by his mistakes, as he allowed his 12th and 13th homers. "Whoever said solo home runs can't beat you, that's just happened to me way too much this season," he said.
MEDICAL MATTERS: RHP Kyle Farnsworth (right elbow strain) threw a scoreless inning, allowing one hit and striking out two, in the second of back-to-back rehab appearances for Triple-A Durham. After hitting 96 mph with his fastball and showing a sharp slider Tuesday, he was clocked at 95 Wednesday. He is expected to be activated by the weekend.
DH Luke Scott (back stiffness) returned to St. Petersburg to work out after a two-day rehab gig in Durham and is expected to be activated tonight.
RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right shoulder fatigue) threw a normal between-starts bullpen and pronounced himself ready to rejoin the rotation: "I'm good for Saturday."
OF Matt Joyce (left oblique strain) said he is feeling better and expects to start the progression back to active duty, with "dry" swings (no ball) in the next couple of days. He hopes to return when eligible July 5.
Suspended RHP Joel Peralta also has been working out with the team, throwing a bullpen session Tuesday and planning to face hitters today at the Trop.
MISCELLANY: LF Desmond Jennings was in the No. 7 spot again and got three hits, Maddon suggesting he appeared to have his confidence back. … The Rays hit into four double plays. … First pitch temperature was 97, and it climbed to 101, with a heat index of 106, during the game. … Sunday's game has been picked up and will be shown by Sun Sports; the Aug. 9 game vs. Toronto was dropped.