ANAHEIM, Calif. — While maintaining confidence the Rays offense was going to eventually start clicking, Rays manager Kevin Cash has started to make some changes, shuffling the order and going more often with the hot hand.
But he has stuck, for the most part, with outfielder/DH Corey Dickerson, even as he battled through a career-worst hitless streak that stretched to 0-for-23.
And in his first at-bat Friday, Dickerson rewarded Cash for his confidence, hitting a three-run homer that sent the Rays to a 5-2 victory over the Angels.
"He got off to a good start, he was hitting the ball out of the ball park, or a better start than some others. There was still some hard contact, some just misses. And then it turned to for a week there where he was probably trying to do too much,'' Cash said.
" I just think he's so valuable for us going forward the intent is to get him right back to where he's comfortable and doing what he did tonight, hitting the ball out of the ballpark for us.''
Chris Archer was the beneficiary of Dickerson's blast as well as Evan Longoria's sac fly, taking the mound with a 4-0 lead and turning in a solid though not spectacular outing.
Archer worked six scoreless innings, allowing only five hits and two walks while striking out six to win for the second time in his last three starts. But he was not particularly sharp, throwing 99 pitches to get the 18 outs, and only 58 for strikes, including back-to-back four-pitch walks to open the fourth.
"I felt good,'' Archer said. "I had three pitches working. We are all our toughest critic - there's room for improvement. But I feel good about giving the team a solid chance to win and pulling out a victory on the day that I pitched.''
After his 0-4, 7.32 start that he insisted wasn't as bad as it looked, Archer is 2-0, 0.96 in his last three outings, allowing just two runs.
"He threw the ball well again,'' Cash said. "I think it speaks volumes how talented the guy is because I still don't think he was as sharp as he is capable of. It seemed like there was a lot of back and forth, but the stuff obviously is really good and he can overcome quite a bit. But good for him — this is three quality impressive in a row for him.''
Though the Rays led 4-0 after the first inning and 5-0 after the third when Brad Miller hit his third homer, the game got tense in the seventh.
Steve Geltz loaded the bases, allowing a walk, a single and then hitting ex-Ray Daniel Nava with two outs, bringing dangerous Mike Trout to the plate. Geltz got ahead 0-and-2, then missed three straight times and, after a foul ball, walked Trout to force in a run.
That brought Albert Pujols up as the tying run, and Cash brought in "Every Day" Erasmo Ramirez, his most dependable reliever.
Ramirez wanted to throw a fastball away, but it ran back over too much of the plate. Pujols lashed it to right, but Steven Souza Jr. made the catch two steps in front of the wall.
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"When you're facing a hitter like Pujols or Trout, you don't have the chance to think about the pitch you're going to throw, you just have to execute,'' Ramirez said. "I'm just glad I got the out in that moment.''
Ramirez got the Rays through the eighth, and Alex Colome finished for his seventh save.
Dickerson, acquired from Colorado in the offseason, has shown the power the Rays wanted, his sixth homer tying Souza for the team lead, and 11 of his 16 hits going for extra bases. But he also has shown the tendency to swing freely and make a lot of outs. His average after Friday's game was .198 and his on-base percentage just .270.
Dickerson said the confidence Cash has shown in him allowed him to not let the burden of his career-worst slump wear on him.
"He told me they got me for a reason, they know I can hit,'' Dickerson said. "Just because I go through a little spell of trying too hard and thinking too much, and finally just letting that stuff go. They believe in me and I have a ton of confidence in myself also.''
And that was on full display Friday, even as he fell behind Angels starter Cory Rasmus 0-2 with two on and two out in the first.
"I felt great coming in today,'' Dickerson said. "I was energized, basically let all my other at-bats go mentally. All I want to do is have fun with my teammates and be the old me, not try to critique or change my swing or anything, just go out there and be Corey.''