ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays didn’t seem to have much of an advantage at their home field the first four months of the season.
For a team built, as usual, around pitching and defense, playing at somewhat spacious Tropicana Field should lead to success.
But through the first two-thirds of the season the Rays were somewhat of an anomaly, posting a winning record on the road but barely above .500 at home, 27-26 at one point.
Since then they have won 21 of their past 28 home games, finishing with a 48-33 home record that ranks as the sixth best in their 22 seasons.
“It’s really fun, especially considering the first portion of the season we were pretty bad at home," infielder Joey Wendle said. "We figured something out, figured out how to win at home, which is going to be important.”
The Rays never acknowledged a reason for their home struggles, in part because they never thought it was anything more than a random “it’s baseball” kind of thing.
“I think it evens out in the long run," manager Kevin Cash said. “I know we had a couple homestands where we were being asked the same questions over and over for good reason. We weren’t performing or winning games at the clip we would like. But our last homestand (going 9-1 against the Indians, Orioles and Blue Jays) I thought we really did some big things and this homestand (4-1 against the Red Sox and Yankees pending the finale) we played well. …
“We like playing here. We appreciate the fans that come out and show up and give us some energy, but I think most clubs will tell you they enjoying playing at home."
But most clubs don’t play on artificial turf in a fixed roof dome with a white roof that makes fly balls hard to track and catwalks, speakers and wires that occasionally come into play.
“That’s fine," Cash said. “We want to keep it to whatever homefield advantage we can keep. If it’s not the most welcoming place, whether the roof, the stadium, whatever it is, so be it."
* Avisail Garcia hit his 20th homer, giving the Rays a franchise-tying four players with 20 or more.
* Wednesday’s shutout was the Rays’ 12th of the season. and fifth in their past 21 home games.
* Lefty Ryan Yarbrough was in the bullpen and warmed up several times, as the Rays had him skip his normal bullpen session to instead be available to face a tough lefty, as Colin Poche was getting a day off.