Given the Rays’ recent offensive struggles, there are at least a couple of ways to look at their 7-3 win over the Angels Monday night in Anaheim, Calif.
One, that they’re still having plenty of trouble, given that they struck out 15 times — four shy of their record for a nine-inning game — against a quintet of Angels pitchers.
None of whom, by the way, was named Shohei Ohtani, who was scratched from his scheduled start — though not from being the designated hitter — due to soreness in his right elbow from being hit by a pitch on Sunday.
Or two, that despite the fan club, the Rays still managed to score five or more runs for the second straight day.
That was an encouraging sign for a team that hadn’t scored five runs total over a 34-inning span before getting five Sunday.
The team that had scored more than four runs in only nine of its first 28 games and now has done so in two straight.
The team that went into play Monday last in the majors hitting with runners in scoring position — by more than 15 points, at .191 to the .207 by the Mets (who fired their hitting coaches Monday night) — and went a relatively solid 3-for-10 against the Angels.
“I think everybody’s happy that April is over and this is a new month,” said shortstop Willy Adames, who had a double and a homer. “Just try to let the bad vibes and bad everything behind and come to a new month with a fresh mind and try to make it fun. Today, it was fun for us. A lot of good at-bats, a lot of base hits, a couple bombs).
“... Love it. It just feels good. It’s like I told you guys the other day, I trust in our guys and I know we’re going to figure it out and we’re going to make it fun again. We’re starting to go in the right direction, and it feels good.”
Good enough that they could speak of the strikeouts — which all came in the first six innings and 29 plate appearances — as something to be addressed.
“We’ve got to do a better job of putting balls in play,” manager Kevin Cash said. “But you’ve got to be encouraged with the runs. We’ve talked about the strikeout totals here as of late have just kind of grown a little bit too high.”
Starter Tyler Glasnow made things entertaining, as he seems to do in some way just about every game, in improving to 4-1, 2.06.
There was the strut off the mound after thinking he struck out Justin Upton on two strikes in the second after thinking an earlier check-swing was a strike, and the sheepish acknowledgement he was wrong.
“What can you do?” Glasnow said. “Other than pat your chest and laugh, I guess.”
The chest-high catch of a laser line drive Glasnow didn’t seem to even know he made, much less how, off David Fletcher’s bat.
“I didn’t think I was going to catch it,” Glasnow said “It just, like, magically went into my glove.”
“After he caught it, it was fun. But in the moment, it was scary,” Adames said. “I don’t think he caught the line drive. The line drive caught the glove.”
And the overall show Glasnow put on, with five pitches clocked at 100 mph, and 11 others at 99 mph, in striking out eight over six innings.
“There’s always going to be something,” Cash said. “If that’s all of it, that’s fine.”
The night didn’t start well for the Rays, as five of their six hitters struck out in two quick innings against lefty Jose Quintana, who stepped in when Ohtani was scratched.
But things changed dramatically in the third.
A leadoff single by Francisco Mejia, a double by Willy Adames and a one-out walk by Randy Arozarena loaded the bases. A single by Mike Brosseau that glanced off the forearm of shortstop David Fletcher scored two. With two outs, Yandy Diaz singled — and to left — to score Arozarena. Then Manuel Margot, who delivered the big hit Sunday, singled to center to make it 4-0.
“We pieced it together, which was encouraging,” Cash said. “We’ve been scuffling to do that.”
The Rays added a run in the fifth when Adames, who came into the game in a 6-for-40 rut, homered, his third of the season.
Glasnow had cruised through the Angels order twice, but the third time proved to be more challenging. He walked Fletcher to open the sixth, then gave up a blast to Ohtani, a 110 mph, 427-foot homer to straightaway center. That was the second hit of the night for Ohtani, who in the first used his speed to turn a ground ball through the shortstop spot that a shifted Brosseau couldn’t grab into a double.
Glasnow struck out Mike Trout but then gave up another homer, a shot over the leftfield fence by Anthony Rendon that made it 5-3. A four-pitch walk to Jared Walsh put Glasnow’s night in peril, but he got a ground ball that Adames made a nice play on to start an inning-ending double play.
Margot gave the Rays a bit of breathing room with a two-run homer off Raisel Iglesias in the ninth to make it 7-3.
Reliever Jeffrey Springs took over for the Rays in the seventh and got the first two outs in the eighth before allowing a Trout single, then Ryan Thompson finished the inning. Diego Castillo walked Walsh to start the ninth but struck out Upton and enticed Albert Pujols to hit into a game-ending double play.
The Rays’ record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game is 19, Aug. 28, 2019 at Houston. Their overall record is 24 in a 15-inning game at Boston on Sept. 15. 2017. Their most in a nine-inning win is 17, done July 28, 2019, at Toronto and May 6, 2000 at Boston.
• • •
Sign up for the Rays Report weekly newsletter to get fresh perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.