The Rays are hitting — and winning — at an eye-popping pace. Steady offense? It’s more like a pinball machine’s dizzying rhythm.
In a vacuum, Thursday afternoon was impressive enough. Ignited by second-inning home runs from Joey Wendle and Randy Arozarena, the Rays mounted an 18-hit attack and cruised past the Orioles 10-1 for their first series sweep at Baltimore since 2013.
But in the bigger picture, the Rays are trending toward highly encouraging, if not amazing.
The Rays, who begin a four-game series Friday night against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, scored 32 runs with 43 hits and 11 homers in three games at Baltimore.
During their seven-game win streak, the Rays have outscored opponents 63-23 and hit 17 homers. That span also includes 85 hits, 40 extra-base hits, a .327 team batting average and a .384 average with runners in scoring position.
“It has been a 180 (degree turn), for sure,” said Wendle, recalling the mostly grave offensive production just 10 days ago. “It’s just one through nine (in the batting order) right now. One guy feeds off the next guys. Before you know it, everybody is seeing the ball well and driving the ball.”
Thursday, the shortstop was 4-for-6 with two homers (his first career multi-homer game), a double and 11 total bases, one off the franchise’s single-game record.
Arozarena was also 4-for-6, including three singles and a three-run homer in the second inning that put the Rays up 4-0. In his last nine at-bats, Arozarena has seven hits, three homers, eight RBIs and five runs scored.
“Randy is starting to do Randy things,” Wendle said.
Arozarena, the breakout star of the 2020 postseason, had been going through an underwhelming stretch. But after consultation with hitting coach Chad Mottola, Arozarena made slight adjustments that apparently have allowed him to see the ball sooner.
“The homers are great, but the overall at-bats (are even better),” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Randy has really squared the ball up. He’s taking his hits the other way when he’s getting pitches he can handle and he’s taking them out of the ballpark. We all know he has the ability to do that. He’s really locked in and seems to be seeing it really, really well.”
Each member of the Rays’ starting lineup reached base and eight of them had hits. The one who didn’t get a hit — Brett Phillips — walked three times times and reached on a fielder’s choice before stealing second.
It was enough to make you forget about the pitching, but that was highly effective, too.
Left-hander Rich Hill (3-1) didn’t have his best stuff and saw his scoreless streak halted at 20.2 consecutive innings when Trey Mancini smacked a fourth-inning solo homer. But that was all Hill allowed as he battled through six innings of two-hit ball. And that was more than enough. Rays relievers Trevor Richards and Louis Head held the Orioles hitless the rest of the way.
“(The ball) wasn’t coming out as was as we’ve seen it in the past, but Rich gave us everything and got deep in the ballgame for us,” Cash said. “It seemed like when he needed to make a big pitch, he did.”
Hill, who has an 0.98 ERA in his last five starts (27.2 innings), praised the support of his defense. And like everyone, he spoke about the Rays’ offense in glowing terms.
“It has been awesome to see,” Hill said. “Our at-bats are aggressive. We’re capitalizing on mistakes and also hitting great pitches. The aggressive play overall has been tremendously beneficial. In my experience, it always plays out that way.”
After Wendle homered off Orioles starter Dean Kremer to start the second, the Rays’ offense again shifted into high gear. Kevin Kiermaier followed with a single and Phillips drew a one-out walk. Then it was Arozarena blasting a three-run homer for a 4-0 lead.
It was 4-1 in the sixth when the Rays essentially put it away. Arozarena and Austin Meadows (3-for-6) opened with singles, then Ji-Man Choi produced an RBI single, sending Meadows to third. Brandon Lowe’s sacrifice fly made it 6-1.
“We’re making things happen,” Cash said. “The offense has really come to life and we have a lot to be encouraged about, especially the overall pressure we’re putting on the opposition. I know our (average with runners in scoring position) was down, but we were fairly confident it was going to even out. Now it’s evening out in a big way. It’s happening really fast.”
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