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That Rays offense? 17 runs, 27 hits, a doubleheader sweep of Blue Jays

Isaac Paredes has homers in both games, but it is a team-wide effort to win twice. And the pitching is good, too.
The Rays' Yandy Diaz hits an RBI single, scoring Taylor Walls during the eighth inning against the Blue Jays in Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader.
The Rays' Yandy Diaz hits an RBI single, scoring Taylor Walls during the eighth inning against the Blue Jays in Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader. [ JON BLACKER | AP ]
Published Jul. 2|Updated Jul. 3

TORONTO — What got into the Rays offense on Saturday?

The group that has been struggling immensely for the last few weeks and has been quiet for much of the season had quite a day and night, scoring 17 runs and rapping 27 hits in a doubleheader sweep of the Blue Jays.

“That was an exciting day,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We wanted to find a way to bounce back; we did.

“Toronto is a good club. We’ve got a good club. We’re just young and weren’t doing things that maybe we were capable of. Kind of all came together for us throughout the course of a long day. But it’s tough to win both games of a doubleheader so really proud and impressed with the guys.”

In the 6-2 opening win, the Rays got 13 hits total, with all nine starters getting at least one, including solo homers by Isaac Paredes, who has hit a bunch lately, and Wander Franco, who hit his first since April 26.

The 11-5 nightcap victory was a bit more of a power show, as the Rays went one better in piling up 14 hits, with two home runs from catcher Francisco Mejia and a three-run shot by Paredes, plus four doubles.

The Rays also got two good starts, with another dominant 10K showing from likely All-Star Shane McClanahan, and a solid 4 2/3-inning outing from Drew Rasmussen in his return from a left hamstring strain. The Rays improved to 42-36 and moved back into the six-team playoff field.

Drew Rasmussen is back on the mound for Game 2 of Saturday's doubleheader after being sidelined by a left hamstring strain.
Drew Rasmussen is back on the mound for Game 2 of Saturday's doubleheader after being sidelined by a left hamstring strain. [ JON BLACKER | AP ]

Consider this was a team that had scored just nine runs total over a four-game losing streak coming into Saturday and hadn’t gotten to double digits since June 8. And the Rays had more than 10 hits in a game only once in the last two weeks.

What was different?

Franco said after the matinee that there was a change in approach.

“I’m very happy that not only I was able to make an adjustment but the team itself was able to make an adjustment,” he said, via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “When we’re hitting, I think we’re focusing on pitches we can hit rather than chasing pitches out of the zone.”

Mejia said something similar after the nightcap.

“We were just trying to be aggressive and get the ball out front,” he said, via Navarro. “I think we were just trying to not chase so much.”

Cash said that wasn’t a specific directive, but indicated that hitting coach Chad Mottola and his staff have been reinforcing their messaging, providing “a little bit more guidance” to the hitters and “awareness” of what pitchers are going to try to do to them.

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“I think it’s kind of been knocked in our face a little bit about what (we’ve been struggling with) or where we’ve been weak here as of late offensively,” Cash said. “We’ve expanded. Off-speed pitches have given us trouble. So either you lay off of them or you make an adjustment to handle them. And we probably did a little bit of both (Saturday).”

Rays shortstop Wander Franco forces out Blue Jays' George Springer and throws to first base, but not in time to complete a double play on Bo Bichette (not shown) during the eighth inning of Game 1.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco forces out Blue Jays' George Springer and throws to first base, but not in time to complete a double play on Bo Bichette (not shown) during the eighth inning of Game 1. [ JON BLACKER | AP ]

Despite the early start, 12:07 p.m. first pitch, both Mejia and Paredes said there was more energy in the clubhouse before and between games.

“We just all came in in a good mood ... just kind of being one with each other‚” Paredes said, via Navarro. “Then before the second game when the bullpen was starting to walk out, I already knew that we were going to win just (because of) the energy and the attitude that they had.”

It also helped that the Rays weren’t facing the same tough, front-line pitching they had been.

Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman left the early game after two innings due to a right ankle bruise (he was struck by a ball hit by Franco; X-rays were negative) and was replaced by Casey Lawrence, who allowed six runs over 5 2/3 innings. Thomas Hatch started the second and gave up 10 runs in fewer than five innings.

With homers in both games, Paredes extended his team-leading total to 13, all in 32 games since May 18, including eight in his last 10. He said that his success is a matter of communication, routine and preparation.

Cash, who was more impressed with Paredes’ work in hitting an opposite-field double, said it’s getting tough to describe his accomplishments.

“Special? You probably can come up with better ones than I can,” he said, though later suggested the hitters found “their inner Paredes.”

McClanahan allowed a run in the first inning of the opener, then nothing else. Paredes tied it with a homer in the third, then the Rays took control with a three-run fifth inning, their largest outburst in a single frame since the seventh inning last Sunday, keyed by a two-run Rene Pinto single.

Rasmussen, starting for the first time since June 10, was efficient enough early for the Rays to extend their limit and let him start the fifth in the nightcap. But when he walked Cavan Biggio with two outs on his 68th pitch (with a 10-2 lead), Cash took him out, one out shy of qualifying for the win.

Rasmussen said he understood — “They gave me every opportunity to get a get a win today; it’s on me” — and that it didn’t take away from the day overall.

“Two wins in one day, its hard to hate that,” he said. “Our offense coming out and playing the way they did on both ends of the doubleheader was awesome to see. Excited to see what we do (Sunday).”

Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman, center, is checked on after being struck by a Wander Franco hit during the second inning.
Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman, center, is checked on after being struck by a Wander Franco hit during the second inning. [ JON BLACKER | AP ]

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