After the first two weeks of the season, it was clear that the Rays’ offense was a major concern. This past three-game home series against Oakland has been a completely different story.
The Rays scored 17 runs on 27 hits in this three-game set, which a huge improvement from last week’s awful 10-game road trip.
Another encouraging sign from this game was Roberto Hernandez, who picked up his first win since 2011. His stuff looked promising, as he managed to generate plenty of whiffs while getting himself out of two big jams. Despite what his ERA shows, Hernandez has actually had a solid start to the season. His low LOB% is a sign of better things to come if he continues to pitch the way he is.
Now to the game, the Rays would rally off of left-hander Tommy Milone to jump out to a quick lead in the first. With a runners at second and third, right fielder Josh Reddick dropped an Evan Longoria fly ball allowing one run to score. The Rays would then load the bases with a walk and make it a 2-0 ballgame via a Sean Rodriguez RBI HBP. The next batter, Kelly Johnson, knocked in one more run with a sac fly to center.
In the second, Tampa extended their lead to four when Yunel Escobar belted a solo homer; his first long ball of the season.
Hernandez would run into trouble in the fourth inning, but would escape an Oakland rally with just one run surrendered.
The A’s continued to threaten in the fifth. They loaded the bases with the top of their lineup, but Hernandez was able to get Brandon Moss to fly out just softly enough to exit the jam without any harm done.
Hernandez finished the day with a line of 3 hits, 1 run, 3 walks and 7 strikeouts over 6 innings (103 pitches, 63 strikes).
The Rays would get that run back and more in the seventh, scoring a pair of runs from a Ryan Roberts double and a wild pitch. Roberts, who’s started the year slowly, had a two-hit day.
The Rays tacked on two more insurance runs in the eighth courtesy of a James Loney RBI double and a Yunel Escobar RBI single. Escobar swung the bat well all day, going 3-4 (a triple shy of the cycle), raising his measly batting average to .159.
Jake McGee also made a noticeable appearance in this game. He entered in the seventh with his team up 4-1, and found himself facing the tying run after walking the first two batters on eight straight balls. McGee would settle down nicely, though, retiring the next three batters.
Closing out this ballgame was Brandon Gomes, who delivered two perfect innings.
The Rays improve to 8-10 on the year, and are set to begin a huge three-game series against the Yankees tonight at the Trop. Game 1 will be a battle of tough lefties, as Matt Moore (3-0, 1.00 ERA) will square off against C.C. Sabathia (3-1, 2.57 ERA).