The Rays went into Toronto and Detroit and split both series, holding on to the third spot in the American League East two games above .500.
After a successful 31 days, where the Rays only lost one total series, Tampa Bay traveled to Canada to face the Blue Jays for two games before a four-game weekend series in Detroit. After going 3-3 for the week, the Rays return to Tropicana Field Monday holding a one-game lead for the middle of the division.
So how did they do?
Tampa Bay went north of the border to take on the Blue Jays for a short series, just two games. The surging Jays have been closing in on the Rays the last few weeks. Even though they are in fifth place, Toronto is just two games behind Tampa Bay. And with the entire division separated by just six games, every single day counts.
Rookie stand-out Jacob Faria took the mound for just the second time in his career…and posted his second career win. Throwing eight strikeouts over 6.1 strong innings, the only run he allowed came with one out in the seventh inning.
— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) June 14, 2017
Taylor Featherston hit his first home run of the season Tuesday, the same day that Logan Morrison blasted his 18th and Corey Dickerson hit his 15th. Morrison wasn’t done for the series though. He added his 19th in the loss on Wednesday.
LoMo for 👌… YES! pic.twitter.com/FTQFbReE2x
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) June 14, 2017
Rays pitchers combined for only seven strikeouts on Wednesday, whereas the Blue Jays sat down 11 Tampa Bay batters on strikes.
Jake Odorizzi managed only 4.1 innings in the loss Wednesday, giving up five total runs and only striking out four. The usually deep Odorizzi has now posted two June starts without reaching the sixth inning. In nine starts before June, he went 5.0+ innings in eight of them.
For a deeper look into the Toronto series, click here to check out our own Ryan Adams recap of it.
The Rays left Toronto 35-33, and headed to Michigan to face the Tigers (30-34) in a Thursday to Sunday series. Sitting in fourth place in the A.L. Central, the Tigers proved to be a challenge for part of the series, taking the first two. But then the Rays adjusted to the time change and took the final two, including the Father’s Day finale on Sunday.
Tampa Bay only hit six home runs in the series, but those six gave them 109 on the season, good enough for first place in the category for the time being. Of those six, none were bigger than Steven Souza Jr‘s third inning grand slam (13) Sunday. For Souza, who also hit a homer on Mother’s Day this year, it was his first career grand slam…on his very first Father’s Day.
This one’s for GARY. 🚫🍖 pic.twitter.com/nBvnsQXf0y
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) June 18, 2017
Along with Souza’s slam, Rays bats sent four other souvenirs into the stands Sunday. Morrison popped two himself to take him to 21 on the year, staying hot on the heels of the Yankees Aaron Judge (23). Add in one by Evan Longoria and another by Derek Norris, Tampa Bay had their third game of the year with 5+ home runs.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) June 18, 2017
Faria kept up the hot start to his career, taking his third start to yet another victory. Only allowing one run, Faria went 7.0 innings and struck out nine Tigers, giving hm 22 k’s through his first three career starts.
After the start, Faria became the first pitcher since 1913 to go 6+ innings, allow one run or less, AND get the win in his first three starts.
The pitching staff struggled for the first two games of the series. After Alex Cobb went 6.2 innings on Thursday, Tommy Hunter gave up a two-run walk-off home run to Miguel Cabrera. On Friday, Erasmo Ramierz gave up an astounding 10 runs in just 4.2 innings.
The entire pitching staff combined for just nine strikeouts over the first two games. Vice versa, Detroit struck out 17 Rays batters over the same two games, including nine on Friday alone.
Aside from the strikeouts, the other thing that kept the Rays from putting up numbers was leaving men stranded on base. Thursday, Tampa Bay left 20 runners on base. Add that to the 11 from Friday, and that’s 31 runs the Rays failed to score. Maybe if they were able to move those men across home plate, they would not have suffered a 13-4 loss on Friday night.
Aside from struggles on both sides of the ball Thursday and Friday, Tampa Bay sorted things out for the weekend and still managed to split the four games. That means that since May 12th, the Rays still only have one series loss. Granted that one loss was a sweep.
Tampa Bay continues to remain competitive in what is easily the most challenging division in Major League Baseball. Staying right in the middle, the Rays are hoping for a push before the All-Star break to stay in contention. In fact, if the season ended today…the Rays would hold the second wildcard spot for the American League.
The Rays (37-35) return to St. Pete for a three-game interleague series with the Cincinnati Reds (29-39), before welcoming the division rival Baltimore Orioles (currently 34-34) for a pivotal three-game weekend series.