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Rays Rewind: Winning Ways Return…Finally

After what could only be categorized as a “rough patch” over the last month, Tampa Bay managed to pull out a week that they had not seen in a long time. Now the trick is maintaining that momentum.

To kick off August, Tampa Bay went 4-2. They followed that with back-to-back weeks with five losses. So as the month nears the end, one thing was on their mind: change. Last Sunday, a win in shut out fashion, seemed to bolster the teams morale as they entered the off day Monday.

After that day of rest and relaxation, the Rays played host to Toronto for the final three match-ups this season.

Toronto

The apparent overall positive of this three-game series is that Tampa Bay won the series. Something they had not been able to accomplish since August 4th. In fact, the Rays won just as many games in this series, as they won the entire week prior.

Rays Up-

Tuesday, Chris Archer (9-7) added another 10 strikeout game to his season, allowing just three runs on four hits through six innings. It was his ninth 10+ strikeout game, and the fourth time this year he posted back-to-back 10K+ games.

The bats started to show for the first time in several weeks against the Jays. Tuesday, Lucas Duda and Corey Dickerson hit solo shots, with both being the 23rd of the season for each. Dickerson would add number 24 Thursday.

But on Wednesday, Kevin Kiermaier took over the show…

The two home runs took him to 10 for the season. And both came off pitches thrown by Toronto ace Marcus Stroman. Kiermaier also had a two-run triple on Tuesday. Steven Souza added another one off Stroman for hit 27th of the season.

Rays Down-

Austin Pruitt struggled in Wednesday’s loss, allowing five runs off seven hits while collecting just two strikeouts. The bright side is that Pruitt did not allow a walk, but the down side is he only last 3.2 innings, which put stress on an already exhausted bullpen.

Despite the win Thursday, Tampa Bay’s one through five hitters went 2-for-16, with a combined 10 strikeouts. The team had 14 total. And the two hits were both off the bat of Evan Longoria. The game ended in a 2-0 win for the Rays, but Kiermaier and Duda went down on strikes three times each as the one-two hitters.

The Takeaway?

The Rays won the series. Something fans and the team waited over two weeks to see happen. The wins against the division rival keeps them in the talks for the A.L. Wild Card, and brings them back up in the win-loss book, to 63-66. And I think it is easy to say that Kiermaier is back, in every sense of the phrase…

And after being on the team a few weeks, it seems that recently acquired Sergio Romo is comfortable with the organization…

St. Louis

For the weekend, the Rays went to the midwest for three games against the Cardinals. For both teams, this is a rarity. Prior to 2017, the two have only faced off 13 times. Think about that. Just 13 games in 19+ seasons. St. Louis leads that all-time series 7-6 as they entered play Friday.

Because of the rarity, it made for a very interesting match-up. The Rays see teams from the A.L. East upwards of 30 times a year. But this is a franchise, one of the oldest in baseball, they have barely seen any of.  For example, Blake Snell, had never faced a single batter in the Cardinals line-up before Saturday.

This weekend was also “Player’s Weekend.” What does that mean? Nicknames were worn o jerseys instead of last names. Players could wear whatever socks, cleats, or undershirts they wanted. Oh, and they could use whatever custom bat they prefered…

Oh, and before the opener Friday, Tampa Bay made a roster move. After signing free agent Danny Espinosa, Daniel Robertson was optioned to Triple-A Durham. Espinosa was teammates with both Longoria and Shane Peterson back in college with the Cal State Long Beach Dirtbags.

Rays Up-

Tampa Bay kicked things off by tying the all-time series with a 7-3 win Friday. Significant because that means they went 4-1 from Sunday to Friday. Considering they went 1-5 and 2-5 over the prior two weeks respectfully, this is a massive turnaround in the right direction.

On Friday, “Souzbot” Souza tied things up in the third with his 28th of the season…

Busch Stadium was good to Tampa Bay bats, as the Rays hit a total of seven long shots in the three game series, including back-to-back games with three. Logan Morrison highlighted the weekend, collecting his seventh career multi-homer game. In the 3-2 win for the Rays, all five total runs came off of solo home runs. “LoMo” hit his second of the day in the 10th, ultimately winning the game and the series for Tampa Bay.

Romo (3-1) ended up with both the wins, Friday and Saturday. The two appearances extended his streak of scoreless outings to seven. Since joining the team from the Dodgers July 24th, Romo has allowed just five runs on 12 total hits, and has 11 scoreless outings for the bullpen.

Alex Colome added a save Sunday to make his season total 39 (he also collected two against Toronto earlier in the week). For Colome, he now leads the category in not only the American League, but Major League Baseball as a whole.

Rays Down-

Because of either shortened starts (Jake Odorizzi, 3.2 innings) or late scoring changes, none of the starting pitchers in the series collected a decision. A third straight quality start by Blake Snell was lost when Brad Boxberger blew the save, and ultimately took the loss Saturday. Romo ended up with both the wins, Friday and Saturday.

The only loss in the series came in the most heartbreaking form possible…a walk-off. Nay, a two-run walk-off. Bad for Tampa Bay, but cool for Tommy Pham to collect his first career walk-off…

The Takeaway?

Tampa Bay won 2-of-3. Back-to-back series wins for the first time…well, in a while. They move to 65-67, which is definitely improvement from the day they fell five games below .500 just a week or so ago. AND…they are now tied in the all-time series with St. Louis at 8-8. Based on prior season schedules….see you in three years Cardinals! That is, of course, unless the two meet in October. Still possible.

Due Up

The Rays cap off August with three games in Morrison’s home town of Kansas City, against the 2015 World Series winning Royals. The final month of regular season play kicks off with three in Chicago against the White Sox. There are only 30 games left to make a difference. After play completed on Sunday, here is what the Wild Card standings looked like….

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