Carlos Pena Has Been One of the Few Sore Spots During Rays’ Recent Winning Streak
Since the return of Evan Longoria to the lineup, the Tampa Bay Rays had rattled off seven consecutive victories, only to have that streak snapped by a throwing error from Carlos Pena on Tuesday night. Rays’ rookie Matt Moore pitched brilliantly, striking out nine while only allowing one run over six innings pitched. The offense scored two runs in the first frame off Seattle Mariners’ starter Kevin Millwood with RBIs from Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton. The Rays held that lead until the final frame.
Seattle down 2-1, led off the ninth against Fernando Rodney with a single by Kyle Seager; Chone Figgins then attempted to bunt him over. Rays’ first baseman Carlos Pena fielded the bunt, double clutched on the throw and then threw the ball into foul territory in right field, allowing Seager and Figgins to advance. Justin Smoak hit a sac-fly to tie the game and Eric Thames ended it with a bloop single into shallow center field.
Fernando Rodney suffered the blown save, but it was Pena who really gave the game away. Pena was of no help offensively either, doing his best Sidney Crosby imitation by collecting another hat trick at the plate with three strikeouts.
Tampa Bay continued their road trip out west by defeating the Seattle Mariners to open the series on Monday night. That victory was their seventh consecutive and seemed to be propelled by the return of third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays began the road trip by sweeping both the Toronto Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins. The offense came alive during the streak beating Toronto collectively 14-4 and Minnesota 23-11.
Longoria may have been the spark but both Desmond Jennings and Upton deserve much of the credit as well. Following Tuesday’s game, Jennings has scored 14 runs since August 1st, and seems to have changed his philosophy at the plate by swinging at pitches earlier in the at-bat.
David Price earned his league-leading 15th win of the season on Saturday against Minnesota; he was backed offensively by three home runs. Two of those home runs came off the bat of Upton, who as mentioned before has come alive seemingly since the trade deadline passed. James Shields and Upton were involved in endless trade scenarios, and like Upton, Shields has performed well since the deadline going 2-0 in three starts.
The return of Longoria makes the Rays playoff contenders once again but for Tampa Bay to excel, Carlos Pena needs to step up and contribute or ride the pine. Luke Scott is expected to return soon from the disabled list and his return may mean less playing time for Pena. Both Scott and Jeff Keppinger are more than capable of manning the first base bag if Pena should indeed continue his slide. Carlos Pena was signed to do three things: hit home runs, drive runners in and to play gold-glove caliber defense. As of right now, he is doing none of three things and a stint on the bench may be the best remedy.
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