Fans and pundits alike wondered how the Rays would respond to being absolutely dominated by Felix Hernandez. Well, a change in approach was all it took to put the perfect game in their rearview mirror. The Rays offense exploded for seven runs on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and then 12 in a 12-3 over the Angels on Friday night.
The Tampa Bay offense had visibly changed their style from taking pitches to swinging very early in the count, and it led to Angles’ starter Dan Haren exiting in the third inning as the Rays cruised behind David Price’s seven shutout innings, winning 7-0 on Thursday. B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria all homered to put the Rays in a tie atop the A.L. wild card spots.
On Friday night, Tampa Bay put up a seven-spot in the fourth inning to chase Angels’ All-Star Jered Weaver after just three innings of work. Friday’s win moved the Rays alone into the top wild card spot. Upton and Zobrist once again each went deep for Tampa Bay in the victory.
The perfect game by ‘King Felix’ was the third such performance against the Rays in their short history; of the 23 perfect games in baseball history, Tampa Bay has given up 13% of them. The Rays do have a good history following their perfect games. After Mark Buehrle’s perfect outing in 2009, Tampa Bay won 8 of 12, and after Dallas Braden’s perfect game on Mother’s Day in 2010, the Rays won 10 of 12.
Since the Rays began this current road trip B.J. Upton has been one of the biggest contributors to Tampa Bay’s success. Since the 10th of August, Upton has hit .344 (counting the perfect game) with 5 home runs and 12 RBIs. Perhaps even more crucial to the success of Tampa Bay has been the outstanding play of Desmond Jennings. Over his last ten games, Jennings has hit .410 with 16 hits in 39 at-bats. Although Jennings only amassed 1 home run and 3 RBIs during that span, he has been the table-setter the Rays have sorely needed since the departure of Carl Crawford. Jennings has scored 12 runs over those 11 games. The obvious speed threats of Upton and Jennings have had Rays fans drooling over their collective potential since Crawford’s exit, and it seems the two outfielders have begun budding, so they say.
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