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Wednesday, Sep 17, 2014

Rays Notes: Batters struggle to gets hits that count


— The Rays won three of their next 10 games after reaching .500 on Aug. 15, a streak punctuated with Tuesday’s sloppy 4-2 loss to the Orioles that included bad base running and the inability to hit in the clutch.

It’s the inability to hit in the clutch that has been a problem for most of the season. The Rays entered Wednesday’s game batting .245 with runners in scoring position, including .208 with two outs.

That problem was magnified in the sixth inning Tuesday, when CF Desmond Jennings and LF Ben Zobrist both came to bat with the bases loaded. Jennings grounded to third base, and 1B James Loney was forced out at the plate. Zobrist hit a line drive to left field that former Ray Delmon Young caught near the warning track.

Jennings just needed to get the ball out of the infield to drive in a run, but he didn’t. Zobrist nearly picked up Jennings, and Young nearly misplayed the ball before making the catch.

Those at-bats, coupled with three runners thrown out at the plate, were the difference in the Rays’ two-run loss.

“We’ve not been able to hit through any mistakes,” manager Joe Maddon said.

The Orioles weren’t much better, going 3-for-14 with RISP, yet those three hits drove in all four runs. RHP Alex Cobb said the Orioles’ lineup makes things happen.

The Rays haven’t done enough of that this season.

“We get guys out there,” Maddon said. “Look at our numbers, on-base and batting average, not bad. Runs are down, and that has to do with the inability to drive the run in.”

The Rays are sixth in the AL in on-base percentage, but a lot of that has to do with them being fourth in walks. They are 10th in batting average, 12th in runs and 14th in slugging percentage.

Missing DH Wil Myers for most of the season hasn’t helped their power numbers. Neither has 3B Evan Longoria’s decline in power.

Maddon said if you polled all the major-league managers, most would complain about a lack of production with RISP. Maddon also said there isn’t much you can do about it.

“I think it’s cyclical, not unlike what you see in bullpen pitchers on an annual basis,” he said. “One year, you’re really good at something and the next year, you’re not the same. I promise you the approach has been the same. Sometimes it’s just about the players themselves, how they’re going at that particular moment. It’s hard to describe.”

Longo back at 3B

Longoria returned to his position Wednesday after serving as the DH for the first two games of this series while he rested a sore forearm.

“I don’t think you can say he’s 100 percent, but he’s doing a lot better,” Maddon said.

Maddon said if the soreness flares up Longoria will return to DH. But Maddon said Longoria is not restricted when it comes to throwing.

“It’s nothing that he’s going to hurt himself worse,” Maddon said.

The Rays need Longoria’s bat in the lineup. He entered Wednesday’s game having driven in four of their last five runs. He had seven of the Rays’ first 15 RBIs on the road trip and began play Wednesday with 30 RBIs in 35 games since the All-Star break. He had 44 RBIs in the 97 games before the break.

Seven prospects to Arizona

The Rays are sending seven players to play for the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League: RHP Zach Cooper (Single-A Charlotte), RHP Matt Lollis (Double-A Montgomery), RHP Colton Reavis (Charlotte), RHP Jaime Schultz (Charlotte), C Justin O’Conner (Montgomery), INF Patrick Leonard (Charlotte) and OF Kes Carter (Montgomery). R.C. Lichtenstein, Montgomery’s pitching coach, was named to the Javelinas coaching staff.

Roger Mooney

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