ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Joe Maddon believes his team will play baseball this October. Of course he does. And to get there, Maddon said his team needs to shore up one part of its game — hitting with runners in scoring position.
“That’s the part that really needs to show up,” Maddon said.
The Rays headed into Tuesday’s game with the first-place Red Sox batting .220 with runners in scoring position since July 31. They were hitting .283 with RISP prior to that day.
So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Rays were 14-21 since July 31.
Also not helping was the Rays’ inability to hit with the bases loaded. They had two hits in their previous 20 at-bats with the bases loaded going into Tuesday’s game, including an 0-for-10 run.
They also hit into seven double plays with the bases full. That’s another problem. The Rays hit into a major league-high 38 double plays in their previous 30 games.
“I want to believe that when it comes down to hitting with runners in scoring position that luck’s got to flip back to you,” Maddon said. “There’s got to be that balancing out of the numbers. We’ve been so unlucky with it and not good at it over the last two, three weeks, a month. At some point it’s got to come back to you. Normally it does.”
Maddon said the problem is mental, that his players are pressing. The solution?
“They have to understand the pitcher is the guy in trouble, not them,” Maddon said.
Approaching the day
There are 19 games left in the regular season, and Maddon said he wants his team to approach them as 19 one-game seasons.
“I think once you start looking at the bigger clumpy kinds of things, (winning) series, what you have to do (to make the playoffs), the record for you to get there, it can totally get in the way,” Maddon said. “It’s (19) one-game series, that’s what I want our guys to focus on. And if we do that, we have a very good chance of getting in.”
Good day for Crain
RHP Jesse Crain (right shoulder strain) threw 36 pitches Tuesday in his second bullpen session, mixing in change-ups and sliders.
“Another step or two forward from Saturday’s bullpen,” Crain said. “I’m still going in the right direction.”
Maddon said the Rays will see how Crain feels today before deciding on the next step — another bullpen or a simulated game. But Maddon said the plan was for Crain to throw three bullpens before facing hitters.
The Rays wanted Crain to throw 30 pitches but he asked to throw more, which he said was a good sign.
“You know it’s healing,” he said. “When you’re able to push it — you feel it a little bit, but you’re able to push it — and it doesn’t get worse, that’s when you know you’re on the way up. Before, when I’d push it, the next day it’d be sore and kind of went in the wrong direction. It’s on the right track. Still getting stronger, and I’m getting excited about it.”
To steal? Or not to steal?
Yankees manager Joe Girardi and Orioles manager Buck Showalter got into a heated argument during Monday’s game after Girardi accused the Orioles of stealing signs.
Maddon said that’s how to play the game.
“Everybody should try to steal the other team’s signs. Absolutely,” Maddon said. “And if you leave your signs out there to be stolen, that’s your fault, period. That’s part of the game to steal signs, absolutely. I love doing that.”
Maddon started DH Luke Scott on Tuesday over Wil Myers because he liked the way Scott matched up with Red Sox RHP Clay Buchholz. ... Sunday’s 4-1 win at Seattle was the 33rd time this season the Rays allowed one or fewer runs. It was the 13th time LHP Matt Moore allowed one or fewer runs, tied for the second-most in the AL. Seattle’s Felix Hernandez has done it 14 times.