ST. PETERSBURG — The talk during the first half of the season was how much better the offense would look once DH John Jaso returned from the bruised left wrist he suffered on Opening Day, an injury that kept him out of the lineup for 83 games.
Since his return July 7, Jaso has been the best hitter in the Rays’ lineup. He raised his average to .329 after his two-hit day Sunday when he drove in the first three runs in a 4-3 win against the visiting Mets.
“For me, whatever the opportunity, whether it’s getting on base or driving in the runs, scoring, just take it in stride,” Jaso said. “We’re building this philosophy to attack fastballs in the zone and I’m hopping on board with that and trying to do my part.”
Jaso, who bats leadoff against right-handers, has given the top of the order a spark with his team-high .393 on-base percentage.
“(He’s been a) huge bat for us,” manager Kevin Cash said. “It seems like every time he puts it in play, he barrels it. And he comes up at the right time. We need him to come up with guys on base. I know he’s hitting leadoff, but the guys hitting at the bottom (of the order) are getting on base, so he’s capable and has the ability to drive those runs in.”
On Sunday, it was the Rays’ Nos. 7-9 hitters — DH Richie Shaffer, CF Brandon Guyer and C Rene Rivera — who either got on base or, in the case of Rivera, bunted runners into scoring position so Jaso could drive them home.
The other lefty
LHP Xavier Cedeno quietly has become one of the more consistent arms in the Rays’ bullpen.
He has 11 straight scoreless appearances after his one inning of work Sunday. He’s allowed four hits and no walks and struck out 14 during that stretch.
Cedeno was described as the “unsung” member of the bullpen after Sunday’s win, when he picked up his second victory of the season.
“He’s definitely not unsung in this clubhouse,” Cash said. “We wouldn’t be where we’re at and in the position where we’re at without him. He’s been a model of consistency. Sometimes you don’t even know he’s in the building, then he goes out and throws a scoreless inning.”
Boom go the Rays
The Rays have hit 21 home runs in their past 13 games, including at least one in their past eight games.
“I can’t explain it, but we’ll take them,” Cash said. “We like the homers, and I know our pitchers enjoy us hitting homers, too. It’s nice to get some leads.”
Guyer has been hit by a pitch 17 times this season, or once in every 15.06 plate appearances. ... Shaffer’s seventh-inning home run Sunday was the 40th hit this season by a Rays rookie, extending the team record. ... The Rays are 33-30 in games decided by two or fewer runs. The 63 games represent the second-most in the AL behind Seattle’s 64 heading into Monday’s game against visiting Baltimore.