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Tampa Bay Rays whiff again in 7-5 defeat by the Boston Red Sox

Once again, the Tampa Bay Rays are striking out on the road.

Literally.

The Rays lost their fifth game in their last six tries Sunday, falling 7-5 to the Boston Red Sox. The Rays have also struck out at least 11 times in five of those six games.

It’s been a nagging problem for the Rays, who lead the major leagues in strikeouts with 139. This time, it was a particular challenge in the eighth inning, when Kevin Kiermaier singled and stole second with no one out, but Evan Longoria and Brad Miller both struck out, and Corey Dickerson fouled out.

The Rays scored three runs in the first off Drew Pomeranz, but the Red Sox took the lead with a two-run seventh on Mitch Moreland’s two-run single.

Alex Cobb started for the Rays and gave up four runs in five innings. Danny Farquhar took the loss.

Miller had a two-run triple, and Dickerson and Tim Beckham had homers.

The Rays wrap up their series against the Red Sox in a morning game at 11:05 a.m. today. Blake Snell of the Rays faces Steven Wright.

Red-hot Rays finish first home streak of the season at 5-2 with win over Blue Jays

The Tampa Bay Rays have started the 2017 baseball season as if they were trying to make you reconsider.

The Rays, last in the American League East a year ago, ran their record to a franchise-best 5-2 start to a season Sunday with a 7-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. The Rays are currently in second place in the AL East, a half-game behind Baltimore.

This time, the Rays competed hard enough that their angst showed a couple of times. Center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who had three hits, was ejected for the first time in his career in the eighth inning. And right fielder Steven Souza, who had a key three-run homer, helped to ignite a benches-clearing brawl when he went hard into Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzski.

Still, the Rays had nine hits and came back from a two-run deficit. Jake Odorizzi gave up two hits to the first four batters he faced, then didn’t give up another one through six innings. He retired 16 of the final 17 batters he faced.

Catcher Jesus Sucre hit a home run and drove in two more runs with a single. Rookie Daniel Robertson had two hits.

Souza is now tied for third with a .417 batting average, and he has struck out only twice in seven games. The last two seasons, he has struck out 303 times.

“It’s just a week,” Souza said. “We have 155 more games if my math is right. We have a game in New York; we’re still in the division. These are important games. More so, if I can help our team win on a daily basis so we can be in the World Series, that’s all that’s going to matter to me.”

Souza wasn’t concerned with the tempers flaring.

“I’m not going to play every game and wonder if Tulo is going to get upset about it,” he said. “I’m playing hard, and if he thinks that I’m trying to be malicious, he clearly doesn’t know who I am. It’s unfortunate that it turned into something like that because it was just baseball. Hopefully, we can just squash it and move on, because I’m really tired of having a feud with that.”

Kiermaier said he didn’t know he had been ejected until teammate Daniel Robertson told him on the bench.

“That was my first time (being ejected),” he said. “It’s not really how I pictured my first ejection — I wish I would have gotten my money’s worth. I definitely thought I had some low pitches.
“I know I can’t get tossed from a game with my defensive resume. I didn’t do a good job of holding my anger in the moment back, and he tossed me. Fair on his part. I just totally disagree with the call.”

The Rays now go on a seven-game road trip, starting Monday in New York.

Rays beat Blue Jays in extra innings behind Mallex Smith’s big night

For a moment, it appeared that the strategy had worked. It hadn’t.

For a moment, it appeared that the Toronto Blue Jays could get out of the jam. They couldn’t.

The Tampa Bay Rays won another close one Saturday night, edging the Blue Jays in 11 innings. And the catalyst to it all was a speedy outfielder who had a career night. Mallex Smith reached base five times, on two hits and three walks. He hit a double and scored the winning run in the 11th.

Smith was sacrificed to third with one out, but the Jays intentionally walked Corey Dickerson and Kevin Kiermaier to load the bases. The plan seemed to work when Casey Lawrence struck out Evan Longoria for the second out of the inning, but he followed with a walk to Brad Miller to force in the winning run.

“That’s two in a row,” said manager Kevin Cash. “Two games that we’ve won and had a tough time finding ways to win. We found a way to win tonight. That was an outstanding pitching performance by Arch (Chris Archer) and their guy (Aaron Sanchez). It was fun to watch early on if you’re a fan of good pitching. That was electric stuff. Location, everything was going on. Two good lineups. Just excited that we were able to pull it off.”

Cash enjoyed watching Smith’s performance.

“Mallex’s spring was put on pause for an injury early on,” Cash said, “so we didn’t get to see him and then I think throughout spring, I think he was trying to feel his way a little bit. You can tell since he’s been here that it’s been much more the aggressive style of play. We are going to ride with it as he’s feeling it. Tremendous at-bats at the plate laying off tough pitches and putting himself in hitter’s counts every single at-bat.

Smith said his plan was simple: Get on base.

“I call that a blessed day right there,” Smith said. “You know that doesn’t happen every day so when you have days like this you gotta relish in them for the rest of the night. Just a good day progressively you know, taking steps forward and just building confidence in my own game. Building up some confidence in the staff here you know so that’s a very progressive day. It’s nice to have a day like today where I can showcase a lot of it. The only thing I didn’t do today was bunt. I know that’s the thing that everybody penciled me in as a bunter, but a great day.”

Jays’ manager John Gibbons admitted it was an unusual strategy.

“Normally, you don’t want to walk the bases loaded to get to Longoria, but the situation, you needed a force play with Smith running,” Gibbons said. “The chance of getting him on a tag play with the way he runs. He got the big out there, but then of course then walk which was the ballgame. I thought he handled himself well. I thought we pitched very well tonight. I thought Sanchez was great. We ran into our own nemesis Archer and when we took the lead, we had the chance to add on, which would have been big, but they answered right back. The guys are battling. Every game we are playing, other than last night, has been a tight game late, we’ve just come up short.”

Chris Archer pitched well for the Rays, allowing five hits and two runs in 7 2/3 innings. He struck out eight in a non-decision.

The Rays play the Blue Jays today at 1:10 p.m. Jake Odorizzi will pitch against Marco Estrada.

Yankees’ C.C. Sabathia tames Rays bats, brings Tampa Bay to earth

Oh, yeah. There are the Tampa Bay Rays.

Two days after the euphoria of a huge win on Opening Day, the Rays fell back somewhat to last year’s performance, losing a 5-0 game to the New York Yankees. This time, no one was talking about parades. No one suggested anyone run for office.

The Rays had only five hits in the shutout, and four of those didn’t clear the infield.

“Yes,” Rays’ manager Kevin Cash said when asked if he believed the Rays would have a good offense. “We’re going to have some nights where it’s quiet. You look at what (C.C.) Sabbathia did. He was moving the ball. He really pitched. There wasn’t a sequence we could adjust to.”

“ This is a guy who we’ve had plenty of battles with and it seems like his efficiency and the way he has the ability to keep the ball off the barrrel and that’s what he did. It wasn’t any fault of the hitters. You just have to credit C.C. For his performance.”

Jake Odorizzi went seven innings for the Rays, giving up four runs and two home runs.

The two-run homer to Ronald Torreyes hurt Odorizzi.

“I rushed it and my arm dragged behind,” Odorizzi said. “It went about a plate difference. You can’t make mistakes like that in a game and it came back to bite us.”

The Rays are home again tonight against the Yankees in the rubber match of the series.

Tampa Bay Rays clobber Yankees to win impressive opener

Well, look who is on top of baseball? Why, it’s the Tampa Bay Rays.

And who would have thought to look for them there?

The Rays opened the 2017 season with a 7-3 victory over the New York Yankees Sunday. And while it’s early, it was an impressive way to start the season for the Rays. The Rays, 16 games behind the Yankees a year ago, jumped New York early and never slowed in the win.

Tampa Bay scored three times in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Evan Longoria and a two-run single by Logan Morrison. Both Longoria and Morrison– Longo and Lo-Mo – later homered. Longoria’s homer was the first one of the major league season, the first time a Ray can claim that honor.

For the Rays, Kevin Kiermaier, Brad Miller and Evan Longoria had two hits. Only Steven Souza was hitless of the Rays’ batters, and he had a walk.

Chris Archer, a 19-game loser last season, pitched well for the Rays. He went seven innings and gave up only two earned runs in winning on Opening Day for the first time.

Archer’s big moment came in the seventh, when he got Gary Sanchez to ground out with the bases loaded on a 2-2 pitch.

“I think the tone was set just by the way Archer came out and really was under control of himself, of the game,” said Cash. “Even the first two runs that they scored, he had some awkward plays behind him – but that’s part of the game. He didn’t let it snowball, he just kept it right there. The offense obviously (did a) tremendous job, but I think it all starts with Archer.”

The Rays beat up New York’s Masahiro Tanaka, who had been 6-0 vs. the Rays. In 2 2/3 innings, they touched Tanaka for seven runs, eight hits and two walks.

“(Longoria’s homer had a) pretty big (impact),” Cash said. “I mean that’s Evan Longoria – that’s why he’s been such a staple here for the Tampa Bay Rays for so long. I know he broke a record today with his Opening Day…. I mean, we get three runs, they come back and score to make it 3-2, and he separates the game. You don’t like to say that the dagger is in the third inning or whatever it was – but that was pretty big bolt for us and tough to overcome.”

Archer pitched seven innings in five of his last six starts last year. Against the Yankees, however, he seemed calmer, more in control.

Archer said his big inning in the seventh was a matter of simplifying.

“I said ‘I was thinking one pitch at a time.’ I said ‘I’m going to execute this. Now this next pitch, I’m going to execute this. And this next pitch I’m going to execute this.’ It wasn’t really complex. I knew the way I was throwing the ball and the type of contact that I was getting.

The Rays are off today, then host the Yankees again on Tuesday.

Stu Sternberg says search for stadium sight is ‘progressing steadily’

The scoreboard above him was blank. The standings, too. Soon, both would change.

The new season was three hours in front of Stu Sternberg, the principal owner of the Tampa Bay Rays. Sternberg stood beside the first base dugout, looking at the new grass of his old facility in the moments before his team played the New York Yankees. He talked about the Opening Days of his youth, about the Rays, about the season to come. Yes, he talked about the search for a new facility.

Stu, off the top of his head.

On the search for a stadium site: “We’re progressing. We have not taken any steps backward. We haven’t gone in reverse. The process, I think everyone would like to move along quicker, but it’s moving along steadily. The slope is up. I’m very optimistic we’re going to come up with a solution. It’s something that’ll be a generational type facility.”

On whether his focus is still on Tampa Bay: “My only focus and will remain my focus through this process and any process going forward.”

On the prospects of the new season: “I really don’t know. I’m probably a bit less optimistic on the final record than most. I do feel confident if the bullpen performs average, somewhat admirably, we will be in the hunt well into September. That’s the margin of error. Our defense, especially in the outfield, will be unprecedented. The new catchers will be helpful. We’ll ride on the arms and shoulders of the bullpen.”

On the pace of the game: “I’d like baseball to widen the strike zone and cut downs on the walks and strikeouts. I’d like fewer home runs. I wouldn’t like the batter to leave the box.”

On the new turf: “I love it. It’s a million-dollar investment. By the end, the new turf was nothing short of a disaster. The pitchers tell me they like running on it in the outfield better.”

On Kevin Kiermaier: “A team that will remain nameless asked for him in a trade back in 2012. We said ‘we’re not trading him and don’t think about it. I really put a bias on people who blossom. When someone’s slop is looking like his does … I ‘m a big fan.”

Rays’ Chris Archer thinks his team will surprise some people

Outside the clubhouse, there is new synthetic turf and old banners. There are questions and skeptics.

Inside, there is hope and promise and optimism. Two days short of Opening Day, why wouldn’t there be?

Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays stands in front of his locker, and he expresses his belief in a team that many think is bound for the AL East Cellar. Archer believes. Someone has to, right?

“I think we’re super-talented,” said Archer, who will start Sunday against the Yankees when the Rays start their season. “We need to remain healthy, and we have a few guys who need to get healthy. And that will happen in due time. But with our ability to pitch and the upgrades that we’ve made as of late, they’ve been talking the whole offseason that they’re going to go out and try to get guys to make us better defensively and on the offensive side. They literally have not stopped throughout the offseason and Spring Training.

“[The Rays have] added Peter Bourjos — great defender. We’ve got two great defensive catchers, and guys have played really good at their respective positions at Spring Training, too. So I’m really looking forward to it.”

Those who still need to get healthy include shortstop Matt Duffy, outfielder Colby Rasmus and catcher Wilson Ramos.

It’s rare to find a prediction that doesn’t have the Rays in the AL East.

“And I think that’s typical for the Rays,” Archer said. “We’re always a sleeper. We’re always an underdog. Nobody’s going to give us some love until it’s October 1 and we’re still in this thing. As long as we take it day by day, we’re talented in a different way than a lot of these teams. We’re constructed differently. But those differences are our advantages.

“Especially after the past two years haven’t been too awesome,” Archer said. “But having Longo (Evan Longoria) coming off a strong year and some of the bullpen guys we’ve added, position players we’ve added, and the way certain players have looked during Spring Training, definitely looking forward to April 2 kicking it off.”

Rays sell out their 12th straight opening game against Yankees

Attendance problems? Those are for the other 80 home games.

For openers, the Tampa Bay Rays have plenty of fans.

The Rays have sold out their 12th consecutive opener, selling out Sunday’s game against the New York Yankees at the Trop. Tickets are available for the remaining two games in the season-opening series against the Yankees on Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. and for the first weekend series of the season, April 6-9, versus the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Rays are 9-10 in their openers.

Chris Archer, 9-19 last season, starts on the mound for the Rays.

“You either win or you learn,” Archer told MLB.com. “And I learned 19 times lsat year.”

The Rays will be an unsettled bunch on the field, as shortstop Matt Duffy, outfielder Brad Rasmus and catcher Wilson Ramus are all hurt. However, outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, third baseman Evan Longoria and second baseman Brad Miller are intriguing draws, and the Yankees are still the Yankees.

Game time is 1:10 p.m.

Rays won’t get their first choice in search for a new stadium

For Stuart Sternberg, finding a new stadium site for the Tampa Bay Rays hasn’t proven as easily as just identifying his preferred site.

“We had some ideas on locations that just weren’t available, that I thought would have worked perfectly, but they’re off the table,” Sternberg said in Port Charlotte Thursday. “So we’re sort of moving down our list to Nos. 2, 3 and 4. It’s like starting pitchers, you have five of them and sometimes No. 4 is better than No. 2, but rarely better than No. 1. The No. 1 is the No. 1. I hate to be mixing these sort of metaphors, but it sort of works in this case.

“We did have a choice that we thought that was going to be ideal, a choice or two, and it was going to be unavailable. We would have had to flesh it out. But we’re working and trying to find out what will be next best.”

Sternberg wouldn’t say where his choice would have been, or if it was in Tampa or St. Petersburg.

How optimistic is Sternberg?

“It’s unknown at this point,” he said.

Sternberg said in February he expected conclusion by August, but said Thursday it could take until the end of the year.

“Nobody wants this process to move quicker than we do,” he said. “Because the sooner we are able to get something done the quicker we’re able to ramp up our revenues and know where our future’s going to be for the next set of generations to come, but it’s an important process and we’re not doing this in a vacuum. We’re working with various cities on both sides of the bay, we’re working with the different counties on both sides of the bay, we’re working with MLB to a point as well, landowners sometimes in some cases. It’s a complicated process.”

Baseball Prospectus sees the Tampa Bay Rays improving to second

The Tampa Bay Rays may be facing a turnaround year.

At least, that’s what the people at Baseball Prospectus believe.

According the PECOTA rankings, the Rays should improve to be the second-ranked team in the AL East. They should tie the Texas Rangers for the wild-card spot with 84 wins. It was the kind of turnaround prediction that is sure to make manager Kevin Cash happy.

That might sound a bit lofty when you compare it to last year’s 68-win season, but the website sees the Rays as giving up the second-fewest runs (690) in the division. Although it also thinks the Rays will have the second-worst batting average (.244) in the league, one point ahead of Oakland, it thinks it will finish three games behind Boston in the division.

It also has Toronto three games back, the Yankees four games back and Baltimore 10 games back.

Does that seem lofty to you? Well, Bleacher Report still has the Rays in fifth, going 72-90 on the season. USA Today also has the Rays in the basement, going 75-87 on the season.

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