ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A lot can change in a week.
The Tampa Bay Rays packed their bags last Thursday after a disappointing series against the lowly Texas Rangers where they dropped three of four games and carried a 5-8 record. However, they found a way to kick it into a different gear and almost complete a historic double sweep road trip against the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals, respectively.
It all started with their stop at Yankee Stadium.
The Rays were able to play the brand of baseball that got them to the World Series last season — effective pitching, timely hitting and impeccable defense. Right-hander Michael Wacha tossed an impressive six innings of shutout baseball to start the series — saving the bullpen for matchups that later paid dividends on Saturday and Sunday victories. Joey Wendle continued his All-Star caliber level of play going 6-for-12, including two homers and five runs scored. While doing so, the Rays have now taken five of six games against the Bronx Bombers, extending their rival’s losing streak to five and dead last in the AL East division.
Then, it was off to chilly Kauffman Stadium, where the Rays took the first two games against the Royals in a different fashion. The first game of the series featured young lefty Josh Fleming, who made his debut last season delivering solid results by having a strong command of his pitches, generating soft contact and working quickly on the mound. Pitching in front of friends and family for the first time in the big leagues, Fleming registered 5 1/3 innings of shutout baseball and the Rays did enough offensively to win 4-1. The second game was a messy bout, where the score resembled more football than baseball, as the Rays took that slugfest 14-7.
Had the Rays went on to win Wednesday night’s affair, it would’ve marked their first six-game road trip sweep in franchise history. Alas, it was not meant to be, although the team had many leads throughout the game. Both a 4-0 lead after the first inning and a one-run lead in the ninth were squandered by the bullpen, as the Rays dropped the getaway game 9-8 in particularly gut-wrenching fashion: A walk-off single by Royals catcher Salvador Perez.
Overall, it was a very successful week for the Rays taking five of six contests. However, as it is with every walk-off loss, they do leave a sour taste.
Following an off-day on Thursday, the Rays begin a tough stretch of 17 games in a row, including a 10-game homestand that starts Friday evening at 7:10 p.m. ET against the Toronto Blue Jays.
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