TORONTO -- Tampa Bay's 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Wednesday looked awfully familiar. Coming off a stretch where the Rays were shut out five times in eight games, their quiet offense wasn't surprising. The defeat did offer some encouraging results, though, in the form of two changes to
TORONTO -- Tampa Bay's 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Wednesday looked awfully familiar. Coming off a stretch where the Rays were shut out five times in eight games, their quiet offense wasn't surprising. The defeat did offer some encouraging results, though, in the form of two changes to the Rays' batting order.
Second baseman Brad Miller jumped into the leadoff spot and went 1-for-4 with a walk and RBI, while left fielder Corey Dickerson dropped down to the six hole, where he went 2-for-4 with a double. The shuffling has been a focal point recently, but it boils down to players getting a fresh look.
"The lineup changes, I know it's a big thing to talk about," Cash said, "but I look at it pretty simply as just a change of scenery. That's all it is."
It was the first time Miller hit leadoff this season. He's still hitting just .197, but prior to the game, Cash pointed to the fact Miller is still getting on base plenty. In 75 games this year, Miller's 52 walks have already surpassed his career high of 47 walks in 144 and 152 games, respectively, in 2015 and '16. His on-base percentage this season after Wednesday's game is .338.
Dickerson was hitting sixth for the fifth time this season after spending most of the year leading off or batting second, but he responded by reaching base twice for the first time since Aug. 3. The Rays have plenty of left-handed hitters to move around, so Cash is able to mix and match the order.
"We feel that our left-handed hitters are fairly balanced in the type of production they can provide," Cash said. "It doesn't always turn out that way over the course of the season, but on any given night, we feel they're all equally dangerous, and giving a guy a different look maybe energizes him hitting in the top [of the lineup] or relaxes him hitting lower down."
Beyond the regular days of rest and maintenance, the Rays found success with the "change of scenery" approach earlier in this series with Lucas Duda. After five consecutive hitless games, Cash gave Duda received back-to-back starts at first base instead of designated hitter to spark the career National Leaguer.
It worked, too. In the first two games of the series against the Blue Jays, Duda went a combined 3-for-9 and hit his 21st home run of the season.
The biggest lineup variable on the horizon for the Rays is the return of center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. The reigning Gold Glove Award winner played a full game at DH with Class A Advanced Charlotte on Wednesday night, recording a walk in four plate appearances, and he is expected to play a game in center field on Thursday. The Rays don't have a batting order set in stone for his return, but Kiermaier, another left-handed bat, only increases their options.
"I'm looking forward to [Kiermaier] coming back, that's for sure," Cash said. "We need him back, but [we're] not quite there with the lineup."
Keegan Matheson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto.