Long-awaited offensive outburst has arrived

A 6-run fifth helped the Rays total 24 runs while winning the final 3 games in Toronto

July 3rd, 2022

TORONTO -- Saturday was the day the Rays had been waiting for.

After weeks of offensive struggles, Tampa Bay notched 17 runs and 27 hits in a doubleheader sweep over the Blue Jays. With the bats awoken and the pressure off the lineup, the Rays carried the scoring into Sunday’s 7-3 win at Rogers Centre.

“We were just waiting for that offensive outburst to come and, you know, start to get some confidence flowing through our veins,” center fielder Kevin Kiermaier said.

Thanks to three homers during a six-run fifth inning Sunday -- the Rays' biggest inning this season -- Tampa Bay bested the Blue Jays for a third straight game, completing the series win.

With just three total runs in the series’ first two games, it appeared Tampa Bay’s offensive scuffles would continue in Toronto. But with 24 runs in the weekend contests, the Rays bested their offensive output from the previous seven games combined.

“Everyone knew it was kind of a matter of time,” starter said. “But it's definitely good to see those guys dominating.”

Almost every Rays hitter helped, but Harold Ramírez got the Sunday slugfest going in the fifth. The right fielder, whom Kiermaier nicknamed “Barrel Ramírez,” lived up to his moniker with a two-run bullet over the left-field wall. Each of the next three Rays reached, with and slapping home runs to bust open the ballgame.

Even with the team-wide offensive inconsistencies of late, Ramírez and Isaac Paredes have been lineup constants. Both entered Sunday with an OPS over .800, and they combined for eight RBIs in the three weekend wins.

Despite Ramírez and Paredes’ slugging and Saturday’s offensive showcase, the Rays entered the series finale averaging the eighth-fewest runs per game in the Majors at 4.08, 1.21 fewer than in 2021. But with three lopsided scores in two days, Tampa Bay’s bats have come to life and are “feeling pretty good right now,” manager Kevin Cash said.

“It's better to play this game relaxed and go out there and just play to your abilities; added pressure rarely helps,” Cash said before the game.

Sunday’s offensive output backed the Rays’ latest strong pitching performance. Following Shane McClanahan and Drew Rasmussen’s one-run starts from Saturday, Baz allowed a single score himself in six innings.

"Seemed like [Baz] had a knack for dialing into the strike zone and that stuff as guys got on base,” Cash said.

The young righty walked the tightrope through the opening innings, allowing a Blue Jays runner into scoring position in each of the first four frames. But every time Baz worked into trouble, he pitched his way out. With the bases loaded in the fourth, Baz induced an infield fly from Bo Bichette and a soft grounder from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to keep it tied at 1-1. In the next half-inning, the Rays’ lineup spotted its starter six runs.

“Pitching has kept us in a lot of games,” Kiermaier said, “and has been a big part of what we've done the last several years, and we need to score some runs for them.”

The rotation remains the Rays’ strength, as they entered Sunday with the Majors’ fourth-best team ERA (3.31). When they provide that pitching with any kind of offense, it makes for easy wins. With Sunday’s victory, Tampa Bay moved to 34-8 when scoring four or more runs.

After the Rays dropped the first two games of the five-game series, their bats are warming at the right time. Now, they look to carry that momentum into an equally important American League East showdown in Boston that begins Monday afternoon.

“The bats have kind of come to life,” Cash said. “I want to see that continue as much as possible. We're getting tremendous starting pitching, and I know we got our work ahead of us going into Boston.”