Rays need awoken bats: 'Nothing is secured'

Anderson concedes 10th-inning HR to Nats, but club just .182 with RISP since Aug. 23

September 16th, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- With the Rays’ magic number to clinch a postseason berth at four with 11 games left in the regular season, it appears to be just a matter of time before Tampa Bay punches its ticket for the second consecutive season.

But despite the success and the likelihood of Tampa Bay playing into October this season, the team is still searching for more consistency out of the offense, something highlighted again in Wednesday's 4-2 loss to the Nationals at Tropicana Field.

“We definitely need to get it going and turn it on offensively,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “It’s not one guy. It’s multiple times that we’ve seen opportunities come up and we’re just not able to capitalize on them.”

Though it was who saw his scoreless inning streak snapped at 12 after giving up a two-run home run to Luis García in the 10th inning, the big issue for the Rays came on the offensive side of the ball, particularly with runners in scoring position.

The Rays went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position in the loss and left 11 men on base. In the extra frame, they struck out three times, stranding automatic runner Brett Phillips at second base. wasn’t able to deliver in a couple of key opportunities, stranding nine on base, including three during a bases-loaded opportunity in the seventh.

Since Aug. 23, the Rays are batting .182 (33-for-181) with runners in scoring position, the lowest batting average in the American League over that span. Before Aug. 23, the Rays were hitting .284 (65-for-229) with RISP.

“I feel like we can do better than we’ve been doing the past week,” said Rays shortstop . “It happens, though. I think we’ll be alright. Now we go to Baltimore and the Mets, and we just have to continue to do what we were doing all year. We’ve been playing really good, and we have to go on the road now and continue to win games. We’ll be fine.”

Like Cash said, the recent struggles for the Tampa Bay offense don't just fall on one individual. Adames is 2-for-his-last-32 with 20 strikeouts. has just one hit in his last five games after his hot start to the season. is hitting .205 this season after another 1-for-5 performance on Wednesday.

As a team, the Rays struck out 16 times in Wednesday’s loss, falling just one strikeout shy of their season-high, a 17-strikeout performance against the Red Sox on Thursday.

“I think we have some guys that are susceptible to striking out in our lineup,” Cash said. “Saying that, they do so many other things well. They drive the ball well, they get on base at a good clip. Strikeouts, groundouts, popups -- I think right now we’re kind of valuing them all the same and that we know we have to have less of all of that stuff and find ways to get on base consistently and then come up with those big hits.”

Though some players have been struggling in the Rays’ lineup, and are two who seem to be getting hot at the right time. Brandon hit a two-out, two-strike solo home run in the ninth inning to tie the game at 2. He recorded four hard-hit balls on Wednesday and extended his hitting streak to seven games.

Nate has stepped in nicely for the injured Ji-Man Choi, going 1-for-2 with an RBI double and three walks, two being intentional. The Rays first baseman is 7-for-16 with three home runs and eight RBIs over his last five games.

The Rays now travel to Baltimore as they try to clinch a postseason berth and create some separation from the Yankees and Blue Jays in the AL East. With the loss, the Rays’ lead in the division is down to 3.5 games, their magic number for the crown standing at eight.

“Nothing is secured yet. We’re not in the playoffs for sure, so everybody is just really locked in on winning the AL East,” Brandon Lowe said. “I think everyone in that locker room has the same goal right now, and that’s to come out on top in that division."