Maturity at plate during two-homer game impresses Rays skipper Maddon
ST. PETERSBURG -- Ryan Roberts' 60 games with the Rays in 2012 didn't go as well as he had hoped, and his first 10 of 2013 yielded only five hits -- none for extra bases -- in 24 plate appearances.
But these last few days have looked much better for Roberts, none more so than during the Rays' 5-1 win over the Yankees on Monday, when Roberts went 3-for-4 and crushed two homers -- his first of the season -- off CC Sabathia in his first two at-bats.
"Pretty impressive," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Roberts has three multihit performances over his last four games, and he's gone 7-for-15 with two homers, a double and four RBIs since Friday. Maddon has started Roberts four games in a row and moved him up to the two-hole the last three days, and none of that has been lost on Roberts.
"First and foremost, it's been blessings from the Lord -- that's the main thing," Roberts said. "The second thing that followed was playing time. Those two things combined is what I give any credit to."
Monday was the third multihomer game of Roberts' career, his first since April 19, 2011. It was also his second three-hit game with Tampa Bay. And perhaps most impressively, he became just the sixth player with two homers in one game off Sabathia, becoming the first since Jason Bay did so for the Mets on May 23, 2010.
Sabathia came out flat in the first inning, and he admitted he wasn't being aggressive enough out of the gate. Roberts' first solo drive came on an 0-2 curveball -- only his third career homer in that count -- amid a four-run outburst by the Rays in the opening frame that also included an opposite-field homer by Yunel Escobar.
"They came out, and I made a bad pitch to Ryan Roberts -- he put a good swing on it," Sabathia said. "Escobar got a fastball right down the middle, and he put a good swing on it. It's nothing I can do but try to be better at the beginning."
Roberts' next trip to the plate came as the leadoff man in the third inning. He worked a 3-1 count, saw an 89-mph fastball from Sabathia and once again crushed a homer to left field. But that wasn't what impressed Maddon the most about Roberts' night -- not even on a two-homer night against one of baseball's most dominant pitchers. No, Maddon had the most praise for what happened in Roberts' third at-bat: a line-drive single to center field that led off the fifth inning.
That said a lot to me, because he wasn't trying to go for [home run] No. 3 right there," Maddon said. "Sabathia gave him a pitch that he really probably could not hit a home run with, but he took a line drive up the middle. That was a mature at-bat to me."
And that's what Roberts has been doing the last few days: taking what's been given to him and making the most of it.
"It feels great," Roberts said. "Any time you can hit the ball hard feels great, whether you make outs or you hit the ball out of the park, base hits," Roberts said. "You just want to have a good at-bat. At the end of the day, if it goes out of the park, great.
"I feel better in the place I'm at with the Lord. That's the main thing. That's the main focus. It makes me feel better inside, makes me feel upbeat every day. I don't have bad days anymore. Other than that, last year was last year and this year's a new year, so I forget about that."