The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are headed to another last-place finish in the AL East, but at least they know who will be guiding them in the foreseeable future.
With manager Joe Maddon locked up for the next two seasons—and after rallying for a big win—the Devil Rays wrap up their weekend series with the fading Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.
Hours after Tampa Bay (59-83) picked up Maddon’s option for 2008 and 2009, the Devil Rays hit two homers in the ninth inning for a 5-4 win on Saturday. The Devil Rays managed only three hits, including a solo homer from Dioner Navarro, over eight innings off the Blue Jays’ A.J. Burnett. Against closer Jeremy Accardo, though, Delmon Young had a two-run drive before B.J. Upton’s two-run walkoff shot.
Despite the worst record in the majors, Tampa Bay principal owner Stuart Sternberg spoke highly last month about Maddon’s developmental work with the AL’s youngest team.
“I know it’s just a two-year extension, but I want to be here for years to come,” said Maddon, who’s 120-184 as Tampa Bay manager. “I see this as being one of the prime places to be in all of Major League Baseball in the course of the next decade. I want to be a part of it. You can see the growth in the past two years and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s just going to keep getting better.”
The Devil Rays’ James Shields (11-8, 4.01 ERA) will try to win his third straight decision and break a tie with Scott Kazmir for the team lead in wins. Shields is 2-0 with a 2.76 ERA in his last four starts—all Tampa Bay wins— since losing to Boston on Aug. 13, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio in that span is 6.5-to-1.25.
Against Baltimore on Monday, the right-hander allowed four runs—but only one earned—and seven hits over seven innings of a 9-7 win. He fanned six while walking only one. Shields faced Toronto in his season debut on April 6, and failed to record a decision in the Devil Rays’ 6-5 home win as Tampa Bay rallied with three in the ninth.
Toronto’s Jesse Litsch (5-7, 4.03), who gets the start in the series finale, limited Tampa Bay to seven hits with a walk and two strikeouts over 6 2-3 innings of a 2-0 road victory on July 31. But in six starts after that, the right-hander—born near St. Petersburg, Fla.—is just 1-3 with a 4.86 ERA.
Litsch gave up a career-high seven runs in only 3 1-3 innings Monday en route to a 13-10 loss at Boston.
“It was a battle for him,” Toronto manager John Gibbons told the Blue Jays’ official Web site when asked about Litsch’s performance. “But these guys can do that to you in this place. He got ahead of some guys and wasn’t able to put some guys away who got some key hits. Things just started rolling their way.”