With Carl Crawford potentially out for the season and AL Rookie of the Year candidate Evan Longoria also on the disabled list, it seemed the Tampa Bay Rays’ underwhelming offense might finally catch up with them.
Instead, the Rays are scoring more often.
Tampa Bay will look for its fourth win in a row and seventh in eight games on Saturday as it continues its road trip in Arlington against the slumping Texas Rangers.
The Rays (74-47) were averaging 4.5 runs per game after opening their 10-game road trip with a 2-1 loss at Seattle on Aug. 7. That was the same game Longoria, who has 22 homers and a team-high 71 RBIs, fractured his wrist, sending him to the disabled list likely until September.
But even without their premier offensive player—and Crawford, the speedy outfielder who will miss the rest of the regular season after having hand surgery on Thursday—the Rays have done more than just keep their offense afloat. Tampa Bay has scored 42 runs in winning six of its last seven games, led by first baseman Carlos Pena.
Pena is hitting .343 (12-for-35) with five homers and 10 RBIs since Aug. 5. He homered for the third straight game on Friday, hitting a solo shot in the Rays’ 7-0 victory over the Rangers (61-62), who have lost four straight.
“I’m seeing the ball well, and I’m focusing on that,” Pena told Tampa Bay’s official Web site. “It sounds kind of cliche, but it’s true. When you can keep it that simple, you kind of allow yourself to play—kind of get out of your own way.”
Making things even easier for the Rays is the chance to go up against baseball’s worst pitching staff. Texas’ 5.45 staff ERA is nearly a half-run higher than the second-worst in the majors.
Since they pulled a season-high six games over .500 on Aug. 5, the Rangers’ pitching has reached a new low. They’ve lost eight of nine and have allowed 69 runs in their last seven games.
Not only is Texas having trouble getting outs, but it’s also having problems scoring runs—something that’s not normally an issue for the best offense in baseball. The Rangers have recorded eight hits—all singles—in getting shut out in their last two games.
They’ve been blanked four times in their last eight games after being shut out just once in their first 115 games.
“Tonight, everyone was just dead. We just didn’t do our jobs,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said after Friday’s loss. “We’re definitely not playing good right now.”
Texas will hope to fare better against Rays’ right-hander Edwin Jackson (9-7, 4.07 ERA), who’s looking for his fifth straight win. Jackson’s opposition hasn’t been top-notch in that stretch—he’s beaten three of the AL’s four worst offenses—but he’s been impressive nonetheless, posting a 3.18 ERA.
He gave up a run and seven hits over seven innings in an 11-3 win at Seattle on Sunday.
“Eddie was great,” catcher Shawn Riggans said. “He’s got electric stuff, throwing 97 and 98 (mph). It’s hard to hit 97 even if you know it’s coming. He had everything working today.”
Jackson’s last start at Texas was his best in the majors. He pitched his only career complete game in Arlington on Aug. 11, 2007, allowing four hits and striking out eight in a 3-0 win.
He’ll be opposed by rookie left-hander Matt Harrison (4-2, 7.07). The Rangers have scored 23 runs in Harrison’s last two starts, helping him win both. He gave up six runs and 10 hits over five innings in a 15-7 victory at Baltimore on Sunday.
The Rays have won eight of 10 on the road following a stretch where they lost 9 of 11.