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Tampa Bay Rays Week in Review: Fan's Look

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Tampa Bay Rays Week in Review: Fan's Look
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With MLB rosters expanding on September 1st, the Tampa Bay Rays recalled RP Cesar Ramos, as well as 5 …

The Tampa Bay Rays completed a turbulent week away from home with a 9-4 triumph over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, September 2. The 7 day road-trip was rocky and generally disproved the budding belief that the Rays fare better outside of Tropicana Field. Yet, following Sunday's offensive explosion, fans are left with a feeling that "it could've been worse." With a 3-4 record on the trip, the Rays sit only 1 1/2 games from a wildcard and 3 1/2 behind the New York Yankees in the AL East.

Trouble in Texas

The week-long excursion commenced with 2 contrary losses to the Texas Rangers. In the initial game, David Price endured an unusually poor performance by yielding 6 runs in 4 innings. The Rays actually provided their ace with run support, but it was insufficient and they fell 6-5. Sadly, Price did not enjoy such assistance during 2 of his prior 4 starts, when he posted 8 shutout innings in each, but was on the losing end of 1-0 defeats. On Tuesday, Tampa Bay had no answer for Texas' hurler Yu Darvish during yet another 1-0 defeat. This time James Shields played the part of the hard-luck loser. Avoiding the sweep, Tampa Bay ended a 4 game losing skid with an 8-4 victory on Wednesday, August 29.

Trade

Though the waiver-trade deadline of August 31st passed quietly, the Rays' executed 1 of baseball's 2 trades. In an effort to boost the bench, Tampa Bay acquired outfielder Ben Francisco from the Houston Astros for future considerations. This is the 2nd trade of 2012 for the 6 year veteran, who was sent packing from the Toronto Blue Jays in July. The right-handed Francisco offers manager Joe Maddon flexibility during the season's final month, as he can play both corner outfield positions and possesses playoff experience from stints with the Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies. If the Rays qualify for the post-season, Francisco will again be eligible for the playoff roster. Suiting up in right field, the 30 year-old blasted a home run in his first start for Tampa Bay during Sunday's 9-4 victory over Toronto.

Injury

The Rays have been plagued by injuries throughout 2012 and this trip was no exception. Despite the facial cuts to Elliot Johnson from an awkward slide in Friday's 2-1 loss to Toronto, the utilityman was able to compete over the weekend. Yet, matters did not proceed smoothly for returning pitcher Jeff Niemann, who took the hill for the first time since breaking his leg on May 14th. The 29 year-old is unlikely to return to the regular rotation, but it provided the staff with an extra day of rest and allowed the pitcher a chance to prove himself. Despite completing a minor league rehab, Niemann was removed after only 3 1/3 innings and 45 pitches of work. The Rays have claimed the move was cautionary and a case of shoulder tightnes s. However, doubt has been cast on the hurler's ability to help this year.

September Call-ups

As MLB rosters expanding to 40 players on September 1st, the Rays joined many in deepening their bench. With the Triple-A Durham Bulls removed from playoff contention, the big league club immediately recalled SP Jeff Niemann, RP Cesar Ramos, LF Rich Thompson, C Chris Gimenez, and SS Reid Brignac. All 5 players have already competed with the Rays in 2012 and hope to earn a future role with the team. Perhaps in response to Niemann's disappointing return, Tampa Bay additionally recalled RP Brandon Gomes, who impressed with a 2.92 ERA in 2011, but struggled earlier this year.

Strong Finish

Despite the premature loss of Jeff Niemann, the Rays survived to win Saturday's game 5-4 over the Blue Jays. The triumph required a rare 5 out save from Fernando Rodney and strangely ended with a throw-out at the plate -- appropriate payback for identical culmination of their loss the night before. On Sunday, David Price returned to form and earned his league-leading 17th victory to split the 4 games north of the border. The Cy Young candidate tossed an efficient 6 2/3 innings and surrendered 2 runs. Yet, it was the club's offense that left an impression during the triumph, behind homers from Ben Francisco and Carlos Pena, as well as a season-high 18 hits for 9 runs. Tampa Bay hopes the momentum follows the team home, where it will begin a 3 games series against the New York Yankees at 1:10 p.m. on Monday, September 3.

Sources:

Yahoo! Sports

More by Jeff Briscoe from Yahoo! Contributor Network:

Unsteady August Continues for Tampa Bay Rays

Jeff Briscoe is a regular contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network and a follower of the Tampa Bay Rays. He talks Rays' baseball and more on The Sports Train radio show in Southwest Florida.

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