The Rays won the game which is great, but they lost their All-Star third baseman for the second time this season to an injury on the left side of his body. After missing nearly the entire month of April because of a strained left oblique, Evan Longoria left today’s game with tightness on the same side. The injury is not believed to be serious; however, injuries are never serious until they are.
If Longoria misses time, Sean Rodriguez and Felipe Lopez would fill in as they did previously. In the event he hits the disabled list, Russ Canzler – who has been playing third base for Durham – could be an option to replace him on the roster. Recalling Canzler would require a corresponding 40-man roster move. On to the game…
After winning the American League pitcher of the month award for May, Jeremy Hellickson started June in fine fashion. The right-hander went 7.1 innings, allowing one run on three hits, a walk, and four strikeouts. The lone run on Hellickson’s line came after Joel Peralta allowed an inherited runner to score on a Miguel Olivo two-run home run in the eighth inning. In his last 40.1 innings pitched, the rookie has allowed just six earned runs. Unsustainable, sure; however, that is one hell of a run.
Hellickson lived off a fastball/changeup diet predicated by his fantastic fastball control. Despite Derryl Cousins behind the plate, Hellickson managed a 70% strike rate with his heater. In addition to the fastball location, he threw 24 of his 36 changeups for strikes including six whiffs. A quick pitching 2.0 update, 10 of the 25 batters he faced saw a first pitch that was not a fastball. He also threw 10 non-fastballs when behind in the count.
Offensively, the Rays lineup continues to struggle. Meanwhile, they were able to score one more point than the opposition which is good enough for Joe Maddon. Tampa Bay scored three runs on seven hits, most of which came from the top two spots in the lineup. New leadoff hitter Johnny Damon along with Ben Zobrist in the two-spot combined to go 4-10 with three RBI. Damon blooped home the game’s first run while Zobrist singled home two more. The Rays worked five walks, however, did all their scoring in the second inning.
On Friday night, Damon became the Maddon’s eighth leadoff hitter of the season. It was the first time he hit first in the Rays’ lineup despite over 1,500 career games in the spot. Since Sam Fuld’s decline, the team has been without an answer in the top slot. Damon’s current walk rate of 5.8% is lower than his career total, but his is still seeing about four pitches per at-bat and is a solid baserunner. Until Desmond Jennings arrives, Damon is probably the best option for leading off – at least against right-handed pitching.
Matt Joyce went hitless for the third time in four games, but saved a run – which turned out to be pretty important in a game that ended 3-2. With Justin Smoak on third base, Adam Kennedy flied out to right field for the second out of the fourth inning. Smoak tagged up, but was gunned down by Joyce in a close play at the plate. Defensive plays are not usually game-changers; meanwhile, Joyce’s throw increased the Rays’ win expectancy by 8.2%