Rays adjust to life without Kiermaier … so far

by Gary Shelton on June 10, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Souza Jr. had a three-run homer and a triple to lead the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

Souza Jr. had a three-run homer and a triple to lead the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

Saturday, 2 a.m.

One day without him, and so far, the Tampa Bay Rays are feeling fine.

The Rays, playing for the first time without centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier, took out all of their frustrations on the Oakland A's Friday night. The Rays, on Pride Night, beat the A's 13-4 on the strength of five home runs and 15 hits.

Tampa Bay moved back ahead of .500 at 32-31.

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Smith had a home run and three stolen bases./JEFFREY S. KING

Smith had a home run and three stolen bases./JEFFREY S. KING

“We’ve talked about the bats coming to life and they certainly did today – everybody seemed to play a pretty big role,” said Rays' manager Kevin Cash. “We had a lot of good swings. All the guys really contributed. I think the most impressive contribution probably came from Mallex, getting things started. We can be a pretty dynamic offense with him performing that way. I know he’s not going to hit a home run every night and get on base every time, but just the way he approached his at bats was pretty impressive so that’s great to see.”

Beckham had three hits, including his 10th homer./JEFFREY S. KING

Beckham had three hits, including his 10th homer./JEFFREY S. KING

One of the biggest Rays' performers was Kiermaier's replacement. Outfielder Mallex Smith had two hits, a homer and three stolen bases to help fuel the Rays.

Steven Souza Jr. hit a three-run homer, and just missed another that appeared to scrape the roof of Tropicana Field. It ended up being ruled a triple.

“The team has been playing good,” Smith said. “They are still in the race. The division is very tight so I just wanted to come in here more than any- thing not be a liability and play my game and stay within myself.

“I know speed is one of my biggest attributes, but I know that I can play the game in so many different ways so I do pride myself in that. I want to show off my game whenever I can, all of it.”

Catcher Jesus Sucre and shortstop Tim Beckham also had three hits. Beckham hit his 10th home run of the season. Logan Morrison also homered, his 17th.

Evan Longoria makes a play in the Rays' victory./JEFFREY S. KING

Evan Longoria makes a play in the Rays' victory./JEFFREY S. KING

“They (the Rays) had really good at bats,” Cash said. “It seemed like early on they laid off some borderline pitches. [Andrew] Triggs was looking to backdoor some sliders that we didn’t bite on. We made him get the ball into the zone a little bit more and then when he did, we were ready for it. Souza’s hit was a big one, obviously. He fouled off a first pitch slider and then got the next pitch that probably caught a little bit more plate and drove it out of the ballpark. A three-run homer early on does wonders for a club.”

Tampa Bay pitcher Alex Cobb evened his record at 5-5. He went six innings and allowed only one earned run.

“Alex Cobb was really good,” Cash said. “It was nice to see him bounce back. We thought we were doing the right thing by inserting Jake Faria the other night to give some guys an extra day and so far it has seemed to work in our favor. [Jake] Odorizzi pitched a tremendous game last night and then Cobb tonight.

Corey Dickerson had a three-run homer./JEFFREY S. KING

Corey Dickerson had a three-run homer./JEFFREY S. KING

Alex could have gone longer, but given the state of the game at the time, it was probably smart to keep him as fresh as possible going into his next start again.”

Cobb was pleased, too.

“Being able to get in a fastball on both sides of the plate – I showed that early and then expanded out of the zone a little bit with some off-speed pitches,” Cobb said. “I had my changeup working a little bit early on and then it kind of evaded me a little bit later on, but it feels good to be on the right path with that pitch and how to get it to where I want to be.

“There was a slight glimpse of it last game in Seattle, but it was such a bummer of a game that you didn’t have much time to dwell on it. I took a few things away from that game and worked on them during the week. Like I said, it feels good to have the right direction going forward not only on that pitch but all the other ones as well, just to feel comfortable out on the mound.”

The Rays have now hit nine homers in their last two games, the most they've hit in a two-game span.

The Rays and A's play a doubleheader today (first game, 2:10 p.m). Erasmo Ramirez faces Sonny Gray in the first game, and Matt Andriese goes against Sean Manaea in the second.

Cobb went six innings and allowed only one earned run./JEFFREY S. KING

Cobb went six innings and allowed only one earned run./JEFFREY S. KING

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