Heading into Tuesday night’s emotional game against former teammate James Shields and the Kansas City Royals, the Tampa Bay Rays knew they needed to get off to a quick start. They did just that, with Matt Joyce connecting for a first inning two-run homer.
But things fell apart from there. After starting hot, Alex Cobb allowed six hits in a four-run sixth inning, the biggest being a two-run blast off the bat of Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas. He was then pulled following a single by another ex-Ray, Elliot Johnson.
Of course, the Rays inability to move guys around didn’t help anything. They finished the night 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, something which must turn around soon if there’s any hope of staying competitive in the hotly-contested AL East.
As a team, Tampa Bay was able to generate eight hits, but only four after the first inning. That’s a credit to the kind of pitcher Shields is.
Considering the Rays were off Monday and scored 18 runs in two games against the Chicago White Sox this past weekend, it’s not time to hit the panic button just yet. Cobb’s performance isn’t really something to worry about either.
However, another failure to drive in runs when needed most is something to be concerned about. Tampa Bay had been showing signs of life offensively, scoring 52 runs in their past 10 games (seven wins) after a slow 5-10 start.
Tuesday night’s game highlighted weaknesses and likely has every Rays fan wondering: Can this offense produce enough runs to stay competitive, or are they destined to finish on the outside looking in come October?