Catcher Wilson Ramos connects for a two-run single in the fifth inning against the Cubs on Sept. 20, 2017.
The real payoff for the Rays signing C Wilson Ramos last off-season will come in 2018, when he can play a full season fully recovered from right knee surgery.
And Ramos is giving the Rays a pretty good glimpse of what that can be like.
In Friday's 8-3 win over the Orioles, he hit a grand slam - and just missed a solo homer that was replay reversed into a double - as part of a three hit night. In 60 games since his late-June return, Ramos is hitting .262 with 10 homers, 30 RBIs and a .735 OPS.
"It's taken a little bit of time for him to get his timing,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "He's kind of had the rollercoaster here a little bit. But as of late you can see the impact that he could have at the plate for us.
"A lot of excitement for the next couple days to finish strong for him, and then going in (to next season) knowing that we've got a force behind the plate with the bat.''
Ramos, 30, said he is excited by the possibilities, especially knowing he will have a normal off-season of just baseball workouts.
"I feel excited for this year to come back, and I feel 100 percent,'' he said. "Ill have a good off-season, I'll have time to work hard. ... Next year is going to be a good year.'' …
UPDATE, 3:46: After sitting out Thursday in recovering from extraction of a tooth, former Rays SS Tim Beckham is in the Orioles lineup tonight for his first game against his ex-mates, batting leadoff and playing short.
Orioles lineup: Beckham ss Machado 3b Schoop 2b Jones cf Mancini lf Davis 1b Hays rf Alvarez dh Joseph c Jimenez p
DEVELOPING: The Rays will take on the Orioles again tonight in game two of the four-game series and will have free-agent-to-be Alex Cobb on the mound.
Cobb has been arguably the Rays most consistent starter this season, posting an 11-10, 3.63 mark. And he has pitched relatively well against the Orioles, going 1-1, 4,42 in three starts, and 5-2, 2.54 in 11 overall. Cobb is slated for one more start for the Rays after tonight, on Thursday in Yankee Stadium.
The Orioles are starting veteran RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, whom the Rays have had their way with in three games already this season.
CF Kevin Kiermaier and SS Adeiny Hechavarria are back in the Rays lineup, and rookie Daniel Robertson will start at second.
Matt Andriese will have the chance to put a solid finish on his season Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
RHP Matt Andriese can't make up for the 2-1/2 months he missed due to a hip injury this season after getting off to a solid 5-1, 3.54 start.
But he can use his last few outings to remind the Rays, and himself, of how good he can be.
He did it the hard way Thursday, allowing three runs as four of the first five Orioles rapped hits, then settling down and settling in work six solid innings, allowing only two more hits and turning it into a quality start. …
Tim Beckham made a smashing debut with the Orioles, hitting .394 with six homers and 19 RBIs in August.
UPDATE, 6:05: Cash gave both CF Kevin Kiermaier and SS Adeiny Hechavarria a day off, noting they have been playing pretty much everyday. ... That also gave them a chance to look more at two of their younger position players, OF Mallex Smith and INF Daniel Robertson. ... Cash said he was happy for Beckham that he was doing wel, Beckham said it "will be fun" to face his former mates but didn't have much else to say about the Rays, that it was "in the past.'' ... LHP Xavier Cedeno, activated off the 60-day DL, is likely to get a couple appearances. ... Cash said starter RHP Matt Andriese is among the Rays that could benefit from a strong finish to the season. ... Though four games and fives teams back of the second wild-card, Cash said they just have to focus on playing well and winning games and hope other teams lose.
Smith cf, Duda DH, Longoria 3b, Morrison 1b, Souza RF, Dickerson lf, Sucre c, Miller 2b, Robertson SS, Andriese P
And for the Orioles: Hays rf Machado 3b Schoop 2b Jones cf Mancini lf Davis 1b Trumbo dh Castillo c Hardy ss Ynoa p
Cesar Puello slides home to score off of a bunt single by Peter Bourjos during the second inning.
How fitting that the Rays used the first-and-third bunt play Wednesday.
It was a play the late Don Zimmer taught former manager Joe Maddon. Zim’s grandson, Beau, threw out the first pitch before the game against the Cubs. Maddon, of course, was in the house. So was former Ray Ben Zobrist, who often had success with that play.
So, in the third inning with the Rays leading 2-0 with runners on first and third and one out, LF Peter Bourjos pushed a bunt to the right side of the mound.
Cubs pitcher Jon Lester, a lefty, was moving toward third after finishing his delivery, so he couldn’t get to the ball. And since Lester is not the best fielder, it might not have mattered if he did, given the speed of Bourjos.
“Everything was in place,” Maddon said. “Bourjos is such a good bunter. We knew it was coming, but you can’t stop it sometimes.”
Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo fielded the ball but didn’t have a play as Rays DH Cesar Puello easily scored from third.
“Well done,” Maddon said.
The Rays had a 3-0 lead in a game they would win 8-1.
Chris Archer in his longest outing since he pitched seven Aug. 27 against the Cardinals in St. Louis.
The only positive for the home side during the Rays 2-1 loss Tuesday to the Cubs was the pitching of RHP Chis Archer.
Archer allowed both runs but went six innings, turning in his longest outing since he pitched seven Aug. 27 against the Cardinals in St. Louis.
Archer failed to go more than four innings in his next three starts.
“It was good to see Arch bounce back,” manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s had some rough starts here.”
The first of those three occurred in Chicago when Archer faced only three White Sox batters and left with discomfort in his right arm. The injury did not turn into anything major, and he did not miss a start. But he allowed six earned runs in three innings in Boston and three in four innings against the Yankees in New York.
On Tuesday, Archer allowed only four hits. One was a home run to Kyle Schwarber in the second inning. Another was a run-scoring double by Javier Baez in the fifth.
His offense didn’t give much help, generating just one hit against four Cubs pitchers. That hit was a solo home run by Brad Miller in the sixth that broke up LHP Mike Montgomery’s bid for a no-hitter.
Archer said he felt there was a crispness to his pitches.
Joe Maddon, right, speaks with Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey before Tuesday's game at Tropicana Field.
More to come later, but a couple of quick early highlights from former Rays manager Joe Maddon's return to the Trop with the Cubs:
* He enjoyed the drive over from his Tampa home, chatted with parking lot guard Vinny Paolozzi and other stadium personnel and then headed past the Rays clubhouse that housed his office for nine years to the visiting clubhouse, where two inflated pink flamingo pool floaties (stocked with Bud Light) were waiting in his office. "It was very cool walking in,'' he said, noting he had been through a similar return going back to Anaheim with the Rays. "I was really looking forward to this when I saw it on the schedule. ... Eager to get back. It's good to get back.;;
* Noting he was free to comment since he no longer worked for the Rays, Maddon ripped on the Trop saying it's clear the Rays need "a better stadium in a better location,'' saying it would be very helpful to have a "more vibrant" building, and one that should be on the Tampa side. "For this organization to get to really where they want to on an annual basis you need a better building in a better spot. …
Joe Maddon returns to Tropicana Field tonight for the first time since leaving the Rays to become manager of the Cubs.
Joe Maddon's return to the Trop will be the main story tonight, but there is still a baseball game to be played, between a Cubs team surging toward another division title with six straight wins and a Rays team struggling to keep alive a longshot bid for the second AL wildcard spot.
RHP Chris Archer will be on the mound for the Rays, seeking to snap a three-game skid in which he has a 14.14 ERA, walking off the mound in the first inning of his Sept. 2 due to forearm tigthness and then having two rough and abbreviated outings.
The Cubs are starting LHP Mike Montgomery, a forrmer Rays minor-leaguer who has bounced between the rotation and the bullpen this season. He also has the notation of being the pitcher who got the final out of the 2016 World Series.
Logan Morrison is back in the lineup for the Rays, as they are are starting five lefties against Montgomery.
Here is the Rays lineup:
Kiermaier cf, Souza rf, Longoria 3b, Morrison 1b, Ramos c, Duda dh, Hechavarria ss, Dickerson lf, Miller 2b, Archer p
And here is the Cubs lineup, with two ex-Rays: Jay cf Zobrist lf Rizzo 1b Contreras c Schwarber dh Happ 2b Heyward rf Russell ss Baez 3b Montgomery p
Evan Longoria and Kahwa are teaming up for a new blend — aptly called Signature Series No. 3 — that will be sold with proceeds to benefit Hurricane Irma relief efforts and then local charities.
Rays 3B Evan Longoria and the Tampa Bay-based Kahwa coffee roasting company are teaming up for a new blend — aptly called Signature Series No. 3 — that will be sold with proceeds to benefit Hurricane Irma relief efforts and then local charities.
The blend, sourced from three high-quality beans, was selected by Longoria and will be introduced Tuesday.
Bags will be available at all 12 Tampa Bay Kahwa locations, at KahwaCoffee.com and at the Trop.
The Rays (72-77) begin the day five games below .500, 5-1/2 games behind the Twins for the final Wild Card spot and, according to FanGraphs, with a 0.3 percent chance of reaching the postseason.
They look to avoid a sweep this afternoon against the Red Sox. Jake Odorizzi faces lefty Eduardo Rodriguez.
Want more bad news? The Rays are an AL-worst 16-27 this season when facing a left-handed starter. They are currently riding a six-game losing streak against southpaws.
With the playoff chances basically at zero, the Rays will use the final two weeks making evaluations for next season. Today they will get a look at Cesar Puello in left field and will see more of Lucas Duda, a free agent after this season, at first.
The first-place Red Sox (85-63), meanwhile, begin the day with a three-game lead over the second-place (and AL wild Card-leading) Yankees.
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