With newly adopted aggressive approach, lineup clicking behind Longo, Asdrubal
By Troy Provost-Heron
ST. PETERSBURG -- No team was happier to see the calendar change over to August than the Rays.
In July, Tampa Bay went a Major League-worst 9-16 and watched as its record that stood 10 games over .500 on June 20 (40-30) dwindled to two games under .500 (51-53). A large part of that tailspin was due in part to the offense, which scored 108 runs (3.17 a game) over that 34-game span.
In August, however, the Rays' offense has kicked into gear. In 10 games thus far this month, it has scored five runs or more six times; Tampa Bay is 27-12 this season when it surpasses that five-run plateau. The Rays have homered in each August contest, while also recording a slash line of .297/.356/.507.
A lot of it has to do with Tampa Bay's new aggressive offensive approach, in which the club is trying to jump on more fastballs that are located over the plate.
"That message was kind of a collaboration of talking with [hitting coach] Derek [Shelton], [Jamie Nelson], with our front office and the guys upstairs," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We look into everything, and we felt that if we could get a little more aggressive, we'd benefit from it. And to [our hitters'] credit, we have.
"It's a trickle effect. It's a kind of buy-in approach. And we have a lot of guys buying in, and it seems like it's paying off."
The aggressive approach has been coupled with third baseman Evan Longoria and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera returning to their typical selves at the dish.
Longoria is hitting .333 (14-for-42) in August and has hit safely in 16 of his past 18 games. Of his 14 hits, five have gone for extra bases, including two home runs.
"He's getting to pitches that Evan Longoria generally gets to," Cash said of the third baseman. "He's had a tough time getting to those pitches -- not by his own choice -- but I think he has figured out a way to work smart, and maybe work less at times, to stay fresh.
"He's an extremely talented hitter that eventually we all knew was going to lock it back in."
As for Cabrera, the eight-year veteran has hit safely in 12 of his 14 games -- nine of which have been multihit performances -- since returning from the disabled list on July 28 after suffering a right hamstring strain. Since his return, his .480 batting average (24-for-50) is the highest in the Major Leagues.
"When Longo and Cabrera started hitting, things started to change for us," Chris Archer said. "We haven't been pitching quite as well as when we were really hot earlier in the season, but we haven't needed to, because we've had those two guys -- that veteran presence -- pulling us through."
The Rays have a 7-3 record in August, and entering Thursday, they sit just one and a half games behind the Angels for second American League Wild Card spot, despite the pitching staff posting a 4.03 ERA.
"If one component of our [team] fails, we need the other to pick them up," Jake Odorizzi said. "We just need wins."
The Rays' offense has provided just that.
Troy Provost-Heron is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.