ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have built their reputation on pitching and defense, but their offense has now carried them -- and produced more than any other team's -- for nearly a month.
In their last 23 games entering Sunday's series finale against the Padres, the Rays led the Majors with 132 runs scored (5.7 per game) while posting a collective .282/.350/.472 batting line. They ranked second in the Majors in batting average and slugging percentage and were tied with the Red Sox for the highest on-base percentage. They racked up 13 games with double-digit hits during that stretch.
And their pitchers, who so often took the mound last year knowing they had to be nearly perfect to win, have taken notice.
"We've been doing great," said lefty Matt Moore, who has been given 6.3 runs of support per game, the highest figure in the rotation and the seventh-highest in the American League. "It's not just the middle of the order. [Catcher Jose] Lobaton's been coming up. There's been a lot of guys contributing. It's definitely nice to go out there with a lead and knowing that we can score runs late."
The difference in production is obviously a far cry from last season, when the Rays finished 11th in the AL with 697 runs scored and 12th with a .240 average, but it is also a dramatic turnaround from their early-season scuffles. Over their first 13 games this season, the Rays ranked last in the AL in runs scored (39, three per game), average (.204), on-base percentage (.284) and slugging percentage (.305).
"Our offense has been feeling great," Ben Zobrist said. "If we can keep that going, we know our pitching's going to pitch better than they have been. So we're not worried about that. It's been a rough patch. You like to see the fact that when the hitters have a rough patch, the pitchers pick them up. And when the pitchers have a rough patch, the hitters pick them up. That's what good teams do, and that's what we've been doing the last few games here."