Tampa Bay Rays: Was the Road Trip a Success?

Brandon LopezContributor IMay 22, 2008

The Tampa Bay Rays were seven games over .500 as they headed to St. Louis, and they left Oakland still seven games over .500. On the road trip, the Rays showed flashes of their old selves (forgive me for saying), the Devil Rays.

They made several mistakes on the basepaths, and pitching wasn't as great as it has been this season. After losing two straight one-run games to the Cardinals, they came back with two one-run victories of their own.

The St. Louis Cardinals were coming into the series on a bit of a slide, losing seven of their last ten. They still held an impressive record, and were only a couple games out of first place behind the Chicago Cubs.

In this first game, the Rays started Andy Sonnanstine (6-2, 5.09 ERA). Sonnanstine has been hot as of late, winning four straight decisions, and continued that with a great all-around performance. He gave up one run on eight innings of work, while walking none and striking out four.

Sonnanstine also had a great day at the plate, earning his second career two-hit game going 2-3 with a run. The only run for the Cardinals was a solo shot from Chris Duncan.

The Rays continued their great hitting, scattering 12 hits, three of which were doubles. Akinori Iwamura was the hot bat of the day going 3-5 with an RBI.

In the second game of the series, the Rays showed that they weren't completely over the "Devil" Rays. They made approximately six mental errors on the basepaths, which would have led to bigger innings, and possibly an easy win.

The Cardinals offense had nine runs on 13 hits, and got two home runs from Ryan Ludwick, who hit the game-winning dagger in the 10th inning off of Rays pitcher Dan Wheeler.

The Rays, however, had 18 hits and only eight runs, thanks to all of the base-running errors. They did show some resilience, erasing two, four-run deficits.

In the rubber game of the series, the Rays got off to a hot start, scoring three runs in the first five innings while holding the Cards to zero. After that, the Rays couldn't stop the Cardinals offense, which scored in every inning from the sixth on.

The Cards got another game-winning hit, this time from Skip Schumaker, who scored Jason LaRue in the ninth inning. Gary Glover (0-2, 3.95 ERA) picked up his second loss of the season for the Rays.

The Rays looked to get back to their winning ways in Oakland, who just got off of  a 2-7 road trip. James Shields (4-3, 3.37 ERA) got the start and gave up two home runs in the first two innings to Emile Brown and Frank Thomas. Thomas ended up with two home runs that game. The Rays offense stayed hot, and came back to take the lead, but lost it in the eighth as the A's tied it.

In the 13th inning, someone finally scored as Evan Longoria hit a two-run shot to give the Rays the lead. The A's came back in the bottom half of the inning and scored on a triple from Daric Barton, but Troy Percival (2.84 ERA, 12 SV) closed out the game getting Kurt Suzuki to foul out for his 12th save.

Game two of the series was a pitchers duel between Scott Kazmir (3-1, 1.57 ERA) and rookie Greg Brown (2-4, 3.18 ERA). Kazmir pitched great, looking more and more like the pitcher he was before his injury. He gave up one run on four hits, while recording eight strikeouts in seven innings.

The Rays offense was shut down, but got some luck in the eighth as Emile Brown lost Dioner Navarro's fly ball in the lights with the bases loaded, which scored all three base runners. Troy Percival gave up another run in the ninth on another home run to Frank Thomas, who is looking good in the A's uniform again.

As the road trip was coming to a close, the Rays looked to sweep the A's, which the A's weren't about to let happen.

Sonnanstine got the start again, but the game had different results than his last start against the Cardinals. He gave up seven runs on nine hits in only six innings. On the other side, A's starter Dana Eveland (4-3, 2.90 ERA) pitched a complete game, giving up one run on three hits. The only run came on a solo home run by Jonny Gomes. The A's ended up winning that game 9-1.

The Rays are now in second place to the Boston Red Sox (30-19), and look to keep pace with them as they have been winning games often. The Rays now come back home for a 10-game homestand against the Baltimore Orioles (24-21), Texas Rangers (23-25), and the Chicago White Sox (25-20).

This is a key homestand for them, for afterwards they go to Boston and Los Angeles, and then continue a difficult Interleague schedule.

I saw more good than bad in this road trip, and would say it was a successful one. They hit well, and for the most part pitched well. With Kazmir getting back into form, the Rays will continue to have a winning season.