TPR Notebook: Rays Sweep A’s | The Process Report

TPR Notebook: Rays Sweep A’s

Fresh off a 2-7 road trip in which they averaged less than three runs a game, the Rays took on the Athletics in a three-game set at Tropicana Field. Oakland entered the series with a 12-4 record and averaged nearly six runs per game. Naturally, the Rays swept the A’s, outscoring them 17-4 in the process. Here are a few noteworthy items from the weekend:

Friday:

Alex Cobb gave up two runs early on before settling down en route to his second win of the season. Facing a left-handed heavy lineup, Cobb used his secondary stuff in primary counts to keep the A’s off balance. After throwing first-pitch fastballs to four of the first six batters faced, he threw 11 first-pitch heaters the rest of the way. Instead, he used his curveball and changeup a combined 15 times to start plate appearances.

Evan Longoria belted his fourth home run of the season in the 4th inning of Friday’s game. After going without an extra-base hit during the first 11 games of the season, Longoria has six extra-base hits in the last seven games. Comparing his swing rate during the two stretches, you can see a shift in where he is swinging the stick. Longoria is starting to make pitchers pay for throwing in the middle of the zone and is working the inner-half of the plate more.

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First 11 games

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Last seven games

Saturday:

Offensively, there was not much to say about Saturday’s 1-0 affair. Matt Joyce provided the only run of the game – a line drive home run to right field in off Jarrod Parker in the second inning. From there, Jeremy Hellickson along with Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney tossed the team’s fourth shutout in 17 games.

In his first two starts of the season, Hellickson registered just three strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, in his last two games, he has punched out 15 batters in 14 innings. Each lineup is unique which makes for different approaches based on match-ups. Over the last two games, Hellickson has relied on his breaking ball and change-up more while lessening the usage of his fastball.

Hellickson used his fastball nearly 60 percent of the time against the Rangers and Orioles. Against the Red Sox and Athletics, he dropped that down to 44 percent. His use of the changeup has remained static; however, he increased the amount of curveballs thrown. After tossing the hook just 22 times his first two times out, the 26-year-old has thrown 49 breaking balls in his last two games – including 22 of them in two-strike counts.

Sunday:

When we last spoke about Yunel Escobar, he had just three hits in his first 30 at-bats with the Rays. Batting ninth in Joe Maddon’s lineup, he went 3-4 against the A’s including his first home run with the club. He also notched his third double of the season. Upon a quick examination of Escobar’s swing, I mentioned by lowering his hands and staying back on the ball, he may be able to get under inside pitches and drive them in the air with authority. This is cherry picking at its finest, but look at his home run swing from today (right) and a routine 6-3 putout from a prior game (left). It is simple to spot the difference in bat position at the point of impact.

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It’s also worth noting that Escobar has been experimenting with a heavier bat at the urging of Joe Maddon. The reasoning behind this is getting the batter to use their hands more. The suggestion has been to Shelley Duncan as well.

On the mound, Roberto Hernandez worked six innings, allowing just one run and earned his first victory since 2011. Hernandez threw 103 pitches total with 91 coming against left-handed batters. The plan for the big right-handed was simple against lefties: pound the inside of the plate with fastballs (sinkers) and work away with change-ups.

sinkers

changeups

Hernandez also tossed a handful of front-door sliders, but with little impact on the game. He battled with bouts of wildness later in the game, but the fastball/change-up combo yielded just three singles in six innings while registering six strikeouts.

For the most part, Hernandez’s work has not been pretty, but he is averaging six-plus innings per start and has struck out 22.5 percent of batters faced. That mark is second on the team (Matt Moore 28 percent) and among the top-20 of American League starters.



3 Comments

  1. Man, if the Rays could get 3 WAR out of their SS position — which a healthy, hitting Yunel should do no problem — then this team has a whole new level of widespread talent. It is an exciting proposition.

    Hey! Do you need special, Tommy Rancel powers to access those heat maps?! They are beautiful — especially those framing ones from the Molina/Lobaton/Hernandez article.

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