1. The Rays continue to find ways to win with baseball’s most unorthodox offense, as evidenced by their 4-3 victory over the Yankees on Wednesday night to reclaim the American League East lead by a half-game.
Tampa Bay has scored the third-most runs in the majors — 736, just one behind the Red Sox for second — with only a moderate amount of power (147 homers, fifth in the AL) and not very many base hits (1,215, only 12th out of 14 AL teams). What the Rays do well is draw walks (607) and steal bases (160) — both numbers lead the majors — but they didn’t do either of those while beating the Yankees for the second time in the three-game series.
Instead, the Rays relied on a pair of two-run homers from Dan Johnson, a man who entered the game with only three homers in 65 major league at-bats this season. They won Monday night on a Reid Brignac solo home run in extra innings, just his seventh of the year.
But somehow the Rays managed to get runners home. They score a major league-leading 34 percent of all baserunners and only left two men on base on Wednesday. Usually that’s because of their aggressiveness on the basepaths, such as Tuesday night when Carl Crawford was thrown out at third base to end the game while tagging and trying to advance on a flyball to right field in a one-run game. Every youth baseball player learns that it’s a cardinal sin to make the final out of an inning at third base because you’re already in scoring position at second, but Tampa Bay is so unorthodox that manager Joe Maddon defended Crawford’s running.
It’s a fickle offense that so far has worked, as the Rays have the best record in the majors and survived the three-game set with the Yankees in which each game was decided by one run. Tampa Bay keeps finding ways to make each runner count.