ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – It is no coincidence that the Rays were only 10-12 with Harold Ramirez out of the lineup. The right-handed hitter, who had his right thumb fractured against Baltimore on July 18 when hit by a Jordan Lyles pitch, was hitting .329 when he was shelved.
Given the way Ramirez has been hitting since returning to the lineup last week, it is as though he did not miss any time. In five games, he is 10-for-25 (.400) with a homer, a double and three RBI. He has raised his average to .336, which would lead the American League if he had enough at-bats to qualify.
Whether it’s a liner to left or a flare to right, Ramirez has a knack for using the whole field. In the first inning of Sunday’s 3-2 win over Kansas City, he chopped a single to the right side off Zack Greinke that went between first baseman Nick Pratto and the bag. The hit, which scored Randy Arozarena with the game’s first run, did not look pretty, but it sure got the job done.
“That’s part of the game, because it’s hard to hit the baseball,” said Ramirez, in referring to soft hits that find holes. “So, I just have the same approach and focus on hitting the ball.”
It is an approach manager Kevin Cash appreciates.
“I think he has a very simple approach and he sticks with it, doesn’t try to do too much and kind of takes what the pitcher gives,” he said. “If you are going to work away, he will beat you away. If you are going to come inside, he can pull balls like we saw (in last week’s series against the Yankees.) Just a really good hitter who is seeing the ball well.”
Randy on a roll: Randy Arozarena’s solo homer in the fifth inning Monday night gave the Rays a 2-1 lead, which was the final in their win over the Angels. He has five homers and 18 RBI in 18 games this month. His RBI total is tied (Alex Bregman, Eugenio Suarez) for most in the American League in August.
“I’m happy that I was able to connect,” he said through interpreter Manny Navarro, of a 434-foot home run to right field, his second homer the opposite way this season and the second-longest (445 feet at Toronto in 2021) of his career. “We still have a long way to go and anything I can do to help this team win is a positive.”
Another positive are the 11 walks Arozarena has drawn this month, the most in any month this season and a major contributor to a .390 on-base percentage so far in August.
“He has been swinging the bat really well of late and it is awesome to see,” said Cash. “He’s been pitched tough, he has kind of lengthened (at-bats) with foul balls, hanging in there and fighting pitches off. When he gets a pitch he can handle, he’s obviously shown the ability to do some damage.”
Mowing them down: Righthanded relievers Jason Adam (13) and Pete Fairbanks (11) have combined for 24 consecutive scoreless appearances. Overall, Adam has a minuscule 0.63 WHIP in 54 appearances, a 1.07 ERA, and has converted seven of eight save opportunities.
Fairbanks has four saves since rejoining the ‘pen in mid-July after missing the season’s first three months with a right lat strain. He has allowed only six hits and fanned 15 in 10 2/3 innings during his scoreless streak. The exclamation point to his effectiveness is a four-seam fastball he is throwing 98-99 mph, and often in the bottom of the zone.
“He might be on the best run that I have seen,” said Cash. “He’s been on some really good runs, but the strike-throwing is the difference. If he happens to have a batter that he falls behind, he has shown the ability to make pitches and get right back into the count.”
Injury updates: Wander Franco’s recovery from a fractured right hamate bone hit a speedbump when he left his rehab assignment at Triple-A Durham due to “lingering symptoms.” He returned to St. Pete on Sunday for further treatment. “We will continue to take it day to day,” said Cash….Nick Anderson (right elbow) was reinstated from the 60-day IL and sent to Durham. To make room on the 40-man roster for the righthanded reliver, USF product Phoenix Sanders was designated for assignment….Manny Margot is 1-for-8 in two games since returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for 51 games.
Remarkable run: Drew Rasmussen will go into his start Thursday afternoon against the Angels having allowed only three hits to the last 57 batters he has faced over the course of four starts. The righthander took a perfect game into the ninth inning against Baltimore at Tropicana Field on August 14 and on Sunday he took a no-hitter in the sixth against the visiting Royals. Rasmussen is 8-4 with a 2.82 ERA.
Homer droughts: Four-baggers have been tough to come by for a few Rays. Isaac Paredes has one in his last 35 games after launching eight in a 10-game stretch. Brandon Lowe, in a 0-for-20 skid earlier this month, last homered August 4 at Detroit leaving in a 13-game HR drought.
Ji-Man Choi, stuck in a 2-for-32 rut, has homered once (July 27) in his last 31 games. David Peralta, acquired at the trade deadline, has yet to homer in 16 games with the Rays and has but one homer (July 17 with Arizona) in his last 34 games.
Look ahead: Following their four-game series against the Angels, the Rays hit the road for three in Boston starting Friday night. Following a day off Monday, they head to Miami for two games with the Marlins. After a day off next Thursday, the Rays return home for a three-game Labor Day weekend series against the Yankees.