Taylor Walls has impressed with several highlight-reel plays this season whether he has been at short, which has mostly been the case during Wander Franco’s absence, second or third.

Rays Notebook: Taylor Walls Building Confidence; Arozarena Owns Orioles

Taylor Walls has impressed with several highlight-reel plays this season whether he has been at short, which has mostly been the case during Wander Franco’s absence, second or third.
Taylor Walls, Credit: Tampa Bay Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Taylor Walls has impressed with several highlight-reel plays this season whether he has been at short, which has mostly been the case during Wander Franco’s absence, second or third.

Walls’ performance at the plate? He entered the past weekend’s series against Baltimore hitting .111 (5-for-45) since the all-star break and .168 overall. However, the 26-year-old Florida State product turned in a very productive weekend as the Rays took two of three from their division opponent and fellow wild-card contender.

Walls went 4-for-8 with two walks in the series. He homered, roped two doubles, drove in three runs and scored three times, including twice in Drew Rasmussen’s near-perfecto Sunday. True, it is a small sample size, but no small detail given the importance of a series that gave the Rays a 1.5-game lead over the Orioles for the final wild-card spot.

Perhaps Walls’ fine weekend can lead to bigger and better at the plate while, along with his versatility, keep him in the lineup more often than not after Franco returns from the injured list.

“I feel like I locked in a little bit better at the plate and was a lot more patient,” said the switch-hitting Walls. “It’s all about picking and choosing. I mean, you don’t want to be too passive. You can be aggressive and pick your spots. I thought I did a good job (this weekend) of picking and choosing when to be aggressive and when to be patient.”

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Walls has been one of the few Rays to remain healthy to this point. He has played in 100 of the team’s 113 games, has six homers among 22 extra base hits while placing third on the team in runs (36) and walks (35).

Despite heading into the weekend with only five hits since the all-star break, Walls said he has felt good for a while.

“I have been making some slight adjustments, but mentally and confidence wise when it comes to being more comfortable in the box, I have felt pretty good the past three weeks,” he said. “I think now it is a matter of consistency, getting in a routine every day and knowing what I need to do to put my body to be in the right position come game time when it’s time to flick that switch.”

Randy’s Baltimore Bashing: Randy Arozarena kept up his remarkable pace against the Orioles over the weekend. He went 4-for-11 with a pair of homers, a double and six RBI in the three-game series to give him a .372 average with 15 homers and 38 RBI in 37 career games against Baltimore.

“Hopefully, I can do that against all the other teams,” Arozarena, whose three-run homer in the third inning Sunday gave Drew Rasmussen more than he would need, said via interpreter Manny Navarro. “That’s the goal and I hope we can get in the playoffs if we keep on playing this well.”

Sunday’s 4-1 win enabled the Rays to take the season series (10-9) from Baltimore. The first tiebreaker in the new three-team wild-card format is the season series.

Injury updates: Wander Franco, who took batting practice at the Trop on Sunday, could begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Durham this week in what will hopefully be the final step in the shortstop’s recovery from a fractured hamate bone in his right hand that forced him to leave a July 9 game at Cincinnati.

“Encouraged by Wander,” said Cash, following Sunday’s game. “We will decide what the next step is, possibly going to Durham to start some kind of rehab.”

Harold Ramirez is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment at Durham this week. His right thumb was fractured by a pitch from Baltimore’s Jordan Lyles on July 17……Manny Margot (right knee) is eligible to come off the injured list Sunday and the hope is he will be in the lineup on or close to that day. The outfielder, out since June 20, has played in four rehab games, the last two with Durham….Brandon Lowe, mired in a 1-for-20 slump, missed the Baltimore series due to shoulder discomfort. Cash said the second baseman should be good to go Monday night in the Bronx.

In a groove: After scuffling in his first two outings following what was a season-long absence due to a right lat strain, Pete Fairbanks has pieced together seven straight scoreless appearances. He has fanned 10 in his last five innings.

“I am just to trying to attack the strike zone,” he said after Saturday’s outing. “That’s the only thing that I tell myself, the only thing that I am focused on.”

Bronx bound: The Rays open a three-game series at Yankee Stadium on Monday night. A 3-0 loss at Boston on Sunday was the Yankees’ 10th defeat in their last 13 games. At 72-43, they still lead the American League East by 10 games over Toronto and 11 over the Rays, who are 3-7 against Aaron Boone’s club this season.

The Rays come home to open a four-game series with Kansas City on Thursday night. That will be followed by a four-game series against visiting Anaheim beginning next Monday evening.

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