Experience of '08 key to these Rays
With contention this year no surprise, club looks to stay on top
NEW YORK -- Everywhere the Rays go, the comparisons between 2008 and the current season are made. But while the comparisons are inevitable, this year's team is definitely different than the one that went to the World Series in '08.
"The primary difference I think is the experience that a couple of years brings of having done it before," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "In 2008, you almost considered it more magical in a sense. You were just kind of riding this cloud or this wave, and you just kept building.
"I think the primary difference is the experience of having done it before. People know that you can do it, so they come at you a little bit differently. Back then, everybody was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Everybody was always waiting for us to fall out."
Maddon pointed out that many observers expect the Rays to be in the race now.
"So the level of expectation is raised also," Maddon said. "Which is all good, but I think from my perspective, I think it's this experience thing that we now have that we did not have at that time."
Maddon said his players now know what to expect.
"They know how to deal with it a little bit better, although sometimes ignorance is bliss, too," Maddon said. "You just jump into something and you don't have any idea, and you just do it without any kind of overthinking. And that also has positive components to it, too."
Left fielder Carl Crawford was around for much of the Rays' losing prior to 2008 and says that the '08 and 2010 seasons have been equally fun, because after all of that losing, "I'd definitely had enough of that."
"Whenever you're winning, it's fun," Crawford said. "It's never boring or anything. It's definitely been fun this season, like '08."
Crawford added that he could understand why some draw parallels between the two seasons.
"Because this season has a 2008 feel," Crawford said. "But it's a different team. It was more of a surprise then. We're expected to do it this year. But as far as team-wise, there are a lot of similarities. It's just not a surprise. That's the main difference. It's like we're not sneaking up on anybody this year."
David Price was not with the Rays for most of the 2008 season, then made a significant contribution to the team at the end of the year and in the playoffs, so the left-hander noted that he really couldn't comment too much about 2008. But when speaking about this season's team, Price pointed out his favorite component.
"I really feel like we expect to win every game and we never feel like we're out of it," Price said. "I feel like we really belong here. We have a good team. I think everybody in here knows that and everybody in the league knows that. We come ready to play every day."
Competition of Majors evident to Price
NEW YORK -- Most every night, big league players are afforded an opportunity through competition to be reminded of just how tough it is to play in the Major Leagues. Rays left-hander David Price, who has come on to be one of the best pitchers in the Majors, experienced one such moment on Saturday night.
After cruising through the first six innings against the Angels, Price walked a batter and gave up an infield hit before Juan Rivera hit a three-run homer to center field. Suddenly, the tables had been reversed to where the Angels led, 3-2. The Rays ended up winning the game, 4-3, but Rivera's long ball served up a reminder to Price, who noted that he fully understands how good Major League players are.
"Absolutely," Price said. "I remember last year, 2009, probably the game that I felt the absolute best all year, I could throw my fastball where I wanted to, throw my breaking pitches for strikes. And I had good velocity -- it was against the Phillies. And I gave up six runs in the first and I think I gave up 10 on the day, and that was on a day where I felt my absolute best. [On Saturday], it was just one pitch."
Jeter's HBP act doesn't bother Maddon
NEW YORK -- Rays manager Joe Maddon said he has been amazed by the aftermath of Derek Jeter's antics on Wednesday, when the Yankees' captain acted as though he was hit by a pitch in Tampa Bay's 4-3 win at Tropicana Field.
"I really was quite amazed about the fallout from that," Maddon said. "He didn't do anything wrong. He got away with it, which he should try to do, and he did. And that's all there is to it. He did what he had to do.
"I, in turn, did what I had to do, and the end result, it all worked out well. I was really kind of amused by the whole thing. I thought it was over the top."
Rays' low average not hurting runs total
NEW YORK -- The Rays entered Monday night's action against the Yankees hitting .249 -- tied for 23rd in the Major Leagues -- and lowest in team history. However, the club has scored 746 runs -- third in the Major Leagues behind the Yankees and Red Sox -- and is on pace to score a club-record 816.
The Rays are averaging 5.04 runs per game, most in club history, and they rank ninth in on-base percentage at .335. Finally, they lead the Major Leagues with 621 walks and are just 21 shy of the club-record 642 set last season.
"The one thing I always try to get hitters to look away from is batting average," Maddon said. "I always wanted them to look to their walks-to-strikeout ratio, their on-base percentage. ... Today, when you combine the on-base with the slugging, you get the OPS, which is more of a true indicator of a person's value as an offensive player.
"I mean, we're still scoring a ton of runs. We're scoring as many runs as we ever have and our batting average is as low as it's ever been. So, for me, it is about scoring runs first sometimes. Obviously, I'd like us to get more hits, no question. But the end result has been 30 games over .500."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.