06/02/09 11:40 PM ET
Re-Joyce: Outfielder helps rally Rays
Slugger continues to flash big bat by collecting four RBIs
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Since the beginning of the season, Rays fans have pined for Edwin Jackson, the hard-throwing right-hander the Rays traded to Detroit for an outfielder by the name of Matt Joyce. Much of the dialogue has dwelled on the negative, like, "How could the Rays trade a 14-game winner for an outfielder who got sent back to Triple-A Durham after the first week of the season?" And Jackson has been pitching well for the Tigers, as he's off to a 5-3 start with a 2.30 ERA.
Now, finally, Rays fans are getting a chance to see Joyce. He homered in a losing effort Sunday against the Twins. And Tuesday night, Joyce was back at it, with a single, a double, a home run and four RBIs to lead the Rays to a 6-2 win over the Royals with 13,604 watching at Tropicana Field.
By winning, the Rays took their third victory in four tries on their current six-game homestand.
"I've been saying all along, this guy's got a special bat," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It makes a different sound when it hits [the ball]."
So while the debate about the merits of keeping a young power pitcher or trading for a power-hitting young outfielder will likely continue, the promise that the Rays' management saw in Joyce is quickly becoming apparent.
"I'm sure there were a lot of questions around if the trade was equal or how that was going to work out," Joyce said. "But, you know, Edwin is really a talented pitcher. And he's throwing very well this year. I'm just trying to keep up with him."
Maddon understands that it is easy to overreact in the early going after a trade is made.
"I still believe the best trade is a trade that benefits both sides, and I believe that's how this is going to work out," Maddon said. "I believe that Matt Joyce is going to be a really good everyday outfielder with the kind of power you saw tonight. I think he plays a fine right field, also. And he's going to have a complete game.
"He's a baseball player. You can see the way he moves. He's got that looseness about his body. It's a nice, loose, agile way about him, really loose swing with tremendous bat speed. I also believe he's going to eventually be one of those guys who works a count well, sees a lot of pitches and hits the ball for power."
Joyce came through with two outs in the sixth when he broke a 2-2 tie with a two-run double to put the Rays up, 4-2. He added a two-run homer with two outs in the eighth to essentially put the game out of reach.
"Two games in the book, and pretty happy with the results," Joyce said. "And, hopefully, [I can] keep rolling."
Royals pitchers walked seven on the evening, which did not please manager Trey Hillman.
"It's a bad combo -- extra-base hits, especially ones that get out of the ballpark, and walks," Hillman said. "It's tough to overcome."
Andy Sonnanstine started for the Rays and needed to do something -- anything to show he could still be the crafty master who might not have the best stuff but knew what he was doing every time he took the mound.
Against the Royals, the Rays right-hander managed to recover nicely from one of the worst starts of his career to post a quality start and pick up his fourth win of the season.
Sonnanstine lasted just three innings against the Indians on May 27, during a game in which he allowed eight earned runs after being given a 5-0 lead in the top of the first.
Sonnanstine allowed two runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings with three strikeouts and no walks Tuesday. The only runs the Royals got off him were solo home runs by Jose Guillen and Miguel Olivo.
"Felt real good, felt like I was aggressive and pitching like my old self," Sonnanstine said. "Felt like I had more conviction with all of my pitches tonight and really stayed focused."
Ben Zobrist covered the two Royals homers with his ninth home run of the season, a two-run blast in the fourth before Joyce took over the offense.
Grant Balfour took over for Sonnanstine and threw 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief before J.P. Howell finished off the win with a scoreless ninth.
A solid pitching performance is always nice, but clearly Joyce opened the most eyes Tuesday night.
"I'm just happy that Edwin is doing a great job for Detroit," Maddon said. "I think that is wonderful. I also know that Matt Joyce is going to do a great job in Tampa Bay."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.