05/11/12 8:15 PM ET
Rays continue to come up big late in games
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
The Rays and the Reds had seven such wins last season, tied for the Major League lead. Over the last two years, the Rays' 11 wins when trailing after eight are the most in the Major Leagues and five more than any other AL team (Royals, six).
Entering Friday night's action, the Rays had scored a Major-League-high 23 runs in the ninth inning, ahead of the Phillies (20). They have outscored their opponents 23-8 in the ninth. The ninth is the Rays second-highest scoring inning after the first (27). They have hit four home runs in the ninth.
Maddon stresses need to execute small ball
BALTIMORE -- Even though the Rays managed to push a run across the plate in the second inning of Thursday night's 5-3 loss to the Yankees, one of their bigger snafus came that inning. Elliot Johnson had a leadoff single and Chris Gimenez reached on an error by Eduardo Nunez. Will Rhymes then popped out on a sacrifice bunt attempt.
While that failed bunt attempt can't be blamed for the loss, it was another in a series of failed attempts by the Rays to play small ball this season.
"We have not played that part of our game well yet," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We have to get better at that. That's a big part of what we do. Opportunities, I don't even know if they would have caused or helped us to win the game or add on runs. ... Yesterday, for instance, would have put us in a good position based on the part of the batting order that was coming up."
Maddon noted that the Rays spend a lot of time working on that aspect of their offense.
"It's not like it's not worked on," Maddon said. "It's been discussed heavily. It's been worked on heavily. We just have not to this point executed well."
Maddon allowed that it's easy to get frustrated about the lack of execution given the fact they began working on bunting and other plays relating to small ball during Spring Training.
"We talk about the situational component and the areas that we really want you to be efficient at, if there are any particular plays we want to incorporate during the season," Maddon said. "We always identify those guys who will be part of that potential play as a hitter. Anybody can be a part of it as a base runner, so they all have to be aware of that. But as a hitter, everybody's aware of who we're going to ask to do different things."
Rays' pitchers get ready for NL in batting cages
BALTIMORE -- Interleague Play is less than a month away, which means the Rays' pitchers have begun to prepare for using their long-dormant offensive skills to hit in National League parks, where the DH is not used.
Rays manager Joe Maddon leaves the prepping of the pitchers up to pitching coach Jim Hickey.
"Hick does a great job," Maddon said. "[Hitting coach Derek Shelton] has nothing to do with it. None of the coaches do. Having been a National League pitching coach, [Hickey] does a great job of getting the pitchers ready to play offensively. Not only that, also running the bases.
"We haven't run the bases yet with the pitchers. That will start happening soon also. I'm telling you, man, he does a great job. I've always been impressed with his program. We've talked about it. So he looks at the schedule and knows when he has to start it up."
The Rays' first Interleague game at a National League park is June 8 against the Marlins in Miami.
• The Rays and the Orioles went into Friday night's contest tied for the lead in the American League East. It's been almost 20 years since the last time two teams were tied for first in the AL East this deep in the season that did not involve the Red Sox or Yankees. The last time was June 9, 1992 when the Blue Jays and Orioles were tied for first.
• Desmond Jennings (left-knee sprain) still has some soreness in the knee, but he is available for pinch-hitting duties and manager Joe Maddon said Jennings continues to be "day to day" for his next start. Jennings said that the lateral movements irritate the soreness more than anything.
• Entering Friday night's game, the Rays were Major League-best 13-3 at home (.813 winning percentage) and 7-9 (.438) on the road. According to Stats Inc., their .375 disparity between home and road winning percentage is the largest in the Major Leagues, ahead of the Dodgers (.800 at home, .500 on the road).
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.