Wade Davis Wins The Rematch, Rays Beat White Sox 4-1

Wade Davis took on Philip Humber for the second time this season, as the Rays took three in a row from the White Sox.

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Rays Beat White Sox 4-1 Behind Strong Performance From Wade Davis

For the third night in a row, Tampa Bay Rays out-pitched the Chicago White Sox, winning Wednesday night’s game 4-1. The Rays got offense in the form of a two-run homerun from John Jaso in the second inning, and then run-scoring doubles from Casey Kotchman and Matt Joyce later in the game. Meanwhile, Carlos Quentin provided the White Sox with their only run of the game, hitting a solo homerun off Wade Davis in the sixth inning.

Davis continued his trend of increased control and lowered velocity, supporting the theory that he’s sacrificing pitch speed in order to better locate his pitches. While this strategy has seemingly worked on the surface – he did only allow eight baserunners and one run today – I’m skeptical of it will work for him in the long run. Erik Hahmann from DRaysbay explains:

As for Davis, his new philosophy of throwing softer and pitching more to contact worked once again, but I’m still weary on how long this will last. On the night, Davis’ fastball averaged 90.74mph, a good 2mph slower than his average last season. Even with the slower velocity he was able to throw it for a strike 75% of the time tonight. His control has been excellent – he allowed his first home run of the season tonight – which has provided him the ability to use the diminished fastball effectively. On the other hand, the Rays have been making excellent defensive plays behind him to save some hits. If Davis really has figured out something that will help improve his game then I’m behind it 100%, but I’d like to wait until we get a greater sample to make any definitive statements.

Maybe these changes really will help Davis, but not many pitchers can consistently post a low ERA while only striking out a handful of batters per game. Davis is pitching to contact more than I’d like to see, and the Rays’ defense saved him from allowing runs on a few occasions last night (like Matt Joyce’s amazing catch in the fifth inning). If Davis can dial it up and get a strikeout when needed, why doesn’t he simply do that more often?

But then again, this may be a good step in Davis’ overall development as a pitcher. If Davis is learning how to pitch instead of just throw, then it may allow him to take his game to the next level whenever he decides to let it rip again. And at the moment, Davis’ new strategy is working and I certainly can’t complain about that.

The Rays go for the sweep tomorrow against the White Sox, with Jeff Niemann facing Gavin Floyd at 6:40 PM.

For more on the Tampa Bay Rays, follow SB Nation’s blog DRaysBay.

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Rays Vs. White Sox: Matt Joyce Makes Running Catch, Preserves Rays Lead

Entering the fifth inning in tonight’s game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago White Sox, Wade Davis had been cruising. He had a rough first inning, throwing 27 pitches while walking two and allowing a double, but since then he’s settled down and mowed through the White Sox with ease. Through the next three innings, Davis allowed only two more baserunners and kept the White Sox off the board.

John Jaso hit a two-run homerun in the second inning, and Davis has been protecting the meager lead since. The fifth inning was a bit of a challenge, though: Davis started the inning by allowing consecutive singles to A.J. Pierzynski and Alexei Ramirez. He then struck out Mark Teahen on a high, inside fastball, but Juan Pierre came up to the plate and hit a deep fly to right field. Off the bat it looked like a sure double, but then Matt Joyce made his presence known:

Davis then got Gordon Beckham to pop out to end the inning and the threat. The Rays entered the bottom of the fifth inning with their 2-0 lead intact.

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Rays Vs. White Sox: Lineups For Game 2

Per MLB.com:

Fuld, S, LF
Zobrist, B, 2B
Joyce, M, RF
Lopez, F, 3B
Johnson, D, DH
Upton, B, CF
Kotchman, C, 1B
Jaso, J, C
Brignac, R, SS

The Rays will have Casey Kotchman in the lineup again today, with Dan Johnson sliding into the designated hitter role. Johnny Damon, the usual designated hitter, is still nursing a bruised finger and looks to return to duty sometime at the end of this week.

Meanwhile, Felipe Lopez, the unlikely cleanup hitter for the Rays recent hot streak, will be back at third base as Sean Rodriguez sits against the righty, Phil Humber.

Players to watch:

  • Sam Fuld has been hot all season with the bat. Having never had much of a chance against major league pitchers, it is unclear what level of play Sam Fuld can maintain. He should cool off soon, but how much is uncertain.
  • Ben Zobrist now co-leads the team in home runs (3, tied with Damon). He seems to be seeing the ball well of late (he hit a triple last night). Last year, he did not hit his 3rd home run until May 26th.
  • Dan Johnson has been uncannily unlucky, having the second lowest batting average on balls in play (BABIP) in the majors right now. He has hit the ball with more authority this last week, so fans can expect to see that luck turning around soon.

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Wade Davis, Philip Humber Rematch As Rays Look To Reach .500

Despite putting out punch-less lineups the last few days -- notably featuring Felipe Lopez hitting cleanup -- the Rays have taken the first two games of this four-game series from the White Sox. The Rays won Tuesday night behind one of James Shieldsbest pitching performances of his career, and they send Wade Davis to the mound tonight to try and keep the winning streak going.

Wade Davis has started off the season strong for the Rays, posting a 3.26 ERA / 3.32 FIP during his first three starts. However, while his results have been mostly good, his strikeout rate is much lower than last season (3.7 K/9) and he's only generating whiffs on about 4% of his pitches (which is extremely low). Davis has traded in some velocity this season for better pitch location, but it seems as though this decreased velocity is hurting his overall ability to get strikeouts. His improved results simply aren't sustainable with such a low strikeout rate, so he'll need to find some sort of middle ground if he wants to keep performing well going forward.

Philip Humber (3.46 ERA, 2.98 FIP) takes the hill for the White Sox for his second start of the season against the Rays. In his previous start, he shut down a slumbering Rays offense very effectively, going 6 innings while only allowing 4 hits and 1 run. Even with the Rays' weakened lineup, they should be able to do better against Humber this time around; Humber has been a minor league pitcher for most of his career, and his 4.37 FIP in Triple-A last year doesn't suggest that he should continue to succeed in the majors.

Gametime tonight is 6:40 PM.

For more news and analysis on the Tampa Bay Rays, check out SB Nation's blog DRaysBay.

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