Joe Maddon is just your common, everyday genius, and here’s more proof.
The Rays are doing a real good imitation of the American League East’s best team. They’ve picked up five games on the Yankees in five days, and as usual the manager has had a big hand in it. Joe Maddon long ago showed he’s both aggressive and innovative, unafraid of changing things.
Anyway, on Monday against the Marlins, he moved Ben Zobrist into the leadoff spot, Kelly Johnson into the three hole and Desmond Jennings from the leadoff spot to sixth or seventh. In four games since, the Rays have scored 25 runs. Meanwhile, this trio has hit .409 with a 1.168 OPS.
Zobrist has a .421 OBP at the top of the line and has scored five runs. Jennings has been on base 12 times in 16 PAs. Johnson has hit .389 with two home runs, two doubles and eight RBIs since the move.
All of a sudden, the Rays are right in the thick of things. The top four teams in the AL East are separated by just three games, and there’s a chance no team will separate itself from the pack. The Rays got off to a 12-15 start and were seven games out on May 2.
Everything went wrong at the start. The rotation that was supposed to be baseball’s best had a bad opening month. At the end of April, they were eighth in ERA, ninth in runs. Now, though, they look more like the team many picked to win the AL East. They’re baseball’s highest scoring team (5.6 runs per game) since April 17. Once that rotation begins rolling out quality starts, the Rays could go on a long roll.