ST. PETERSBURG -- Entering Monday night's game against the Blue Jays, the Rays had given up a lead in 11 of their 16 losses, a fact that can largely be attributed to what Rays manager Joe Maddon called a "mediocre" performance by the Rays' starting staff.
Maddon cited Alex Cobb and Matt Moore for being consistent, for the most part, but he pointed out that the team can expect a stronger performance in the coming months from the starting staff, which is considered the team's backbone.
"I just want to see more fastball," Maddon said. "I want to see more cowbell, I want to see more fastball. Throw your fastball where you want to and get ahead of hitters. And then pitch off that. That's what I think our problem has been more than anything, is to not be aggressive enough with our fastball."
Maddon likes fastball pitchers, and the staff is chock full of fastball pitchers, much to his delight.
"It's still the best pitch in the game," Maddon said. "Changeup is the second-best pitch in the game. And then it goes down to curveball and you can move it down the line. When you have a good fastball like we do, and if we're able to throw it where we want to and get ahead in counts, we can dominate games again. But we choose to not be aggressive with our fastball and want to really try to utilize all the other things. I think that's what's really getting us in trouble."
Maddon's stated preference is for his pitchers to do what they do best.
"I like when our pitchers dictate to the other team," Maddon said. "I don't care what it says on somebody's bat. I don't care how hot somebody is, I believe our pitchers, pitching at their best level, doing what they do best, will beat the better hitters on the other team. I've always felt that way."
After Saturday night's loss to Colorado, David Price fell to 1-3 with a 6.25 ERA. Maddon was asked if the team can expect to contend if the reigning Cy Young Award winner doesn't come around.
"No, we have to have David pitch like he can," Maddon said. "There's no question about that. He is the leader on the staff. He's one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. He'll be back, there's no doubt in my mind. He is trying to expedite that a bit. But he needs to lead the way among the rest of the group. ... He's the rudder of that starting-pitching boat, and when he gets going again, and he will, you'll see them all pitch better."
Scott feeling 'pretty good,' likes Rays' lineup
ST. PETERSBURG -- Luke Scott has been back with the team a week after missing the first part of the season with a right calf strain. The Rays' DH entered Monday night's game hitting .444 with one home run and two RBIs.
"I'm feeling pretty good," said Scott, noting that it's the best he's felt since hurting his right shoulder in 2011 while with the Orioles. "Obviously, because I'm in full health, my shoulder's healed up. I'm where I'm able to hang in like I used to and stay in and drive everything."
Scott likes the way the team's lineup is rounding into form.
"Our lineup is versatile, our lineup is balanced, there's a lot of things we can do," Scott said. "I'm back in the lineup again, which I'm glad about, and I'm thankful to be back so I can help contribute and hopefully provide some run production and power from the left side."
Few expected the Rays to be as prolific with the long ball as they have to this point of the season, hitting 38 home runs in their first 32 games. But Scott said he was not surprised by the home runs.
"If you look at the guys in this room who are in this lineup, they've proven that they can hit the long ball," Scott said. "So it's no surprise. I could understand that if it was somebody who hasn't done it at this level and goes in and starts wailing away homers, then you might say, 'I didn't expect to see that coming.' But guys who have had success in this game, that have proven they can hit the long ball. It doesn't surprise me."
While homers are up, strikeouts are down this season, which has Scott thinking that the combination of hitting home runs and not striking out will eventually prove to be a really good thing.
"There's no doubt about it, that's why I'm excited about the way we're going," Scott said. "Offensively, we are doing a better job than in the past. We're working counts, pitchers' pitch counts are up. We're hitting balls into the gaps. We're getting on base. We're working walks. Putting pressure on the defense. We're not striking out as much. We are capable of hitting the long ball, and we've done a little bit of that."
• Ben Zobrist missed his second consecutive game Monday night due to the death of his grandmother. Maddon said he expected Zobrist to be back with the team Tuesday.
• Yunel Escobar left Saturday night's game in Colorado after getting hit by a pitch in the second inning. The shortstop is listed as day to day, but Maddon believes he will be back Tuesday and could even be available for duty Monday night. Escobar fielded ground balls flawlessly before Monday night's game. Maddon said Escobar tried to talk him into letting him play.
• James Loney is on fire. Sunday, the Rays' first baseman recorded his seventh three-hit game of the season, which goes a long way toward explaining his .398 batting average headed into Monday night's game. "It's fun to watch," Maddon said. "Very calm, very professional, very confident. ... Offensively, I don't know if I've seen anybody this hot in a long time."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.