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Rays open eyes with another series win (w/video)

CLEVELAND -— Shut your eyes for a minute.

Let go of the games the Rays bullpen has blown this season. Forget about the ones the Rays have given away with sloppy defense, including Gold Glover Kevin Kiermaier. Get over the wasted scoring opportunities, the baserunning mistakes, the glaring fundamental failures.

Now open, and look at this Rays team.

One that beat the Indians 7-4 Wednesday, making it an impressive two of three in both Cleveland and Boston to improve to 21-22, the team's first winning road trip in nearly a year.

"This is who we are," first baseman Logan Morrison insisted. "Us giving away games is not who we are. Those are just aberrations. From here on out, it's just winning series, finding a way, whatever it is."

Sure, there were still moments this trip, specifically one very messy inning in Boston, where the Rays still looked a mess.

But overall there was much more promise.

RAYS JOURNAL: Kevin Kiermaier returns to his Gold standard with HR-robbing catch.

Alex Cobb and three other starters pitching deeper while Blake Snell was replaced by Erasmo Ramirez in the rotation. The bullpen has been somewhat stabilized in front of trusty Alex Colome with the addition of hard-throwing rookies Jose Alvarado and Ryne Stanek. The offense has come out ahead despite an odd formula of mixing homers, walks and a heaping pile of strikeouts.

Still, promise.

"I think so," manager Kevin Cash said. "We're finding some things out about some of our young bullpen pitchers. … These guys could become really big weapons for us. It's very encouraging when you see the starting pitching clicking and the offense clicking at the same time. We played pretty complete baseball."

Looking around Wednesday, there were plenty of good signs.

Cobb has reinvented himself as a fastball-curveball pitcher in lieu of the return of his still-missing/reward-offered killer changeup, and has become pretty darn good at it. He's now 3-1, 2.78 over his past five starts, not allowing more than three earned runs each time.

TOPKIN'S TAKEAWAYS: Beat writer Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Indians game.

One highlight Wednesday was four strikeouts looking, a telling sign of the movement on his fastball. Another was throwing 115 pitches, his most post-May 2015 Tommy John elbow surgery.

"(Wednesday) was the best I felt since I came back from surgery mechanically and the ability to get to another level of aggressiveness over the rubber," Cobb said.

Morrison last season didn't hit the first of his 14 homers until May 18. On Wednesday he clubbed his team-leading 11th, to go with his Rays-most 27 RBIs, validating the seemingly stubborn decision by the front office to re-sign him.

"It's just a start, and it's a decent one," Morrison said. "But I feel like it could be better."

Corey Dickerson not only showed off his power again — his ninth homer overall and third in two days — but continues to be one of the league's top producers with an AL-most 53 hits and 18 multihit games to go with a .335 average.

"We've got mini-Mike Trout over here leading the way," Morrison said.

Kiermaier, who looked so uncharacteristically lost in centerfield last week, made a spectacular home-run robbing catch for the final out. Substitute shortstop Tim Beckham racked up three more hits to push his average to .279, rookie infielder Daniel Robertson flashed leather filling in at second. Backup catcher Jesus Sucre hit the team's third homer of the day and its three-game series record 10th.

"We're coming out of here on a huge high. We're pumped with the way this road trip went," said starter Alex Cobb, who worked seven strong innings.

"We've done enough to not put ourselves in too much of a hole. … We've shown some signs throughout the whole season of what we're capable of. And for us to get where we want to be it all needs to come together on a consistent night-to-night basis.

"You can see that the talent is there for us to do that. It's just a matter of cleaning it all up and trimming the fat off and doing it."

Can you bear to watch?

Marc Topkin can be reached at mtopkin@tampabay.com.

Rays catcher Jesus Sucre takes off during his run-scoring double in the second inning against the Indians.

Associated Press

Rays catcher Jesus Sucre takes off during his run-scoring double in the second inning against the Indians.

Rays open eyes with another series win (w/video) 05/17/17 [Last modified: Thursday, May 18, 2017 12:40am]
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