I just think its coincidence, Maddon said. We just werent hitting. You cant really emphasize that enough. It has nothing to do with Manny being here or not being here
I know people are going to say that. We could just as easily [have] this record with Manny here. We just had to start shooting our guns better than we had.
Still, opinions vary. Mannys departure allowed for the emergence of overnight legend Sam Fuld, who is tearing it up in left field, right field, at the plate and pretty much everywhere he feels like going. The 29-year-old outfielder acquired in the deal that sent Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs leads the American League in stolen bases and is tied for third in all of Major League Baseball. He also had an immediate impact defensively, gunning down Chicago 1B Paul Konerko at the plate from left field in the 9-7 victory, perhaps a game-changer. The next day, he made a heroic, full-extension diving catch on Juan Pierres would-be triple to right, a grab acclaimed throughout baseball. In Boston he went 4-for-6 at the plate and was a single short of hitting for the cycle. At press time Fuld is first in the AL with a .396 batting average and first in stolen bases with (7); he leads the Rays in hits (21), doubles (7), extra-base hits (8) and slugging percentage (.551). None of this has gone unnoticed by his teammates.
"I heard that the world is covered by 75 percent water and the other 25 percent is covered by Sam Fuld so Im buying that right now," said Rays ace lefty David Price. "What hes doing right is now is big for usits big for somebody to be able to step up when we have guys down like Longo and Johnny. Hes doing a great job."
Were looking at this as a blessing for our team, said first-year Ray and MLB veteran Johnny Damon. Without Manny leaving, we dont have Sam Fuld like we do now. Sam Fuld is definitely a better left fielder than I am; hes probably one of the best left fielders in the game.
Because were able to throw him out there, our defense becomes instantly better, he added. Mannys departure, although a sad part of baseball, were not going to focus on that. Were going to focus on getting better as a team.
Damon, of course, has played a huge role in the teams recent success as well. The evening of Ramirezs egress from Americas pastime, Damon hit his first home run of the season. Since then, hes had an RBI in six consecutive games, a new personal best in his career. Hes also taken on a leadership role in the clubhouse and on the field, providing the veteran presence Maddon expected and some late-inning heroics in two walk-off wins.
John has really picked us up in the later part of the game, Maddon said. Its nice to have a guy of his stature come in, and he preaches and backs it up.
Hes the perfect fit for our clubhouse right now, he added. Hes backing up and supporting everything Ive heard about this guy. Hes exactly what we needed.
The Rays fell short of sweeping Minnesota in Sundays 4-2 setback, but three out of four aint bad. Theres no question the Week Two version of the team is performing leaps and bounds above the efforts of the 0-7 edition the week prior. They also lost Damon in that series; he took a pitch on the ring finger of his left hand while attempting to bunt and is day-to-day. Felipe Lopez went 3-for-4 Monday night filling in for Damon as DH.
This is definitely a pretty special week, especially [with] how we were sitting, Damon said after his walk-off base hit in Saturdays win against the Twins. Hopefully it continues.