Whether it's wearing hockey jerseys on road trips or sipping fine wine in his office, Joe Maddon is not exactly cut from the same cloth as the managers of yesteryear.
As one of the more free-thinking skippers in Major League Baseball, the Tampa boss is also never afraid to tinker with his lineup - sometimes incessantly - but always with good reason.
So, having pinpointed Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Shaun Marcum's struggles against right-handed hitters - they were hitting .287 against Marcum entering Wednesday's game, more than 100 percentage points higher than lefties - he decided to repeat the trick he used to good effect in last week's 7-3 win over Marcum in Toronto.
Loading up on right-handed bats and using the unusual philosophy of having his switch hitters - Ben Zobrist and Dioner Navarro - bat from the left side of the plate against a right-hander, Maddon and the Rays handed Marcum one of the worst beatings of his career in a 10-1 loss Wednesday as Toronto endured another night in what is rapidly becoming Tampa's house of horrors.
Maddon's plan worked like a charm, too, with the Rays' right-handed hitters going 9-for-13 (.692) in the franchise's 2,000th game, while left-handed bats struggled to a combined 1-for-7 (.143).
"Not quite like last night, but pretty close," manager Cito Gaston said afterwards, referencing Jeff Niemann's two-hit, complete-game shutout in handing Toronto a 9-0 series-opening loss Tuesday night.
After that baptism of fire, Toronto was naturally hoping for a change of fortune, but its record against Tampa starter David Price was never going to inspire confidence.
The first overall pick from 2007 is no Stephen Strasburg - who is? - but as the American League's first nine-game winner this season he's no slouch either and now possesses a 5-0 career record against the Jays in his two years as a big-league starter.
Maddon is certainly full of confidence in his young ace, and even with Toronto leading the American League in home runs - still stuck on 97 after a second straight homerless game - felt no fear that his 24-year-old left-hander would be shown up.
"If David comes out and he's throwing his fastball where he wants to he could throw well against the '27 Yankees, the 2010 Yankees or the 2008 Rays," Maddon said before the game. "If he's throwing his fastball he's good, period, regardless of the team."
Price suffered with his location early on, issuing five walks to the Blue Jays over the first four innings, but Toronto, which now has just nine hits over its previous three games combined, struggled to bring the runners home, stranding nine over the course of the evening.
Still, Price received ample backing from his offence, which hit the ground running.
After Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria reached in the bottom of the first inning, Kelly Shoppach and Sean Rodriguez drove them home in quick succession to put the home side on top.
And while Marcum enjoyed a one-two-three inning in the second - two of which were left-handed bats - he could do little to prevent the onslaught in the third.
B.J. Upton's lead-off single put Marcum on the back foot, and despite getting Crawford to ground out, he could only walk Longoria before Upton stole third.
In quick succession, Kelly Shoppach, Rodriguez and Zobrist drove home the runs to put Toronto in a 5-0 hole, before Carlos Pena - who had terrorized the Jays with two home runs the night before - could only ground out to end the inning.
With Marcum receiving little to no help from Toronto's punchless offence, a Navarro home run to lead off the fourth - a decent return on Maddon's plan to have his switch-hitters bat right-handed - followed by an RBI double from Longoria chased the Toronto righty from the game after just 68 pitches.
"It was one of those days where I felt great going in; arm felt real good," said Marcum afterwards. "I went back and looked at some film. I made some pretty good damn pitches. They just did a good job of putting the bat on the ball, finding some holes."
And right-handed reliever Shawn Camp didn't fare much better, giving up back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the fifth - the first to the switch-hitting Zobrist, who had reverted back to the right side of the plate.
Lyle Overbay then drove home Jose Bautista in the top of the sixth - Toronto's first run of the series - but by that stage it was nothing more than a consolation.Report Typo/Error