ST. PETERSBURG - In a way, the Rays actually are two teams. One wreaks havoc on right-handed starters. The other produces pedestrian results against left-handed starters.
With LHP Mark Buehrle on the mound today for the White Sox, Rays manager Joe Maddon will trot out the pedestrian version, hoping that today is the day his lineup against lefties begins to catch up to his lineup against righties.
"The righties that get popped in there against left-handers just have to be more productive for us to really have that kind of productivity out of the lineup versus a left-handed pitcher," Maddon said. "And they're capable. They're very capable. So, that's what we're looking for."
The Rays are 26-14 against right-handed starters, including a 2-0 victory Saturday against the White Sox and RHP Javier Vazquez. Entering Saturday's game, the Rays were batting .274 (365-for-1,332) with 40 home runs and a .344 on-base percentage as a team against right-handed pitchers.
Tampa Bay is 8-8 against left-handed starters. Through Friday, the Rays were batting .239 (124-for-519) with 12 home runs and a .320 on-base percentage against left-handers.
Through Friday, the only everyday player with a better batting average against lefties than righties was left-handed hitting 2B Akinori Iwamura (.297 vs. .275). The main difference between the lineups is left-handed hitting Cliff Floyd and Eric Hinske - who are a combined 4-for-34 (.118) against lefties this year - generally start only against right-handers.
Would Maddon consider playing the same lineup every day, regardless of the handedness of the opposing starter?
"I don't think so," he said. "I don't really think I want to go there right now. I think part of both of those guys Floyd and Hinske having killer years is when you keep them away from the guys that are going to prevent them from having killer years."
BALDELLI'S PROGRESS: Rays OF Rocco Baldelli went 0-for-5 in five plate appearances during an extended spring training game Saturday, his second game action as he continues to test his body's ability to withstand a mitochondrial disorder that produces extreme fatigue after physical exertion.
Baldelli will continue to participate in extended spring training until it ends in nine days. After that, he could join a Rays minor-league team to further test his ability to play on a semi-regular basis, with an eye toward rejoining the major-league club this season.
NOTEWORTHY: Thanks, in part, to a postgame concert by country music singer Trace Adkins, Tropicana Field was sold out Saturday for the third time this season and the 11th time in franchise history. It's the seventh sellout since the start of last season. ... Tampa Bay's record of 19-10 in May provided the second-best record for a month in team history. The only better month was June 2004, when the Rays went 20-6. ... Rays pitchers had a combined ERA of 3.66 in May, the best ERA in team history for any month. ... Rays starters had an ERA of 3.29 in May, also a team record for any month.