It is difficult to find anything nice to say about the Tampa Bay Rays given that they are mired in an ugly 1-6 stretch. Not only did they get swept by the Orioles, but Tampa Bay is coming off a series split with those Massholes after they dropped the, frankly, winnable series finale, 5-0, on Wednesday. It becomes even more infuriating when you consider that Ryan Yarbrough allowed five runs and pounded the strike zone all night, to the tune of a 74% strike rate, while Martín Pérez couldn’t find the strike zone even if he walked the ball into Christian Vazquez’s glove (48 of 91 strikes, 53% strike rate), yet he blanked Tampa Bay across five innings of work. Let that sink in.
It would appear that Mike Zunino, Kevin Kiermaier, and, with a few exceptions — like Brandon Lowe — the rest of the roster couldn’t hit their way out of a wet paper bag. Off-days on the heels of ugly losses give me — and likely every other Rays blogger — an opportunity to hit the pause button and focus on something else … like being stuck within the same four walls for the last four-and-one-half-months. Existence is pain, I digress. Hopefully, the team is able to focus on something else as well, because they are clearly pressing at the plate.
While I spend the rest of my day contemplating the dusty corners of my house, Neil Solondz (Rays Radio) took the opportunity to rattle off a few reminders that tend to put things into perspective.
However, what is often forgotten is that the teams that won 90 games had considerable struggles too. Even last year, in winning 96 contests, the tough moments were there:
June 11–20: the Rays went a woeful 2-and-8, and if you extend that run to the 26th, it was 4-and-11 before and 18-inning win at Minnesota started to turn the tide.
July 16–23: mind you as the Rays closed in on the trading deadline, the team lost 7 of 8. That came after a dramatic win at New York where Travis d’Arnaud hit three homers. The losses included home games against the White Sox and Red Sox, neither of whom made the playoffs.
August 16–28: even as the Rays made a playoff push, the team had a 5-and-8 stretch, including games at San Diego, at home against Detroit and Seattle, at Baltimore (sound familiar) and at Houston before a big one-run win at Minute Maid Park over the Astros. That stretch against those teams also included three walk-off victories.
That’s not to excuse the 5-and-7 record or the poor play. Certainly the club has not played well to this point in any phase. To play poorly and still be 5-and-7 is fortunate. Probably of greater concern would be if the team was 5-and-7 and playing well. Hopefully a day off allows this group to catch its breath and start playing the game its capable of.
Last year when the Rays bounced back from that 5-and-8 run, they went 20-and-8 down the stretch. There’s still 48 games left this year, and the core of that talented group, albeit under unique circumstances, is still in place. Plus playoffs are expanded. Despite the tough stretch, the Rays are a half game behind Baltimore and Toronto.— Neil Solondz
Step back from that ledge, my friend.