Rays are the surprise team in baseball this season.
Just when you think this team is going to roll over and play out the string of games the rest of the season, the unthinkable happens. Like the 8-1 homestand jut completed. This was no ordinary homestand. The Rays swept the Yankees, swept the Nationals, and won 3 out of 4 against the world champion Houston Astros.
Alright, everyone raise your hand if you thought the Rays would be above .500 at this point in the season. Ok put your hands down. You are all lying. There is no one, myself included who thought the Rays would be this good this late in the season. It sounds funny to say that about a team just one game above .500. I don’t think Erik Neander and his staff thought the Rays would be this competitive. Most of us had the Rays losing 85-90 games and some thought the Rays 100 would approach 100 losses.
Give Kevin Cash a ton of credit. He was scorned and mocked by everyone when he used a relief pitcher to start the game. Referred to as the “opener”, the Rays have the best ERA in baseball since deploying that strategy at 2.75. The Rays have not had any resemblance of a starting roataion all season, and it just got worse for the Rays as Wilmar Font was placed on the DL and is expected to be out until late August.
The Rays called up Hunter Wood from Durham to take Font’s spot on the pitching staff. Wood was 2-2 with a 3.00 ERA with 10 walks and 63K’s at Durham. Chris Archer is slated to pitch a game at Port Charlotte on Tuesday, and depending on how that goes he may pitch this weekend in New York against the Mets.
The Rays have two legitimate starters right now. Blake Snell and Nathan Eovaldi. The Rays will go with 2 or 3 “openers” until Archer returns. Jacob Faria who has been hurt most of the season should also be back sometime in August.
The Rays are also doing this with a Line-up that sometimes has 4 rookies starting. Jake Bauers at 1B, Wily Adames at SS, Christian Arroyo at 3B, and Johnny Field in the outfield.
Kevin Kiermaier is back playing every day and has been stellar in CF with his defense. However we are still waiting for him to start swinging the bat like the Kiermaier of old.
The Rays are 11 games behind Seattle in the race for the 2nd wild card spot. It is still way too early to be thinking about any post-season aspirations, but in the next few weeks the Rays play the majority of their games against teams with sub .500 records. The Marlins, Mets, and Orioles are on the horizon for the Rays, and this team has played well against sub .500 teams this season.
This is becoming a fun team to watch and If the Rays continue to play this competitive style of baseball, a lot can happen the second half of the season. It should be fun to watch down the stretch.