Last month the Rays fell into a slump going (11-14), after going (18-6) in April and (17-12) in May. The Rays ending the month of June fell to 3rd in the AL East and had no signs of getting back on their feet.
Now, the month is July and the Rays have started strong going (4-1) so far, losing one against the Twins and winning a hell of a game last night against the Red Sox and have regained 2nd place in the east.
The Rays scored first in the game with Carl Crawford doubling to right field and bringing in Ben Zobrist from 3rd base. I really like this one-two punch at the top of the order. Zobrist makes contact and has decent speed/power that a lead off man gernerally has. This provides Crawford, who has 20 doubles on the season, to bring in some runs in the beginning of the game.
The lead did not last long as Matt Garza gave up four earned runs in the 3rd inning and was then taken out of the game before the 4th. This was a suprise to me since Garza has been known to be a Red Sox killer. He won the 2008 AL Championship series MVP and beat them last week in Fenway. This was the second time this year that Garza did not go passed the 3rd inning.
The lead could have been even bigger if it wasnt for the most amazing man on the Earth, Carl Crawford robbing Marco Scutaro from an extra base hit. It was soon to be later the #1 webgem on Baseball Tonight. Carl Crawford robbing Marco Scutaro
“He’s faster than a speeding bullet,” Maddon said. “He just outran that thing. … He ran the correct angle, he was fast enough and he timed his dive perfectly. One of the better players you’re going to see, no doubt.”
With Garza leaving the game so early with a poor perfomance, this meant a handful of relievers were going to finish out the game and thats what exactly happened. Andy Sonnanstine, Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour, Randy Choate, Joaquin Benoit and Rafael Soriano finished out the game to lead the Rays to a (6-5) win.
In the past our bullpen was the main reason for us losing games but this year has been a different story. Soriano is 22 out of 23 in save oppurtunities and Grant Balfour, after starting the season slow, has regained his form from the 2008 season. Balfour has 2.08 ERA and has a 34:10 strikeout to walk ratio.
The hit of the game would have to go to John Jaso with his 2 RBI single up the middle to score Carlos Pena and Sean Rodriguez. This would tie the game up 5-5. Jaso has really made himself and asset to the team with his flexibility in the line up.
This is what happens when the Rays are consistent on both sides of the ball. Although, Garza had an early exit, the bullpen was able to pick up the slack and strikeout 7 batters and allowing only one more run in the game, via another homerun by Eric Patterson, who hit his first one off Matt Garza in the 3rd.
“We pick up each other,” Garza said. “That’s what the bullpen did. Sonny came in and did a great job holding them. [Eric] Patterson was hot, so he got a couple more knocks. Wheels came in right after him and did what he did. Then Balfour, Benoit and Soriano. That just proves how deep we are.”
As long as the Rays keep up this momentum in the month of July, I see no reason why the Rays cant find their way back to the top of the AL East and back to the best record in baseball.