With their win over the Astros this afternoon, the Rays have now won eight of nine to pull 10 games over .500 for the first time this year. Interleague play has been a good thing for the Rays, especially against who they have been matched up with. After losing two of three to the Marlins in May, the Rays took it to the Marlins by sweeping them at Tropicana Field. Then they swept another last place team in the Astros. In between, they beat a first place team, the Brewers, two of three.
The recent hot streak has given the Rays the third best record in the American League. Unfortunately, they play in a division with the two best teams in the American League, but they’ve pulled within two of New York and one and a half of Boston.
Both Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton have helped out the offense (not to mention their batting averages) with hot streaks. Over the last nine games, Longoria has homered four times and against Houston, he picked up eight hits and 10 runs batted in. Upton slugged three homers against Houston and seven runs batted in. Even Kelly Shoppach has gotten into the fun by hitting two homers in limited playing time and raising his average closer to the Mendoza line. They’ve helped the Rays score just over six runs a game in this hot streak.
Of course, James Shields has done his part, throwing two complete game wins. I think his performances have been especially vital because the bullpen has been a bit off. Joel Peralta has been really shaky lately in the eighth inning role and it doesn’t seem like Maddon really trusts anyone else for that job. Farnsworth has had to be his own setup man at least twice over this stretch.
Looking ahead, they have six more interleague contests to play, three more in Minnesota and then they’ll have their chance to play New York and Boston. They’ve only played their two biggest rivals seven combined times, but they’re coming up on a stretch where they’ll play them 11 straight games.