On July 18th, following a 10-6 loss to the Cleveland Indians, the Tampa Bay Rays found themselves 10.5 games behind the New York Yankees for first place in the American League East. Sitting at 47-45, they found themselves amongst a group of eight other teams within three games of the two Wild Card spots. With the injuries they had sustained, and their woes on offense, it seemed as though the season may be slipping away from the Rays.
However, since that point in the season, the Rays have been on a roll, going 21-10 over their last 31 games. Meanwhile, the Yankees have faded back to the pack, going 15-17. The 10.5 game lead has been trimmed down to only four games. Likewise, the 2012 playoffs seem to be within reach, as the Rays presently enjoy a 1.5 game lead in the Wild Card standings.
As the Yankees have been hit hard with injuries recently, losing Alex Rodriguez and C.C. Sabathia, the Rays have gotten healthy. Evan Longoria has returned to the lineup, helping spark an offensive surge as the Rays have once again discovered their ability to score runs. Luke Scott returned to action yesterday after missing a month, and provides another power threat to the lineup. The Rays, as a team, have hit .273 for the month of August, have hit 20 home runs, stolen 16 bases, and have scored 90 runs. The pitching staff has been phenomenal, putting together a 2.10 ERA thus far in August, holding opponents to just under a baserunner per inning. David Price has had an excellent month, going 2-0 with an ERA of 0.60. James Shields has rounded back into form, and the bullpen has continued it’s solid play.
The Rays have been one of the hottest teams in baseball recently, and it has reflected in the standings. Where the focus had previously been on sticking around and making a run in September, the Rays have charged forward, and now find themselves nipping on the heels of the New York Yankees. There are still forty games to go until the playoffs, but the Tampa Bay Rays may be ready to embark on another run through October.