The Tampa Bay Rays were the hottest team in baseball. In their 27 games from June 29th to July 30th, the Rays went a ridiculous 24-3, surging from 6 games back of the Boston Red Sox to half a game ahead. However, even as they were playing out of their minds, there were obvious red flags. 10 of those 27 games came against the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox, the two worst teams in baseball, and the Rays also played 4 games against the 4th place Minnesota Twins and 3 more against the AL East basement Toronto Blue Jays. The Rays were playing great, but against quite a few bad teams. That coupled with the fact that no team is as good as their best point, and the Rays were bound for serious regression. The games they have played since then have turned that into reality. The Rays have gone just 2-6 in their last 8 games against the D-Backs, Giants, and Dodgers, slipping to 2.5 games back of the Red Sox entering their Sunday night contest against Los Angeles and suddenly looking quite ordinary. Injuries have struck, with Matt Moore and Alex Cobb both down, and their pitching staff has fallen off course while the offense has struggled. Are the Rays really a great team or were they a good team on a nice run?
No team is defined by their best streak. At the same time, though, no team is as bad as they are at their nadir. The Rays will get back on track as players break out of slumps and pitchers like Moore, Cobb, and Jesse Crain come off the DL. Their losing streak will stop and we’ll see them returning to right where they were before. Maybe they’re not as good as the team that went 24-3. But they are an awfully good team and they could resume showing us that as early as tonight.