Rays Muddling through May
After last night’s thrashing at the hands of the Texas Rangers, Tampa’s May record stands at 13-12, and the Rays are 3-7 in their last ten games. After starting out the month 8-3, including a sweep of the Orioles and a series win against the Cleveland Indians, the Rays have managed only five more wins, and the schedule isn’t any easier.
One the home series versus the Rangers concludes tomorrow night the Rays head out for an 11 game road trip. They’ll play four at Safeco against the Mariners then swing down to Los Angeles for three games against the Angels. Then it gets a bit crazy; they fly to Baltimore for three games with the Orioles, then fly to Detroit for a makeup game from the May 25th washout, then back on the plan and three games against the Boston, and another three against the Marlins, both home series.
The Rays have fallen behind Boston and New York by a game and a half since their brief stint at the top of the AL East and need to turn things around. The Rays are only 1-5 this season against the AL West, and Seattle isn’t going to be a pushover; the Mariners have quietly won eight of their last ten games and are a game above .500. The Angels are always tough, and the Orioles have played them solidly through out the season. Once they hit Boston, we’ll have a better idea of what the balance of the season may look like.
This stretch of games should tell us what is likely to occur as baseball heads into the All-Star break. Not that the season would be over by any stretch, but Tampa can ill afford to lose ground against the Yankees and Red Sox, and Toronto is only a half game back right now. An extended struggle could find the Rays looking up at the wrong teams and put them in a “sell” scenario.
There is still a lot of baseball yet to be played but the Rays need to stay competitive or look to next year. Tonight’s game, with Alex Cobb recalled and back in the rotation, should give us a glimpse of whether or not he can be a piece of the division title puzzle. The Rays aren’t likely to recall Matt Moore any time soon, as he is on a development plan and should finish the year in the minors working on his secondary pitches. The Rays would have to be extremely confident of the team’s chances to bring up their top remaining prospects for a title run.
It will be interesting to see how things transpire. Desmond Jennings is sharpening his game but he isn’t exactly exploding at Durham. Brandon Guyer got a brief stint and did well and it’s possible he’d get the call before Jennings if the team decides to bring in some offensive help from the minors. Then there is Robinson Chirinos, who could give the team a lift at the catcher position, but he has struggled after displaying some nice power during spring training with only one home run and six RBI in 131 AB with the Bulls. He is actually being outplayed by Jose Lobaton, who is hitting .324 with five home runs and 19 RBI. Both are pretty close in terms of CS% (caught stealing percentage). Lobaton has thrown out 10 of 30 (33%) and Chirinos 10 of 33 (30%) and offer a defensive upgrade over John Jason, who has nabbed only 6 of 33 SB attempts (18%). Kelly Shoppach has been a whiz with a 54% CS% but his bat is a liability at this point.