Game 12 Preview: Rays Hoping to Channel 2011 Magic as Series Versus Red Sox Concludes

By Robbie Knopf

The Rays are 4-7 and seem like they should be a lot worse. They’ve been the most frustrating team in baseball to watch, not hitting at all and even showing pitching not even up to the caliber that we would expect. It seems like whenever they get a runner on, they erase him with a double play and whenever they actually get a strong starting performance, the bullpen ruins it with a collapse. But as bad as the Rays have looked, we don’t have to go back very far to find a Rays team that started out even worse.

In 2011, the Rays started the season just 1-8 entering their first season of the year versus the Boston Red Sox. But it was right then that everything changed. April 11, 2011 was engrained in the annals of baseball history as Sam Fuld‘s coming out party as he went 4 for 6 with a home run, a triple, 2 doubles, and 3 RBI as the Rays exploded for 16 runs in support of rookie right-hander Jeremy Hellickson in their 16-5 victory. They scored 16 runs after managing just 20 in their previous 9 games. And that was where it all started as the Rays won their next 4 games and 15 of 17 overall to finish April in first place in the AL East after starting off so horrifically. Can the Rays find similar results against the Red Sox this time around and change the course of their entire season?

Plenty of things are different. The Red Sox team the Rays were facing started 2011 with just a 2-10 record and were not playing nearly as well as this year’s incarnation. The Rays already lost their first game to the Red Sox and there’s nothing indicating that they’re about to break through. However, not all the differences are negative. The Rays are 4-7 while that team was just 3-8 even after that win. And most importantly, that team lost Evan Longoria in the season’s second game while this team has Longo in the middle of their lineup and making a major impact even as he as not quite hit his stride yet, reaching base in each of the Rays’ games. It’s unreasonable to expect the Rays to suddenly break out from their slump and suddenly go on a run. The Rays have major issues that need fixing and that could very well take time. But things could certainly be far worse than they are and we know for sure that the Rays are a lot better than they’re playing right now.

Hopefully today can be the day that turns the season around for the Rays, but no matter what happens Rays fans have to stay positive and keep everything in perspective. We have to realize that things could be a lot more dire than 4-7 and that the breakthrough we’ve been waiting for from this Rays team could be right around the corner. That being said, some 2011-esque magic would certainly be nice.