A Day Off To Contemplate the Tampa Bay Rays’ Fate
It is abundantly clear that the Tampa Bay Rays’ season has been a disappointment so far. The last three days were especially demoralizing. The Rays were riding high after three straight walk-off wins followed by a 4th consecutive win to sweep the Boston Red Sox, but then they went up against the Toronto Blue Jays and got swept. 4 steps forward, 3 steps back, and 9 games back in the standings. That simply isn’t good enough. But if we think about the series that just transpired more objectively, we find reason for optimism.
In Game 1, the Rays’ biggest problems were a lack of command from Erik Bedard, a few flyballs dying on the warning track, and Jose Molina coming up in a clutch situation. In Game 2, the Rays were slowed by a rough start from Alex Cobb, Cesar Ramos struggling a bit, Brad Boxberger balking, and Josh Lueke being Josh Lueke. Then, in the series finale, the Rays had more terrible luck on home runs leaving the yard, Joel Peralta looking a little sketchy, Juan Carlos Oviedo making a horrible defensive play, and Ali Solis just missing Kevin Pillar on his tag to allow Toronto to walk off. It is that Solis tag that really exemplifies all these issues- the Rays are barely missing.
We know that it was just a matter of luck, but it seemed like nearly every Blue Jays flyball that “had a chance” left the yard while the Rays’ simply couldn’t get there. That is something that will reverse itself over time. Bedard recovered in a big way after his rough first inning only to see his command desert him again in the 4th. Alex Cobb, meanwhile, was cruising before bizarrely collapsing after getting hit by a line drive that will not sideline him at all moving forward. Both pitchers should avoid similar results next time out. Molina actually looked halfway-capable at the plate the last two games, and the Rays have more flexibility to pinch-hit for him with Ryan Hanigan finally on the DL and Solis up. That leaves a few middle relief struggles, a balk, and an error by the pitcher. The former happens to everyone while the latter two are rarely a factor. These are not gaping holes that will continue to drag the Rays down.
The Tampa Bay Rays have a lot of work to do to get back in the AL East, but their problems are fixable and they can overcome them. The Rays can’t afford to keep losing games like this for much longer. That run we have been waiting for all season has to come in the very near future. However, this team still has the talent to be a major piece of the AL East picture and it is only a matter of time until they get there.