The Tampa Bay Rays’ extra-inning victory on the last day of June left the club with a 36-49 record, 10 games out of first place. It illustrates how badly the season has gone for the Rays when that record is seen as a big improvement. The Rays have played much better in mid-June, thanks to Logan Forsythe‘s offensive awakening, Kevin Kiermaier‘s inspired play, and the record setting strikeout performance by the pitching staff. But are the Rays capable of more?
If you believe that Rays management and all the experts that picked the Rays to lead the AL East correctly evaluated the talent, then you have to believe the Rays are poised to do something special. The starting pitching has taken a big step forward–the ERA is down and strikeouts are up at a record pace. Evan Longoria has hit 10 home runs so far, but with how hot he’s been lately, he could easily smack more than that in the second half on the season. Ben Zobrist has the lowest batting average in the majors with runners in scoring position so far this year. Again, we should expect that performance to improve. Jose Molina is hitting better, inching his average up to the Mendoza line. The defense is even improving. The Rays just may have another great July.
In 2013 the Rays were practically unbeatable in July, going 21-5 with a winning percentage over .800 If the team can repeat that performance in 2014, they would end July with a 57-54 record and a winning percentage of .513. Given how weak the AL East has been so far this season, that could put the Rays near the top or even on top of the division. The Rays offense may improve even more for the stretch run when a healthy David DeJesus and Wil Myers return to the lineup. Also, Jeremy Hellickson could be a boost to the rotation. It may be tough, but the Rays have put together an improbable month like this before, so who’s to say they can’t do it again?
Teams have come from this far back to win the pennant before. If the Tampa Bay Rays keep playing well, they can get back into the race. It may seem unlikely at this point, but the Rays have tend to have a flair for making comebacks. Maybe they can pull off a miracle once again.