Very quietly, the Tampa Bay Rays are creeping up on the American League East. One has to think they like it that way.
Unless one is a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays, one may not realize that they are currently the top seeded Wild Card. Having moved ahead of the New York Yankees, and doggedly chasing down the Boston Red Sox, the Rays are starting to become a team to watch in regards to the postseason.
In fact, if those two teams are not already afraid of the Rays, it may be time to reassess that stance. Despite having the second lowest payroll on Opening Day, Tampa bay has found a way to bring themselves back into the postseason conversation. It is also worth noting that the one team behind them, the Milwaukee Brewers, are also in the playoffs as of right now.
The Rays formula has been simple. With a solid rotation that has been headlined by ace Chris Archer and the emerging rookie Jacob Faria, Tampa Bay is starting to build a pitching staff reminiscent of their run in the early part of the decade. Add in top prospects Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon, and the Rays could be starting another run of contention.
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However, it is not just the starting rotation that is deserving attention. The Rays offense has been even more than they could have imagined this season. Led by All Star Corey Dickerson and the resurgent Logan Morrison, the Rays are hitting home runs in bunches. This time, they have runners on base in front of them, and are scoring without requiring the longball, their bugaboo last year.
Right now, the Rays biggest hole is in the bullpen. Even there, they are not sitting still, and hare essentially involved in trade discussions for any reliever that could plausibly be available. It would not be a surprise to see a move or two in the bullpen, and that does not count the recently acquired Chaz Roe.
Very quietly, the Tampa Bay Rays are moving up the standings. Back in their underdog role, the Rays look ready to return to the playoffs.