Rays Pitching is Setting the Early Tone

 
Elaine Thompson /AP

So far it has been a very interesting year for the Tampa Bay Rays with teams wanting to visit Tropicana Field instead of hosting the red-hot road trip Rays. And it is a great additional weapon to have in the Rays arsenal that they can now boast a almost perfect road record (11-1) while their home record (9-6) has been less than stellar so far in 2010. Coming into the 2010 season, the Rays Coaching staff and Front Office wanted to stress to their Rays players that their road record this season had to be a priority to provide a softer cushion toward achieving their goal of going deep into the 2010 Playoffs.

One well respected mantra from Rays Manager Joe Maddon has been at the forefront this season alive, and might just be a great fulcrum point for the Rays early sucess. Maddon strives to the fans and the media all the time that “pitching sets the tone of a game”, and in 2010, that tone has been  a lot quicker, more decisive and definitely  lethal to teams the Rays have played so far this season on the road.


And if the last month has been any clear indication, I suspect there are teams that winch a bit when they see the Rays on their upcoming home stand schedule. What the Rays have accomplished so early in 2010 is take the stigma of the road and present it as a challenge and an obstacle that can be conquered nightly.

I am not sure of any big changes to the itinerary that would produce such instant positive results, but you can be sure there will be a lot of discussion within baseball circles trying to figure out this new Rays formula to road victories.


Coming into tonight’s game (Thursday), the Rays have started off with not just an impressive road record, but currently hold the best record in baseball, and were the first Major League baseball team to hit the twenty win mark this season. Their current start is the best in the last 5 years since the 2005 Chicago White Sox started out 21-7.

What is even more amazing is the Rays not only have posted their best start in franchise history, but they have five more victories after 27 games than their 2008 American League Pennant winning season.

An added push of incentive might also be that the Rays are currently nine games ahead of their pace from the 2009 season when the team did not win their 20th victory until May 18th. In their 40th game of the season. And since April 22,2010, the Rays have now held sole possession of the American League East for the last fourteen days with the New York Yankees lying in wait for a Rays loss.

 
Ted S. Warren /AP

Currently you could realistically argue that the best two Major League Baseball clubs are located in the highly competitive division.

With the Rays currently garnering two win in their three games against the Seattle Mariners, it is totally conceivable that the team will win their fourth straight road series tonight, and have won or tied every series but their first series of the season (April 9-11,2010) against division foes the New York Yankees.

So besides that hiccup in the Rays plans, the team is on a miraculous start . But there are a few perils on the horizon for the Rays in their next two series against the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim because of past mix results for the Rays.


Coming into tomorrow’s series against the Athletics, the team does have a few great rays of light in that the team has a winning record against Oakland at Oakland Coliseum over the past three seasons (7-5) and are .500 (9-9) in since Rays Manager Joe Maddon took control of the Rays ship.. The Angels have not been as kind to the Rays in past, and have bullied the Rays to a 1-13 record under the Rays skipper’s tenure.

But this is putting the problems of the cart before the horse here and the Rays need to post a victory tonight to provide a catalyst going into hostile territory on the last two legs of their nine day, nine game road trip.


But getting back into the positive here, the Rays current mark of 11-7 on the road to begin the season is the second best start by an American League squad in the past twenty-five Major League Baseball seasons. Not since the 2003 Yankees started 11-1 has there been such a lightning bolt start to the season by an American League team.

The reality that the Rays are only one of four other teams overall to start 11-1 in the last 25 years is solid proof that this Rays team comes to play every night. This Rays squad is also one of only seven Major League Baseball teams to start 11-1 or better since the beginning of the Expansion Era (1961). And with a victory tonight over the Mariners, the Rays would become only the fourth team since 1961 to start the season 12-1 or better on the road.

The Detroit Tigers lead the way with a Major League Baseball best 12-0 start in 1984. But I think a few statistics that stand out in bold letters truly shows why the Rays have been so dominating on the road to start the 2010 season.

 
Elaine Thompson /AP

Going into tonight’s series ending game against Seattle, the Rays pitching staff has held its own with a 2.19 ERA (111 innings, 27 Earned Runs) and have held their opposition to a .203 Batting Average. Both figures are currently the top marks in the Major Leagues for a road team.

Another interesting note is that if the Rays do win tonight, it will only be the Rays second series sweep of the Mariners in Franchise history in Seattle. Considering the Rays won a total of three games against the Mariners in all of 2009, the 2010 season is already providing special moment with each game.


A quick example of the dominance the Rays staff has provided on the road is best illustrated in the last two nights in the starts of James Shields and Matt Garza. Both Rays starters have combined for 16 innings, struck out 15 batters and only given up a solo walk. Add onto that the solid stat that the Rays have defeated two former Cy Young winners in their past three games, and you get a Rays pitching staff that is molten hot right now on the mound.

So maybe we need to provide a few bulletpoints of reference here to truly illustrate how red-hot the Rays pitching staff is right now:


** The Rays boast the American League’s best ERA (2.94) since the 2005 Chicago White Sox at this point in the young season.

** Rays starters have only lost 3 decision over the course of their first 27 decisions games and are 16-3 with a 2.61 ERA. Currently, only the St. Louis Cardinals (2.52) and the San Francisco Giants (2.59) have lower ERAs in the Major Leagues this season at this point.

** In their last seven games, the Rays rotation has a 1.64 ERA.

** Rays starters have not lost since April 23,2010 (Matt Garza lost to Toronto 6-5) and are 7-0 with 3 no decision since that loss.

** In their last 19 games ( since April 14th at Baltimore), the Rays Bullpen is 3-2 with a 1.86 ERA

** Matt Garza going eight innings last night is the sixth time this season a Rays starter has gone 8.0+ innings, second to Philadelphia (7).

 
Elaine Thompson /AP

And I have not attempted to talk about Rays Third Baseman Evan Longoria’s 11-game hitting streak or early offense and mentioned their MLB-leading .319 average with runners in scoring position this season. It is a really good time to be a Rays fan right now.

The way this team has come out of the gate on the road and provided the needed explosion of runs and shutdown innings by their pitching staff has been key to their current MLB-leading 20-7 mark. But there is a long way to go, and with 135 more games to be played, anything can happen…. And probably will.

 
 
 
 

8 Comments

Boy you said it, Cliff! I watched Niemann pitch out of a bases loaded jam yesterday that was so masterful I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. I’m adopting the Rays as the team to watch when my birds aren’t on. Wow.
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

Theyre a fun team. with a unique mix of hitting and pitching they are scary.
http://pittpeas.mlblogs.com

The Rays are off to a great start. Strange how they are doing better on the road than at home. The Dodgers seem to do better at home (well, actually, they aren’t blazing any trails either at home or on the road) Congratulations to your team.
http://catlovesthedodgers.mlblogs.com

Jeff,
Last night it almost looked like Jeff Niemann was playing a cat and mouse game at times with the Seattle lineup.
In reality he wasn’t, but the fact is clear that over the course of the game he got the breaks he needed, and that is just what has been going the Rays way so far in 2010.
The pitching has answered the call and is head and shoulder tall right now and boosting the offense when they have a down night.
It is almost like the Rays are trying to play “Playoff Baseball” in May some times.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Matt,
This season the Rays have been blessed by the Baseball God so far with a great abundance of pitching and timely hitting.
Their current pace has them winning 120 games, which will not happen in the AL East, but a definite number over 90 will be hopefully in the cards.
Now we hit two teams that will again try and stack a few lefties against us, but on this road trip we have defeated three straight left-handers….maybe someone is not getting the Rays 2010 pitching memo that we can hit lefties now….
Going to be a fun Summer.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Cat,
I know thw Rays Coaching staff went into the off season looking for answers to the Rays problems with lefties.
Guess they pushed in the automatic pitching machine that can duplicate a certain pitcher’s delivery and pitches by computer program.
Maybe they popped in leftie Randy Johnson and CWS Mark Buehrle. That would make sense after the Rays tagged Buehrle in Chicago a few weeks ago.
Whatever the real cause, it is a good thing they are beating lefties.
They are 3-0 so far on this 9-game road trip against them, and got one tonight too.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

ahh the Rays (if you don’t know, I am very fond of the rays! I am happy to call them one of the possible teams I would root for if the angels were to go out of business) are doing very well! I’m glad y’all are up top in that scary AL east not to mention the best team in baseball thus far! That’s got to feel good :D. Matt Garza seems to be doing well and so is Shields! In fact your pitching looks great! I wish I could say the same for the angels :P.

can’t wait till we square off, as scary as your team looks right about now!

http://mimi.mlblogs.com

Mimi,
Starting tonight we will just see how the two teams stack up against each other.
But B J Upton will not be in the lineup die to him taking a jet back to St. Petersburg for the birth of his first son.
Hopefully he will not get the name B III Upton.
That could prove to be an interesting change for the Rays dynamic in this series.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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