Thought processes and conversations started under the tilted cap of Tropicana Field. Someday everyone will know the Rays play in St. Petersburg, Florida, not TAMPA, or the fictitious city of TAMPA BAY.
Rays need a Slump Busting Series
Every Major League Baseball team goes through these kinds of slumps or toe-stubs over the course of a regular season. Sometimes these negative-minded obstructions to winning get somehow get pushed firmly up into your horizon and you have to accept the fact that some of the magic has worn off, and it is not time to buckle down and make your own luck. For most of this 2010 season, the Rays have not needed an external help, or even the rest of the American League to get a couple wins for them to stay consistently on top in the American League East.
But so far in June 2010, the Rays have combined to only post a 7-7 record before Friday nights series begins against interstate rival, the Florida Marlins. Even if the month doesn’t produce another win, the Rays will not endure their worst June in team history. That 2003 mark of 5-21 is safe after the Rays posted two wins in the Inter League series with one each against the Marlins (at home) and the Atlanta Braves (at Atlanta). But with a combined 154-178 Rays record lifetime in the month of June, hopefully this series against the Marlins could signal a early change before the Rays find themselves in a pre-2008 predicament.
Before today’s contest get started in South Florida, the Rays have now held onto the top spot in the American League East since April 22nd. And not until the last 5 days have the Rays even shared that spot with anyone, but the New York Yankees have caught them, and the Boston Red Sox are within striking range of both squads. Even with the Rays and the Yankees now sharing that 41-25 Major League Baseball best record for the past 5 days, the Rays need to regain their winning combination soon or they might lose their lofty perch.
And even with the Rays throwing up a .500 record so far in June, their current 41-25 mark is 6 games better than their 2009 record at this point, and a franchise record 3 games better than any other time in Rays history at the 66 game mark. Even though they are now sharing the MLB best record, the Rays have solidly held that distinction for 61 days, which is 21 more days than their previous 12 MLB seasons combined. The Rays are officially in a dander, a slump and the end to this funk has to come soon, or the landscape of the AL East will change starting on Saturday morning.
The Rays have lost 5 of their last 7 games, and have lost the mystical “pit” magic that Tropicana Field used to hold for the team. Incredibly, the Rays have gone 5-5 in their last 10 games and still hold onto their top spot in the AL East. To put all of this pressure in immediate perspective, the Rays have gone 9-13 since May 25th. At that moment in time, the Rays held a 6 game lead over the Yankees and a 8.5 game spread between them and the Red Sox.
I am not going to sit here and say everything is going to be honky dory or will right itself without a few adjustments or even changes in the way this team goes about their business. I do not have the answers right now to consider what needs to change, or what might be the weight that has dragged the Rays down to this slow pace after posting an amazing record in April 2010.
But a good indication of what might have gone wrong is in Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s old saying. “Starting pitching sets the tone.” If that is the true essence of the Rays, then they are clanging loud and clear on the bottom of the barrel right now. Over the last 22 games, the Rays starting pitchers have posted a 5.48 ERA after posting an amazing 2.72 ERA in their first 44 contests. The 180 degree shift in momentum has to be one of the key contributors to the Rays recent woes and yearnings for scattered wins.
But there is some sunlight that should shine bright for the Rays as they will entertain 13 of their next 22 games at home before the 2010 All-Star break. The Rays might not have their usual stellar home record this season (18-15)m but a slump busting series sweep or a great mental and emotional effort this weekend within the confines of the hot and balmy Sun Life Stadium could do wonder to turning the Rays current frown upside down. Either that, or we might have to sacrifice a live chicken or maybe an over furry Seadog to get back on track.
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