A. L. East Race: Rays Within a Half Game of Red Sox
The Tampa Bay Rays are as hot as they have ever been in franchise history. If not for a Houston Astros rookie making his major league debut no-hitting them for seven innings and winning 2-1, Tampa Bay would be on a 15 game winning streak. Instead the Rays have won six in a row, 14 of 15, and 21 of 25. They have jumped from last place in the American League East Division to within one half game of the division leading Boston Red Sox.
Last night at Fenway Park, Matt Moore pitched a complete game two hit shutout in a 3-0 Rays win over the Sox. Moore was in control all night long. The Red sox never really mounted any threat against him.
”I think that’s the most efficient I’ve been,” Moore said. ”I think that’s probably the best game I’ve ever thrown (considering) the Red Sox are playing well, and we’re on the road.”
On June 29, the Rays trailed the Red Sox by seven games. They came into this four games series with the Sox having won only three times in the 12 previous meetings. But two more wins out of the next three and they will leave with the division lead and give the Red Sox a series loss at home for the first time since May.
Roberto Hernandez, who has only a 5-10 record goes tonight against Jon Lester with an 8-6 mark. Hernandez does have one of the Rays four wins over the Sox when he beat them 8-3 in a game Lester also started in St. Petersburg.
Hernandez has pitched better than his record most of the year. He has been the victim of little run support. His last three starts have all been quality starts, going six innings and allowing three runs in all of them.
Lester has struggled since getting off to a 6-0 start to the season. He is 2-6 with an ERA over six since then. If he can’t find his winning form tonight, the Sox will relinquish the division lead for the first time since the early days of April.
On Wednesday, the Rays will start and on Thursday they will go with David Price. Both pitchers have been red hot of late.
The Rays started their hot streak with a lot home games and a lot of games against sub .500 teams. They went 9-1 on their last home stand agaisnt the Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins and the Astros. They took three of four from the Astros on the road prior to that.
When the Rays were looking at a 10 game road trip to start off the post All-Star Break against the Toronto Blue Jays, Red Sox and New York Yankees, a 6-4 trip would have thrilled their fans. Not now. They are already 4-0 and with the Yankees struggling, the Rays could easliy win eight or nine on this trip. If that happens, the Rays could be very tough the rest of the way.
Soon, the Rays will get Alex Cobb back which will make the rotation even better. In September, when rosters expand, the Rays will be able to keep Ryan Roberts at the Major League level, making the bench even better. This will be a very exciting pennant race in Tampa Bay.