Rays Look Very “Un-Rays-Like” in April
The Tampa Bay Rays last suffered through a losing season in 2007. Back then they still had the nickname “Devil Rays” and still wore green and black uniforms. Rays fans had still never heard of Evan Longoria, David Price or Ben Zobrist. Most had never hear of Joe Maddon. No Rays player, coach or fan knew what a winning season felt like. Many knew what the wrath of Lou Piniella was all about.
The Rays have had nothing but winning seasons since 2008. They have won at least 90 games every year but one since then. They have made it to the playoffs every year but two since then. In none of these years have they done this with a high payroll. In none have they done it with a powerful offense. The Rays have won with great starting pitching, a great bullpen and great defense mixed in with some speed and timely hitting on offense. So far the 2014 Rays have had none of this.
The Rays vaunted starting rotation has been porous from the first series on. Injuries to Matt Moore and Alex Cobb that landed both on the disabled list where Jeremy Hellickson has been all season sure has not helped. The Rays have been running guys like Eric Bedard and Cesar Ramos out there with rookie Jake Odorizzi three of every five games. David Price has pitched well at times but then at other times he’s been throwing BP to the opposing teams. Chris Archer has too.
The bullpen has looked very good until they put Heath Bell in the game. Opponents have lit him up like a pin ball machine. Grant Balfour, who was automatic last season with the Oakland A’s has been anything but in his second stint with the Rays. But that brings us to the defense. The Rays have made several brilliant plays on defense in the last week, but for every one of those there are two or three where they did not make a play they ordinarily would. Example: We all saw Balfour give up a walk-off grand slam on Friday Night to Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox in the bottom of the ninth after Longoria had given them a two-run lead in the top of the ninth with his third home run.
While Balfour did come in and load the bases with one out by walking two batters, he did get a double play grounder that should have ended the game. But the Rays could not turn the DP when (A) Zobrist took a split second to decide if he should step on the bag himself or flip to the shortstop, and (B) James Loney did not stretch as far as he could’ve to meet the throw form Yunel Escobar. This resulted in a safe call at first to make it 6-5 and more importantly, keep the inning alive.
While it is true that Balfour still had a chance to get the last out, but instead got lit up by Abreu, in past seasons, the Rays make the play and win the game. This Rays team is not doing that.
Sunday, with Price on the mound and throwing well, the Rays came unglued with a 1-0 lead in the sixth when they started throwing the ball around like a little league team. Four errors later the Rays found themselves in a deep hole and it was over. All this adds up to why the Rays are in last place in the American League East.