After a disappointing June and July, the Rays season might be able to be saved in August.
ST. PETERSBURG – Since June 1, the Rays are 22-25 and have slipped out of the AL East race as well as the wild card standings. Losing three of four in New York was the kick in the gut, but then dropping two of three to the White Sox at home was the foot on the throat. Here’s the first bit of good news…
The Rays only play the Yankees two more times this season. That might just be the best news all year considering they’re 5-12 against them after their most recent trip to the Bronx. They’re 18-9 against the rest of the division including 5-4 against the Red Sox who come to town beginning tonight for a three game series.
July isn’t over, yet, and the Rays are 9-9 through last night’s win over Chicago. There’s still hope to finish the month on a high note and it begins with Boston. If the Rays can go into August with some momentum, the schedule gets significantly easier.
No such thing as a “cake walk” but you gotta like those odds
Boston wraps up the current homestand before the Rays head to Toronto. They’re a combined 10-5 against these two teams (5-1 v Blue Jays) and they’ll head to Boston after that. From August 3rd-25th they’ll play 21-straight games against .500 teams or worse. These are all major league ball clubs so no win is assured. Anything less than 13-15 wins in that stretch would seem like a disappointment.
Win, sure, but help is needed
Dropping two to the White Sox over the weekend also dropped the Rays out of the wild card standings. Cleveland and Oakland bumped up and the Red Sox loom close behind. Taking two of three from Boston at home would be huge. A sweep would be even better and quite the statement heading on the road to face a very winnable series in Toronto. Boston is just two games behind the Rays, so conversely, come their off-day on Thursday they could be staring up at Boston and in third place in the division. That’s worst case scenario, of course.
The Indians and Rays only play three more times and Oakland and the Rays have played their series through. Just one game separates the Rays from the A’s and getting back into that wild card slot. They need to take care of their own business, but help from the outside would also be ideal.
Snell starting to turn into his Cy Young self, Morton keeps his Cy Young season alive
Blake Snell clinched his Cy Young 2018 season in the second half. It’s starting to look much the same in 2019. Charlie Morton has been a Cy Young candidate most of the season and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. The Rays have won Snell’s last four starts and in those starts he’s pitched lights out (22 IP, 1.64 ERA, 31 K, 6 BB). Meanwhile, Morton leads the AL in ERA (2.61) and is second in wins (11).
With the trade deadline looming, the Rays will no doubt be after a reliever to help their bullpen that’s been very shaky during the last six or so weeks. Knowing they have a veteran arm or two they can rely on to close out games and hold late leads will take even more pressure off the starters heading into the final two months.
Youth needs to carry the load
Nate Lowe, Willy Adames, Austin Meadows, and most likely Brendan McKay again at some point will need to carry a lot of the weight the rest of the way. Lowe was recently named AL Player of the Week but since then hasn’t had a hit in three straight games. It’s likely the Rays have seen enough to keep him up for the rest of the season and possibly going forward as the staple at first base for years to come. Meadows is an all star who significantly cooled off in June and most of July. He has hit safely in 12-straight games (.333/.404/.667) bringing his season average back up to .293 overall. Adames has been up and down all year at the plate including just 1-for-15 over his last four games. McKay will be back at some point, most likely sooner than later. He showed flashes of brilliance on the mound during his July stint with the club and proved he can pitch at this level.
Vets need to step up
Tommy Pham is chief among the veteran players who need to get back to playing up to their norm. Pham’s average has dropped to .269 after going 1-for-14 in the White Sox series. He’s hitting just .200 in the month of July to boot and hit just .250 in June.
Mike Zunino is losing playing time to the phenom known as Travis d’Arnaud. He’s hitting a paltry .171 on the year with a miserable .554 OPS. d’Arnaud has hit 10 home runs in just 43 games with the Rays since being acquired on May 10th from the Dodgers.
Far from done but done is not out of the question
It’s a tight race for the AL Wild Card going forward. Six teams are within six and a half games of a playoff birth so the last two months will be fun to watch. The Rays are the first team out right now with Boston not far behind. The next week could present much needed momentum or a very disappointing end to the middle months of the season.
The playoffs are still well within reach.
But just as easily as the Rays fell out of the standings, they could fall even farther from contention. Kevin Cash and the front office have some important decisions to make before the trade deadline to beef up this team for the final stretch. They’ve proven they know what they’re doing in regard in the past.
Let’s see what they do with the present.
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