The Tampa Bay Rays have floundered offensively all season long and this past weekend’s series against Baltimore culminated with possibly the most frustrating game all season on Sunday at Tropicana Field. The Tampa Bay offense collected two total runs in the entire series with division foe Baltimore with one of those runs coming on B.J. Upton’s 100th career home run. Sunday’s game was a 10-inning, 1-0 loss for Tampa Bay and seemingly told the story of the season for the oft-injured Rays. The pitching was phenomenal, but the hitting was non-existent.
All-star third baseman Evan Longoria’s injury in early May was merely the tip of the iceberg for the season of the walking wounded Rays. Luke Scott, Jeff Keppinger, Desmond Jennings, Sam Fuld, Jeremy Hellickson, Kyle Farnsworth and Matt Joyce have all seen time on the disabled list this season, and that’s just to name a few.
However, Rays of hope have peaked through this injury riddled season, All-stars David Price and Fernando Rodney have led an outstanding and complete pitching staff with Price (14-4 2.49 ERA) as a front runner for the American League Cy Young award. The bullpen has been fantastic, and the Rays front office has once again turned another team’s trash into their treasure (Rodney).
Despite the woes offensively the Rays have fought to a 57-52 record and only sit 1.5 games back in the Wild Card race. Even if the Rays do not make the playoffs, manager Joe Maddon deserves serious consideration for A.L. Manager of the Year for being able to keep the Rays’ sinking ship afloat and still running strong.
Tuesday against Toronto marked the return of Evan Longoria after nearly three months of missed time; he is currently the designated hitter while Luke Scott continues his time on the DL. Longoria went 1-for-3 with a RBI sacrifice fly as the Rays prevailed over the Blue Jays 4-1 on Tuesday night. Fernando Rodney ran his scoreless innings streak to 22 and completed his 33rd save, tying him for the A.L. lead with Baltimore’s Jim Johnson.
Longoria says he is only at 70% and will remain the DH to avoid re-injuring his partially torn hamstring; the lateral movements of playing third base have the Rays’ management in between a rock and a hard place on what to do with Longoria. The team sorely needs his formidable bat but at what cost? If he injures himself further, Tampa Bay could lose him for the rest of the season and possibly some of next year. But if the Rays are to keep pace with New York and Baltimore then Longoria must play, and produce.
In the off-season the Rays’ front office addressed the biggest need of the team by signing offensive weapons Luke Scott and Jeff Keppinger, not to mention bringing back Carlos Pena. However, injuries have taken a toll on the team that many fans thought was the best Rays roster ever assembled.
For the Rays to be successful for the rest of the year and in the playoffs, they will need to put the sting back in their tails err…bats. Longoria’s return will help but just how much remains to be seen.
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