Tampa Bay Rays: An Upset in the Making?
The Tampa Bay Rays are back on top of the American League East.
And it's May now.
Between securing their 11th home victory in a row, beating the New York Yankees 2-1 in 11 innings, and The Boston Red Sox losing to the Baltimore Orioles, the 2008 Rays are half a game clear of the Sox. And they are seven, yes, seven games over .500, something never done in nine previous seasons.
And while the Rays offense hasn't been as good as hoped, it is showing signs of getting to be as good as hoped.
Akinori Iwamura has a 10-game hit streak (seven of those games he had multiple hits), while Jason Bartlett has turned his hitting around, now up to a .242 batting average after his poor start.
It should be noted that the offense isn't the only thing that isn't quite living up to expectations...because everything else is exceeding them.
The starting rotation, bullpen, and defense have been outstanding, and are what has propelled the Rays to the top.
Over the last seven games, the Rays starting pitchers have a combined 1.11 ERA, including two shutouts of the Los Angeles Angels, and two one-run games for the Yankees (Rays won 7-1 and 2-1)
On top of that, the Rays Bullpen has continued to shine with the minor exception of Troy Percival blowing two saves (both of which followed eight and seven shutout innings from Edwin Jackson). However, Percival has yet to take a loss, and J.P. Howell took wins on both occasions in extra innings.
As for the defense? If the season finished today, they would have a full highlight reel all ready for next year—from double plays to diving catches, the defense has delivered.
What does all this mean?
Well, above all, it means the Rays are for real this year.
All preseason and for all the seasons until now all the "Experts" have been saying, "The Rays are good, but I don't see where they're going to win 20 or so games from to better .500"
Well, I've got news for the experts. This time last year, the Rays were seven games under .500. This year, they're seven games over.
That's a seven game difference, and we're only a quarter way through the season.
With the Rays showing that their early season and spring training success wasn't by chance after all, hopefully more people will finally take the Rays seriously instead of judging them on their past.
They have swept the Red Sox, Angels, and the Blue Jays. They hold an 11-game home win streak, and they are only one game under .500 on the road. It would be nice for all us Rays fans to think that there just may be an upset in the cards.
Whether that upset is a wild card berth, taking the division crown (unlikely, but here's to dreams), or beating out fellow East teams for second or third, Rays' fans everywhere are thinking: upset, whether big or small, sure as heck beats years past.
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