Tampa Bay Rays Recent Five-Game Skid Is Not a Cause For Concern

Jonathan SlotterCorrespondent IAugust 9, 2010

BALTIMORE - JULY 21:  Evan Longoria #3 of the Tampa Bay Rays tosses his helmet after striking out against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on July 21, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays enter this week's series against the Detroit Tigers on a five-game losing streak.

They got swept at the hands of a foe they have handled well in the past, the Blue Jays, and split two with the Minnesota Twins.

After almost getting no-hit for the third time this season, the Rays are searching for answers, and no one symbolizes the Rays frustrations more than Evan Longoria.

The Rays should not be concerned with their recent woes because it seems that there are just a few bad things happening all at once during a rough part of the schedule.

Here are a few these rather strange things that have happened.

Grant Balfour goes down with a freak injury wrestling with pitching coach Jim Hickey before a game.

Jeff Niemann suddenly gets scratched for a start because of shoulder soreness.

Andy Sonnanstine gets placed on the disabled list when he had shown no signs of problems with his arm.

This is bad because three pitchers went down in a week, but it was all a matter of horrendous timing.

First Jeremy Hellickson pitched on Monday when only the Balfour injury had occurred.

Because of this, he could not pitch on Sunday whenever Niemann when down with his shoulder soreness.

Instead, Dan Thayer had to be called up and pitch on Saturday just to give the bullpen some relief, and James Shields probably pitched two more innings than he normally would have in that given spot if Sonnanstine is healthy and could have came in relief. 

Not only could the Rays not use their best weapon from the minors to help stop the bleeding but it happens to be in the WORST stretch of games for the Rays this year.

They play 20 games in a row and play the likes of the Yankees, Twins, Blue Jays, and Tigers twice. This is a pretty ridiculous stretch of games against good teams where the bullpen has been used frequently because of the high number of close games.

In fact, Rafael Soriano was used four days in a row at one point.

The Rays are only 2.5 games back of teh Yankees, their best player has been struggling since the All-Star break (Longoria is hitting .225 with only 9 RBI), and the biggest deep ball threat has been placed on the DL.

You can't expect Longoria to bat .225 the rest of the year. Yet with all of this happening, the Rays were still competing at the top of their game.

If the Rays win two of three against the Tigers than they will finish 12-8 in this stretch of 20 games, which they have to be happy about given the circumstances of the injuries and the teams they were playing against. 

This shows that the Rays are still in prime position to take the American League East.

With Pena coming off of the DL in a week, Hellickson called up, maybe for good, and the bullpen getting some dire rest with good pitching performances Friday and Sunday, things should be getting back to normal for the Rays.

Being only 2.5 games out and 4.5 ahead of the Red Sox and also holding winning series records against both (6-5 against the Yankees and 7-3 against the Red Sox), the Rays are still in great shape to make a run at the division crown and another postseason bid.