Last night the Rays continued their hot streak by defeating the Chicago White Sox 4-1. This brings Tampa Bay’s record to 9-9. While a .500 mark is the definition of average and not usually something to write home about, it currently is remarkable considering the Rays were 1-8 after playing half the games they’ve played so far this season, and that included starting the year off 0-6. Since then, they’ve gone on a tear, winning 8 of 9 in the second half of the games they’ve played. ESPN notes that:
“Tampa Bay (9-9) became just the second team since 1900 — joining the 1991 Seattle Mariners — to reach .500 in April after starting the season with a six-game losing streak.”
Being only the second team to accomplish a certain feat in over a century, not too shabby eh? Plus, Tampa Bay is doing this with some of reserve players logging more playing time than was originally planned. On Opening Day, Tampa Bay was planning on having Evan Longoria and Manny Ramirez knocking the ball all over the place in the 3 and 4 spots and bringing in some runs. Instead, Longo will basically miss the month of April and Manny will miss the rest of his career, leaving characters like Sam Fuld and Felipe Lopez to fill in their shoes. Johnny Damon and Dan Johnson have also sat the past few games with various injuries, yielding some playing time to Casey Kotchman, Elliot Johnson, and Sean Rodriguez.
The rotation has really been pulling things along the last few games, with each starter trying to outdo the guy who threw before him (and if you missed James Shields dominating performance the other night, that’s your loss as he was in peak form for the 4-hit, 9 K CG). Oh, and don’t forget about the revamped bullpen that everyone was discounting but which actually is running a 2.72 ERA right now, by my calculations. And that’s with Jake McGee doing badly. However, feel free to disregard this point about the bullpen due to the Law of Small Sample Size.
Tonight’s game against the Chi Sox will see the Rays going for the sweep, and a season series victory over Chicago as this will be the last game played between the two teams for the rest of the season.
Update: Rob Neyer over at Baseball Nation seemed to have the Rays’ bullpen on the mind last night too, and it appears my ERA calculations were a bit high:
With two perfect innings Wednesday night against the White Sox, Tampa Bay’s relievers lowered their group ERA to 2.57, the lowest in the American League.
Yes, just like last year.
This testifies to a number of things. For instance, the unreliability of statistics in April. Or perhaps the acumen of Tampa Bay’s front office, which hardly needs more testaments. And we might spare some credit for Joe Maddon, who just doesn’t seem to care who’s in the bullpen.
I am compelled, by duty if not honor, to mention a caveat. To this point, the Rays’ relievers have not been as dominant as last year’s. Yes, the ERA is lower. But last year’s bullpen struck out 7.8 hitters per nine innings, with a 2.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio; the figures for this year’s bullpen are just 6.2 and 1.9.