To properly understand what is happening with the Rays right now, we must go back – Back to the Future.
After being shutout by the Cleveland Indians, again, on Saturday night, the Rays find themselves playing .500 baseball. A feat that didn’t seem likely just two games after the All-Star break.
Back-to-back victories over the Los Angeles Angels on July 14 and 15 vaulted Tampa Bay into the discussion of AL East contenders. That conversation may be short-lived however, as the Boston Red Sox have won nine of their last ten games and have Cy-Young favorite Chris Sale pitching this evening.
The Rays are moving in the opposite direction, having lost six-of-eight.
Offensively during the stretch, the club has just two hits with runners in scoring position. Both of those hits came in the same game.
The last team to suffer through a stretch this bad?
The 1978 Athletics were shutout five times over a seven-game period from June 10-16.
In 2012, the Los Angeles Dodgers were blanked five times in six games (June 25-30).
June 14, 1955!
Yes, just a few months before Marty McFly would go back in time to ensure the nuptials of his mother and father, the Baltimore Orioles looked like a bunch of “slackers” on the field. The 1955 Baltimore Orioles were shutout seven times (June 14-26) during a 13-game home stretch.
The Rays are the first team to be shutout five times during one home-stand since then.
Expectations for the Rays this season were not set on a division crown. Being in a position today (1 GB of 2nd WC spot) where they are playing meaningful baseball for the rest of the season is a positive for this club.
General Manager and VP of Baseball Operations, Erik Neander recognized the position the club was in several weeks ago. For the first time in franchise history, the Rays became “buyers” at the trade deadline. Acquisitions of bullpen guys like Steve Cishek, Dan Jennings, and Sergio Romo give the Rays some stability late in games. The addition of Lucas Duda gives the club another power-hitting lefty off the bench, and a guy that can provide a breather for guys like Corey Dickerson and Logan Morrison down-the-stretch. Not to mention the move to bring in defensive superstar, Adeiny Hechavarria.
In danger of falling below .500, the Rays must figure out a way to get on track. Eight teams are within 2.5 games of that final playoff spot.