After a strong first week, the Rays have struggled in all aspects of the game. With May almost over, they have fought their way back to .500, going 5-2 over the last week.
With two series wins to start the season, Tampa Bay went on their first road trip expecting more of the same. Those expections were shattered after a 1-6 week left them below .500 just two weeks into the season.
Not How The Rays Wanted April To Go
The team struggled in every aspect of the game. Starting pitchers were getting run out of games early, and when they did have a lead, the bullpen could not hold onto it. Once the pitching settled into a positive groove, the fielding starting to suffer, leading to a 12-14 first month.
This pattern continued into mid-May. After a four game series against Kansas City left them sitting at 17-20, Rays manager Kevin Cash was hoping the next road trip would turn the team around.
Cash’s hopes were definitely fulfilled.
Spring In Their Step
Going up to an unusally cold Fenway Park, the Rays were crossing their fingers that things would start to fall into place. Through the course of the season, each individual area had shown impressive numbers; just not as a whole unit.
After escaping Friday with a win, albeit while almost giving up the lead late, Tampa Bay was showing signs of organization across the field. After a rough outting by Blake Snell and a dominating performance by Chris Sale resulted in a Saturday loss, fans let out a collective sigh, thinking this was how the season would continue.
Then Sunday, Mother’s Day, everything came together for the Rays. Pitchers held Red Sox hitters to six hits and only two runs, while batters drove in 11 runs, including a two-run shot by Steven Souza Jr. that made a statement, clearing the Green Monster.
Momentum Swinging Back In Rays Favor
After winning their first series in a week and half, Tampa Bay took on the defending A.L. Champ Cleveland Indians. After dropping the game one, fans again thought “not again.” In reality, the loss was not for lack of effort.
First inning aside, the Rays won innings two through nine 6-3. But the five runs giving up in the first were too much to come back from. But the momentum that started in the second inning of Monday’s game, carried through the rest of the series.
Tampa Bay did not trail for the remainder of the three game stretch in Cleveland. Kevin Kiermaier started to show why he is the back-to-back Gold Glove winner. The starting pitchers went deep into games. And in the clinching game, Rays bats came alive for a five home run showing, including two from Corey Dickerson.
Ultimately, the 4-2 road trip was exactly what the Rays needed to gain some confidence back.
Keeping It Going At Home…So Far
Coming back to Tropicana Field, the Rays were now only one game below .500 with two-thirds of May in the books. With the division leader New York Yankees coming into town, the Rays wanted to keep this streak going.
And they did just that in the first game of the series.
Riding the back of Erasmo Ramirez in his second start of the season, they Rays battled the entire game. The fight paid off in a victory in front of 21,000 plus fans, most of which were in pinstripes.
— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) May 19, 2017
Evan Longoria continued his excellent month, tying his career high with four hits. He is batting .309 for the month after posting a .208 average in April.
After getting back to .500 for the first time since May 6th, the Rays have finally started to show up as a team in every way.
— The Scrum Sports (@TheScrumSports) May 20, 2017
Coming off the win Friday, they Rays send Matt Andriese (3-1 3.18 ERA) to the mound to take on Masahiro Tanaka (5-2 5.80 ERA) in a late afternoon game.
Andriese is coming off a win on Mother’s Day against Boston where he only gave up two runs on four hits. Tanaka on the other hand is coming off a loss on the same day where he gave up eight runs in just 1.2 innings.