Here they come again, folks.
They, being the Tampa Bay Rays, who are now 15-2 in July after sweeping the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday. 24-year-old right hander Chris Archer improved to 5-3 on the season with his team prevailing 4-3 over Toronto.
With what this squad has done since their pennant winning season in 2008, it seems only inevitable they will break the glass ceiling and hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy. They failed to qualify in 2009 and despite falling short in 2012, they finished the season winning 14 of their last 16. Not to mention, the best record in the AL in 2010 and their miraculous ride in 2011.
This 2013 team very well could overtake the Boston Red Sox for first place in the AL East this week when they visit them in Fenway Park. Everything is coming to form for them. In addition to Archer, the shrewd signing of Matt Moore has paid off, with the 24-year-old lefty earning an All Star appearance. After struggling a good deal of the year, Fernando Rodney is starting to turn it up after his unbelievable 2012 season.
Evan Longoria is having another good season at third base with a 141 OPS+ this season. The biggest splash they made in the offseason was sending pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Kansas City Royals for a package of prospects, most notably highly touted outfielder Wil Myers. Shields has been the epitome of a tough luck pitcher this season in KC, but Myers has so far made his mark by batting .310 in 28 games for the Rays. He had a sore left wrist and missed Sunday’s game that resulted in a sweep of the Jays.
Winning 13 of 14 games, and 17 of their last 19, is impressive any way you cut it. Here is something to ponder, however. Their hot streak started when they took the final two games against the Detroit Tigers June 29 and 30. Since then, though, in their white hot run in July, they have played nothing but losing teams.
From July 1-4, they took 3 of 4 from the Houston Astros, who are 33-63 on the season. They swept the Chicago White Sox July 5-7, and despite the Sox taking 2 of 3 from the Atlanta Braves, with a 3-1 victory on Sunday, they are still in last in the AL Central at 39-56. They then took all four games against the Minnesota Twins July 8-11. The Twins aren’t too far from the Sox at 41-54. From July 12-14, they took two of three from the Astros again and then just swept a Blue Jays team that is now at 45-52.
We all know what the Rays are capable of doing and this stretch is impressive, but facts are facts, and now their true test begins Monday night in Fenway in what is a battle for first place in the AL East. The Sox are currently 59-40, while the Rays are 58-41. They are one game up on Tampa Bay, who have a 2.5 game lead in the AL Wild Card race.
If the Rays can win this series, the AL East and possibly more, just may go through them.