2013 MLB Postseason Race: The Tampa Bay Rays May Have Peaked Too Soon

The Tampa Bay Rays are in trouble. They were working on losing their sixth game in a row as I was writing this. There are several reasons for the sudden downward spiral for the Rays… though their ground’s crew isn’t one of them…

Injured players who play big roles have certainly hurt them. There have been a lot of games missed by key people such as David Price, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Desmond Jennings, Luke Scott and Yunel Escobar. Many times, such as right now, several players have been out at once. Instead of a pitching rotation of say Price, Cobb, Moore and Chris Archer or Jeremy Hellickson – with all the off days they have had – they have Price, Roberto Hernandez (6-12 record), a struggling Hellickson and Archer. If they could pull Hellickson and Hernandez out and insert Cobb and Moore, suddenly the rotation is highly difficult.

The schedule has also been difficult as of late, with the red hot Los Angeles Dodgers on it – a team that needs to be playing at their best. The Rays were not, and it was ugly. But injuries or not, the Rays should have won two of the five games on their trip out west. Unfortunately, their bullpen duo of Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney blew back to back games in which the Rays led after seven innings. Had they won those two games, they would have come back home only a game out of first place. But the Rays have double digit losses in games they have led after the seventh inning this season. That makes for a thoroughly tough pennant run. The game Rodney choked away was especially disturbing because the Rays led 6-1 after seven and 6-3 after eight.  The game ended with Rodney throwing away a potential double play ball… allowing the winning run to score (Google images).

From mid-June until the road trip began, the Rays could do little wrong, winning 28 of 36 games prior to this skid. They got timely hitting, great starting pitching and nearly flawless fielding. All of that has disappeared in a hurry.

Wil Myers- Tampa Bay Rays

Wil Myers- Tampa Bay Rays (Photo credit: Pasco Schools)

The heart of the Rays order, Evan Longoria, Will Myers and James Loney, seem to come up with men on base constantly and leave them stranded. The pitching that was so great is now getting ripped. Chris Archer was pitcher of the month in July but in August he has been giving up long balls by the bushel. Jeremy Hellickson can’t get through the fifth inning. And now the bullpen is terrible.

Things have gotten so bad that the Rays can’t even seem to make a routine play. There was Rodney firing the ball into right field to lose Friday’s game and on Tuesday, Escobar cut in front of Ben Zobrist and tipped away a routine grounder that would have ended the inning. Instead, two runs scored. Couple that with Archer serving up to gopher balls to the Seattle Mariners lead-off man, Brad Miller, a ballplayer that had two homers all year, and you can see why it does not look good.

Somebody felt like getting a pitcher from the Houston Astros was a good idea. If the Astros had good pitchers they wouldn’t be 40 games under .500. Wesley Wright made his Rays debut in a 4-4 tie and two batters later the Mariners had the lead again.

It looks right now like the Rays peaked too early. Maybe as they get some of the injured stars such as Jennings, Moore and Cobb back they can get on another roll. Hopefully they won’t be too far out of the race by then.