The MLB season reached the one quarter mark this weekend and the Tampa Bay Rays have now played 42 games. After 42 games, the Rays find themselves two games behind a surprising AL East division leader, the Baltimore Orioles. Baltimore, always a perennial strong starter, has maintained their spot at or near the top of the American League East division for the first quarter of the regular season and appears prepared to defend their bid on the top spot. Baltimore ranks sixth in runs scored, fifth in slugging percentage, and eighth overall in team ERA at 3.48. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of the Tampa Bay Rays first quarter of the MLB season.
OF Matt Joyce continues to show that he is maturing as a regular starter in the majors. Joyce got off to a red hot start last season but cooled of as the season wound down. Joyce is off to another great start in a lineup which seriously needs his bat currently. Joyce leads the Rays with eight home runs and is batting .295 with an OPS of .951.
DH Luke Scott proves once again that the Rays front office knows how to acquire value players at a reasonable cost. Taking a chance with Luke Scott, the Rays risk has paid dividends in the first quarter of the season as Scott leads the Rays in RBI’s with 29.
RP Fernando Rodney- Say what you will about his askew hat, but Rodney has been a must needed boost to the Rays bullpen, filling the position of closer for the Rays while they await the return of Kyle Farnsworth off the DL. Once Farnsworth returns, he might face a serious challenge to unseat Rodney which has been a perfect 13 of 13 in save attempts with a 0.46 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and a 19 to 3 K to BB ratio.
Injuries. At the start of the month of May, it seemed as if the Rays were losing a player a day to injury. Tampa Bay has 3B Evan Longoria, OF Desmond Jennings, OF Sam Fuld, RP Kyle Farnsworth, among others, all on the disabled list. Longoria is slated to return at some point in June and Jennings could return as soon as May 27. Despite the injury bug biting the Rays, Tampa has been able to remain close to the top of the division.
Hitting in key situations. The Rays have been terrible hitting with runners in scoring position. Yes, the lineup has been decimated with key players spending time on the disabled list, but Tampa has been very bad hitting with RISP. Since May 5, the second game against the Oakland A’s, Tampa has gone 29 of 129 batting with RISP. In those 15 games, Tampa has posted a 6-9 overall record. 12 of those hits over the last few weeks came in a three-game set starting May 13 against Baltimore and then two games against the Toronto Blue Jays as the Rays went 12-41, all three games were wins. Removing those games from the equation and Tampa Bay has gone 3-9 and was 17 of 88 with RISP. The Rays have to get some power back into their lineup.
Tampa Bay has been able to overcome injury issues and find themselves at the one quarter mark two games out of the divisional lead and three and a half games ahead of the New York Yankees and four and a half ahead of the Boston Red Sox.
There is definite room for improvement for the Rays heading into the next quarter of the league, but given the injury issues the franchise has suffered so far, Tampa is hanging tough with a 25-17 overall record.