The Tampa Bay Rays have been the very best crew in Main League Baseball over the primary three months of the season. In July, they have been the second worst.
With 16 losses in 24 video games, it was their worst month since 2007, the yr earlier than they dropped the “Satan” from their moniker. Throughout this monthlong about-face, they went from main the American League East by 6.5 video games to trailing the upstart Baltimore Orioles by a recreation and a half.
But, within the ultimate hours earlier than Tuesday’s buying and selling deadline, there was no panic within the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium, the place Tampa Bay was on the point of play the second of three video games in opposition to the last-place Yankees. The Rays understood they have been by no means going to maintain up the quick tempo they carried by way of April, simply as they acknowledged they might not proceed to play as poorly as they did in July.
The Rays had simply withstood the nadir of their season, and so they nonetheless had the third finest document within the majors and held a four-game lead over the Houston Astros for the highest spot within the A.L. wild-card standings. As they noticed it, they have been in pretty fine condition.
“We consider that this group is a championship-caliber group. We consider that they’ve proven that to be the case this season, over the course of all the season,” Rays Common Supervisor Peter Bendix mentioned Tuesday night time. “And we consider that that’s the group transferring ahead that may take us the place we need to go.”
Tampa Bay has outscored its opponents by 142 runs this season, leading to an anticipated document of 69-41, three video games higher than the crew’s precise document. Baltimore’s run differential — plus-60 — signifies that crew would sometimes be 59-48. So a few of the hole between the groups could possibly be attributed to luck.
The largest downside for the Rays throughout their July swoon was their offense going chilly. After scoring 5.64 runs a recreation over the primary three months, they averaged 3.63 in July.
“We had eight or 9 guys all raking on the similar time to start out the yr,” mentioned Supervisor Kevin Money. “After which eight of the 9 stopped on the similar time.”
The bats seem like waking up once more. Over the previous week, the Rays have averaged 4.43 runs a recreation. Second baseman Brandon Lowe is batting .423 with 4 dwelling runs in his final seven video games. Third baseman Isaac Paredes has hit three of his team-leading 21 dwelling runs throughout the final 4 video games. And Randy Arozarena, the crew’s All-Star outfielder, broke an 0-for-26 slide with a two-run homer on Tuesday.
After Monday’s 5-1 win over the Yankees, outfielder Josh Lowe mentioned he felt the crew was getting its confidence and power again.
“It’s a 162-game season — guys get drained,” he mentioned. “All of us type of simply bought drained on the similar time. Nevertheless it’s time to select it up once more. I feel all of us realized that we’re getting right down to the wire a bit bit. It’s time to place it into gear and get taking part in some good baseball.”
That religion explains the method Tampa Bay took within the weeks main as much as the deadline. As an alternative of going all-in for the most important stars on the block, the Rays made a number of smaller strikes so as to add depth to the upper ranges of their farm system and reinforce their injury-depleted pitching employees.
“When you’ve a crew like we do, that we consider as a championship-level crew, you are feeling lots of urgency to make that crew higher — and also you even have possibly fewer areas which are apparent in which you’ll enhance,” Bendix mentioned. “We actually do consider within the high quality of this crew thus far.”
Starters Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen each went down with season-ending accidents earlier this yr, as did reliever Garrett Cleavinger. Josh Fleming has been out since early June with elbow irritation and isn’t notably near returning. Neither Andrew Kittredge, a reliever, nor Shane Baz, a younger starter, have pitched in any respect this season after having Tommy John surgical procedure final yr. An indirect pressure value Tyler Glasnow practically two months at the beginning of the season, and the crew’s ace left-hander, Shane McClanahan, missed the primary half of July with again tightness.
With all that in thoughts, the Rays made their most notable deadline deal on Monday once they acquired the right-handed starter Aaron Civale from the Cleveland Guardians for Kyle Manzardo, a 23-year-old first baseman who’s a consensus top-100 prospect within the minors.
Civale, 28, has quietly turn out to be one of many higher beginning pitchers in baseball over the previous yr and a half. Throughout 13 begins this season, he’s 5-2 with a 2.34 ERA. He doesn’t have overwhelming stuff — his fastball velocity sits within the low 90s — however he makes up for it by pounding the zone with a mix of cutters and curveballs and inducing weak contact. Importantly, he’s beneath membership management by way of the 2025 season. Having him round for extra than simply the subsequent few months made the Rays extra keen to half with a prospect of Manzardo’s expertise.
“I don’t assume we’ve ever had our prime 5 starters all wholesome on the similar time,” Erik Neader, Tampa Bay’s president of baseball operations, mentioned on a convention name on Monday. “This was the obvious want we had.”
Because the frenzy of deadline day picked up within the afternoon, the Rays’ gamers adopted alongside eagerly, although their pleasure had little to do with strikes they anticipated their entrance workplace to make. They knew a few of the different prime groups within the A.L. had traded for All-Stars and future Corridor of Famers, however they weren’t involved.
“We’re watching, however not in a aggressive manner,” mentioned Brandon Lowe. “We comply with as a result of all of us love baseball and it’s enjoyable to see what strikes groups make.”
He added: “We don’t want wholesale modifications.”
A couple of hours later, the Rays beat the Yankees, 5-2, for his or her third straight win and fifth in seven video games. They’re 1-0 in August.