The Tampa Bay Rays opened up their important weekend series against the Baltimore Orioles with a win last night. Rays starter Chris Archer threw a gem in only his second major league start, keeping the potent Orioles lineup at bay. The Rays have been treading the water this season so far, not playing particularly well, but well enough to stay in reach of the division lead.
In Tampa Bay’s defense, they’ve played a lot of games on the road that will take its toll on such a young club, and you can’t necessarily blame them for being a little weary. That being said, they now get to play 10-straight games at home (and 26 of their next 36 at home), and it is crucial they take advantage of it. The Rays have a real chance of heading into the All-Star break with the division lead if they capitalize on this opportunity.
For a team that relies so heavily on it’s pitching staff, the Rays need them to perform now more than ever. They’re not going to be putting up big numbers in the scoring column on a nightly basis, but their pitching staff is capable of putting together an impressive streak of quality starts.
An area that’s been letting the Rays down has been the bullpen. The starters on this team are typically throwing high-pressure innings every time they go out there since the offense doesn’t open games up often, so they need the bullpen to do its job when they come in. Fernando Rodney’s struggles are well known, and the entire bullpen has the third-worst ERA in the American League.
The Rays do have some bats that can really heat up and lift the team offensively, and they’ll need them to make the playoffs. In a wide-open AL East, the Rays have a great opportunity in this home stand to take the division.