For the first time in a while, the Tampa Bay Rays‘ success down the stretch may not be reliant their traditional strength in pitching.
After all, the team is only as good as its weakest link, and as they saw against the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday, their weak links of Roberto Hernandez (three runs on seven hits through five) and Kyle Farnsworth (three runs on four hits in 0.2) can do quite a number on the team’s chances to win ball games.
Instead, what they’re going to have to do is to mitigate that damage by scoring runs.
If their last few games are any indication, it’s Wil Myers who may end up making the key difference down the stretch. Yes, the Rays offense still lives and dies by Evan Longoria, but with Ben Zobrist slumping badly (236/.296/389 triple-slash in July), it’s been the youngster who has filled in as the other half of the 1-2 punch in the order and helped the team climb all the way back to be fighting for the division lead.
Currently on a five-game hitting streak, Myers has successfully recorded hits in seven of his last eight games — and all of them being of the multi-hit variety — going back before the All-Star game. Not only that, but he’s hit a pair of homers and three doubles over his last four contests (including the moonshot off Jon Lester on Tuesday), so it’s not like he’s just dropping singles here either.
And while a solo home run here and there aren’t always going to salvage three-run bullpen implosions, his .333/.366/.508 line through 63 at-bats in July has played a key role in the rapid rise of the Rays.
Myers’ 10 RBIs this month put him at a tie for second on the team in the month, and all you’d need to look at is the fact that his BB/K ratio has jumped from a poor 0.07 in July to a much more reasonable 0.29 in July to see that he’s smashed through his first major hurdle in acclimatizing himself with MLB pitching.
Sure, it’s just the first of the speed bumps, and pitchers will surely make adjustments to whatever is working for the young outfielder right now; but considering how well he’s already adjusted even with just 29 games of experience in his belt, that polished approach might just end up being the thing that makes the biggest difference for the Rays as they shift to being a more offense-reliant team in their playoff push.