Will Tampa Bay Rays Win AL East?

By Brandon Medeiros
Tampa Bay Rays
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays are currently in first place in the AL East with a 63-43 record and continue to roll as they have won 17 of their last 20 games.

Their success is due to some surprising production from the unlikeliest of candidates. Matt Moore and James Loney are just two names that have been performing well above par this season as they have led the production for Tampa Bay.

Moore is pitching Cy Young-calibre baseball with a 14-3 record and a 3.41 ERA. After having a sub-par season last year with an 11-11 record and an undesirable 3.84 ERA, the 24-year-old has been showing his true potential and is possibly the ace of the rotation considering David Price‘s early-season struggles.

Loney has been turning heads with his offensive performance this season as he is batting .317 with 10 HRs and 50 RBIs. Despite having a forgettable, mediocre season last year, Loney’s future with the Rays seems bright.

Despite all their current success, the question is will the Rays be able to win their division?

Being in a tough AL East with the likes of the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles, the Rays were struggling all season long as they found themselves continually in the middle of the hump before their recent surge. But the Sox bats have cooled off, and Baltimore’s pitching has shown some flaws.

Also, the New York Yankees, having been plagued by injuries all year long with a 55-50 record, may find themselves missing the postseason for the first time since 1995. The last full season in which the Yankees didn’t reach the playoffs was 1993 (the 1994 season was interrupted by a strike that canceled the World Series).

With Boston only a half game back, they may be the only serious threat that Tampa Bay has of losing their spot on top of the division. The Red Sox have once again proved the doubters wrong this season as they flaunt an impressive 63-44 record after being projected to be bottom-feeders in the division.

With the Orioles five games out of first, Tampa Bay can’t let their guard down.

Anything can happen with the unpredictable second half of the season in full swing. For their sake, the Rays had better hope that players like Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist begin to come around, as this season hasn’t been too kind to them.

Longoria is batting .278 with 21 HRs and 58 RBIs. Though the power numbers have been there, the average has been in a steady decline throughout the season. Zobrist has struggled to get the average over .300. He is currently batting .268 with 7 HRs and 49 RBIs. Though he is starting to heat up (10-for-33 in his last eight game), he has been unreliable at the plate with his defense being the only consistent positive.

If the Rays can continue to stay hot, then they may have a bright postseason ahead of them. If players like Longoria and Zobrist begin to heat up, then the Rays could solidify themselves as serious contenders in the Fall Classic.

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