After a quirky road trip in which the Rays found their groove, Tampa Bay aims to build on the momentum in a three-game series at home against the Baltimore Orioles.
Tampa Bay wrapped up a 10-game road trip with wins in four of its last five contests.
Robert Deutsch / USA TODAY Sports
By Andrew Astleford
Manager Joe Maddon called it one of the Tampa Bay Rays' best road trips ever. There have been so many trips in his nine seasons with the team that it's hard to judge.
Certainly, there have been more glamorous and successful trips. But the most recent 5-5 trip against the Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees may go down as one of the quirkiest and most important when we review this season next fall.
A .500 record over 10 games may not seem like a big deal. Playing .500 baseball doesn't advance a team into the playoffs, after all. It doesn't make a team elite. It doesn't make a team memorable.
Still, there was something about this 5-5 trip that was different. It started off in an awful way for the Rays with losses in four of their first five games against the White Sox and Red Sox. Then they were forced to play a day-night doubleheader at Fenway Park, in part, because of some weird storage issue with Dustin Pedroia bobbleheads. (Does anyone believe that?)
Still, the Rays persevered. They rallied to win four of the next five games, a run that included a sweep of the Red Sox in the May 1 doubleheader. Grant Balfour found his groove again. The bullpen found second and third winds. The offense found a spark and scored at least five runs in three of the victories at Boston and New York.
The talk about the Rays would be much different if they hadn't rallied to make the trip bearable. The narrative going into a six-game homestand against the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians would be something like, "The Rays' April problems have carried into May. When will they snap out of it?"
That's not the case. It's way too early to gain anything meaningful from the standings. But a quick glance shows the Rays are in good shape. At 15-17, they only trail the Orioles at the top of the American League East by 1 1/2 games. They were 14-16 going into play on May 6 last year.
Baseball is a collection is moments, and there's a chance we'll point to the most recent trip if the Rays rally for another postseason berth. Perhaps we'll say that's where chemistry began to form. Perhaps it will become a landmark of sorts. Then again, perhaps it will be forgotten more than we realize now.
Whatever the outcome, it was different. You can say that much. One of the best road trips ever? Maybe someday, it will prove to be just that.
Here's a look at the upcoming Orioles-Rays series:
May 7 (Sun Sports -- pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.) Bud Norris (2-2, 3.94 ERA) vs. Cesar Ramos (1-1, 2.91 ERA)
May 8 (Sun Sports -- pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.) Ubaldo Jimenez (1-4, 5.19 ERA) vs. David Price (3-2, 4.44 ERA)
Nelson Cruz (Orioles): He hit .333 (7 for 21) with two home runs and four RBI in five games from May 1-4. He hit safely in six consecutive games from April 27-May 4. He has hit .294 with nine home runs and 29 RBI this season.
Desmond Jennings (Rays): He hit .355 (11 for 31) with three home runs and three RBI in seven games from April 28-May 4. He hit safely in each game during the span. He has hit .294 with four home runs and 10 RBI this season.
Jonathan Schoop (Orioles): He hit .167 (2 for 12) with two strikeouts in five games from May 1-4. He went hitless in three games during the span. He has hit .231 with two home runs and 10 RBI this season.
Ben Zobrist (Rays): He hit .111 (3 for 27) with eight strikeouts in six games from April 28-May 4. He went hitless in four games during the span. He has hit .268 with three home runs and eight RBI this season.
0: Hits allowed by Rays pitching against Derek Jeter in his seven at-bats during Tampa Bay's 10-5 victory over New York in 14 innings on Friday at Yankee Stadium. It was the first time Jeter went 0 for 7.
4 for 8: Stat line for Yankees hitters against right-hander Jake Odorizzi after the pitcher retired the first nine New York batters in order during Tampa Bay's 9-3 loss Saturday at Yankee Stadium. Opponents are batting .140 (7 for 50) the first time through the order against Odorizzi, .442 (19 for 43) the second and .500 (9 for 18) the third.
7.27: ERA for reliever Heath Bell before he was designated for assignment Sunday. A three-time All-Star, he was gained as part of a three-time trade between the Rays, Arizona Diamondbacks and Cincinnati Reds in December.
"How many innings was that?" -- Maddon after the Rays' victory over the Yankees on Friday at Yankee Stadium. The 14-inning game lasted five hours, 49 minutes.
"He just grinded it out. He was a little frustrated with himself at times. You could tell. And he just kept working through it." -- Joyce, an outfielder, after right-hander Masahiro Tanaka held the Rays to three runs and eight hits in seven innings during New York's 9-3 victory Saturday at Yankee Stadium. Tanaka struck out five in his first meeting against Tampa Bay.
"Off the bat, I thought it was gone. Wasn't stoppin'. Wasn't stoppin'." -- Outfielder Wil Myers after he hit an inside-the-park home run in the third inning off left-hander CC Sabathia during the Rays' 5-1 victory over the Yankees on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. The hit was part of his 2-for-5 day with four RBI.