The change of view is nice, right? The Tampa Bay Rays awoke Monday morning no longer the American League East’s worst team. The distinction now belongs to the Boston Red Sox, who resemble more shell than shadow of the 2013 World Series champion.
Isn’t it about time?
The Rays, to be frank, have looked far from the division’s worst bunch for much of the past 10 days. To recap the gains made in Baltimore, New York and Detroit: Nine victories in 11 games, five games with at least six runs, seven games in which they surrendered three runs or fewer, a five-game winning streak from June 28-July 2.
A climb remains, of course. But an 8½-game deficit to the Baltimore Orioles looks less daunting than the task facing the then-reeling Rays before they embarked on their most recent road trip. Six games at home are left before the All-Star break — three against the Kansas City Royals and three against the Toronto Blue Jays — and more ground can be gained between them and the top of the division, which appears strangely average this late into the year.
Remember the last time we saw Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field? Remember the 5-5 homestand from June 16-25? Remember the doubts that they could beat anyone not wearing a Houston Astros uniform? Remember when left-hander David Price’s start on June 25 against the Pittsburgh Pirates was more "farewell" than "see you soon"?
Well, hello again. Life has become more interesting with a different perspective in the standings.
Here’s a look at the upcoming Rays-Royals series …
Eric Hosmer (Royals): He hit .375 (9 for 24) with two RBI in six games from June 30-July 6. He had one multi-hit game in the span, a 4 for 4 day in a loss to the Minnesota Twins on July 1. He has hit .254 with four home runs and 37 RBI this season.
Desmond Jennings (Rays): He hit .400 (12 for 30) with one home run and three RBI in seven games from June 30-July 6. He had four multi-hit games in the span, including two with three hits each on July 4 and July 6. He has hit .252 with eight home runs and 24 RBI this season.
Alex Gordon (Royals): He hit .105 (2 for 19) with two strikeouts in five games from June 30-July 5. He went hitless in three consecutive contests from July 1-4. He has hit .263 with nine home runs and 42 RBI this season.
Matt Joyce (Rays): He hit .238 (5 for 21) with eight strikeouts in five games from June 30-July 6. He went hitless once in the span, in a loss to the Detroit Tigers on July 3. He has hit .271 with seven home runs and 36 RBI this season.
51: Strikeouts for reliever Brad Boxberger this season, after he totaled three in two innings during the Rays’ 6-3 victory over the Tigers on Friday at Comerica Park. He hasn’t allowed an earned run since surrendering one on June 27 against the Orioles.
4: No-hit innings for Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez, before the Rays tagged him for seven runs and six hits in his 5 2/3-inning outing during Tampa Bay’s 7-2 victory on Saturday at Comerica Park. The Rays outhit the Tigers 11-6 in the win.
39: Consecutive days the Rays held last place in the AL East, before beating the Tigers 7-3 on Sunday at Comerica Park. With the victory, Tampa Bay passed Boston for fourth place in the division.
"We hit Victor, yes. Totally accident, he pulls a fastball. Then they intentionally hit Longo. We’re not going to reciprocate right there. We’re not, it’s over. We’re good. But then this whole other thing ensues." — Manager Joe Maddon, after he was ejected in the Rays’ victory Friday. Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez and Evan Longoria were all plunked in the game.
"There was 25 outs that I did get, and those are the ones that I’m going to focus on." — Right-hander Chris Archer, after he allowed two runs, six hits and struck out four in 8 1/3 innings during the Rays’ victory Saturday. He called it his best performance of the season.
"I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that many hard-hit balls turned into outs off a starter." — Price, after he allowed three runs, seven hits and struck out six in 8 2/3 innings during the Rays’ victory Sunday. He lasted at least eight innings for the fifth time in six starts from June 9-July 6.