ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays don’t care where the victories come from these days. American League, National League, it doesn’t matter to them. They are equal opportunists in their success, the results consistent.
The Arizona Diamondbacks’ arrival at Tropicana Field, however, allows a chance to revisit how they have toyed with National League opponents this season. After a 5-2 victory Tuesday night, they are 10-1 in interleague play (6-0 at home), the majors’ best record. They have won nine consecutive games against interleague foes, and with nine to come against NL West opponents, the schedule ahead looks kind.
“We’re just trying to beat everybody right now,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We have played well against the National League so far this year. I want to see that trend continue.”
The current stretch is the Rays’ last against the NL this season. Their only loss against the Colorado Rockies (three games), San Diego Padres (three), Miami Marlins (four) and Diamondbacks (one) was a 9-3 defeat to Colorado on May 4 at Coors Field.
A productive offense has been a major reason for the streak against NL teams. The Rays entered Tuesday averaging 6.1 runs per game in interleague play, the highest in the majors.
That trend continued Tuesday. The Rays smacked right-hander Ian Kennedy for three runs and six hits in five innings. Overall, the five runs produced were more than enough for Tampa Bay right-hander Roberto Hernandez, who threw the Rays’ seventh complete game this month.
“I can’t remember another one, put it that way,” Rays catcher Jose Molina said, when asked if he has seen a better stretch by a starting rotation. “It’s fun to catch these guys when they’re on a roll, and hopefully they continue all the way to October.”
How long this roll will last remains to be seen, but there’s a fair chance it will extend through the early weeks of August. The Rays close out their short series with Arizona on Wednesday before inviting the last-place San Francisco Giants to Tropicana Field for three games. Then starting Aug. 6, they travel to Arizona for two games before finishing the NL West road trip against the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers from Aug. 9-11.
This is a favorable way to close July. The Rays are 21-4 in the month, and they entered play Tuesday posting the best July for a major league team since the 1941 Yankees went 25-4.
“Our team is getting along great,” said Wil Myers, who went 1 for 2 on Tuesday. “It’s fun in the clubhouse. We’re doing everything we need to do. We’re pitching well, we’re hitting well, we’re getting timely hitting. Our bullpen is coming in and shutting the door. Right now, it’s just a lot of fun here.”
Tampa Bay is blind when it comes to fun in its current run. The Diamondbacks represent the latest team in the way.
AL, NL, right now, it’s all the same: The Rays keep seeing W’s at the end of the day.
“It would be nice,” Maddon said, “to keep this kind of trek in tact.”