Can Rays hold onto their division lead?

by Gary Shelton on July 14, 2023

in general

Can Cash keep his team on top?/TIM WIRT

Friday, 4 a.m.

Everybody golfed out?

Everyone rested?

Anyone ready to play a littlemore baseball?

So here we are, kind of at the halfway point (actually, the team has played 93 of its 162 games), and still in first place. Granted, that hold isn’t quite as firm as it has been after a 1-7 start to July, but first place beats the other options, doesn’t it?

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The thing is, first has felt a lot more secure for most of the season, hasn’t it? But as the summer wore on, the injuries started to catch up to the Rays, and the power fluctuated, and some decent pitching performances were wasted. Think about this: The Rays were 23-6 at the end of May; they’re 36-29 since then.

And so it is easy to wonder if the Rays can hold on.

It’s a dicey question, given the division they are in. Baltimore (two games back) is a very good team on the rise.  Toronto is loaded with talent. The Yankees are dangerous. And even the Red Sox have a winning record.

Then, there is this nasty habit the Rays have of breaking their toys.

Heck, if Jeffrey Springs wasn’t lost for the year, and Drew Rasmussen with him, and if Shane McClanahan hadn’t had recent back troubles, it’s easy to say the Rays’ lead would be bigger. There are too many games where the Rays try a bullpen day, and one of their five-six pitchers just doesn’t have it.

Still, a team has what it has. Frankly, they’re about 10 wins ahead of where I figured they would be.

That said, June arrived with a general slide by the Rays. Consider. At the end of May, Wander Franco was hitting .298; he’s hit .242 since. Randy Arozarena was at .297; he’s at .250 since. Josh Lowe was at .304; since then, he’s at .229. Taylor Walls was at .246; sinve then, he’s at .167..

In another division? Heck, if the Rays played in the AL Central, they’d have an 11 1/2 game lead despite their skid. But they don’t.

Yeah, someone might catch them. Someone might pass them.

Then again, maybe the offense gets hot again. Maybe Taj Bradley develops a killer instinct. Maybe this team has surprises to come.

Stay tuned.

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