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Friday, Jul 25, 2014
Rays

Rays Beat: First half anything but one to remember

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— The Rays reached the midpoint of the season Friday with their worst record through 81 games since 2007, the last year they were known as the Devil Rays, with both teams checking in at 33-48.

And wouldn’t you know it, the scoreboard at Camden Yards listed the visiting team as the “Tampa Bay Devil Rays” during the first game of the day/night doubleheader.

Ouch.

But hey, if the name fits, right?

The Rays finished the first half of the season 15 games under .500 and with the worst record in the major leagues.

They needed all five runs in the 5-2 win against the Orioles to reach 300 for the season, and that tied them with the 1998 squad — the first in team history — for the fewest runs through the first 81 games. Only the 2003 team (55) hit fewer home runs during the first half of the season than this team (58).

The first three months fail to qualify as an offensive clinic. From May 31-June 20, the Rays hit .129 with runners in scoring position, a slump that included streaks of 0-for-34 and 0-for-21.

Evan Longoria leads the team in home runs with 10. Ten.

Ben Zobrist, who has one hit in his past 40 at-bats with a runner in scoring position, has only 16 RBIs, the second fewest in the majors among players with at least 250 at-bats. Matt Joyce hasn’t homered since May 11. Wil Myers was hitting .227 with only five homers at the time of his injury and four of those homers came against the Yankees.

“It’s not about the effort,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s about the performance.”

We know what’s gone wrong with this team. What has gone right? Anything?

Maddon was asked that question Friday morning, and he took a few moments to come up with some answers.

David Price is at the top of his game.

Chris Archer displays the consistency needed to be successful at this level.

Jake Odorizzi is developing into a major-league pitcher.

Brad Boxberger is a nice addition to the bullpen. Jake McGee is pitching at an all-star level.

On the offensive side, there’s ... Brandon Guyer and Kevin Kiermaier. Both are taking advantage of playing time created by injuries.

“The rest of the guys, for the most part, have not been achieving to the point they are capable of,” Maddon said.

Maddon raved about Boxberger in spring training and the righty acquired from the Padres in the offseason has, for the most part, lived up to Maddon’s lofty billing. While Boxberger does give up home runs — six in 271⁄3 innings — he also overpowers a lineup, striking out 44 batters this season.

“I think he’s been a very interesting addition to your group right now,” Maddon said.

Kiermaier could provide the spark this offense needs if the rest of the bats would come around. The same can be said for Guyer, whose season was interrupted by yet another trip to the disabled list.

“I think Guyer’s opportunity is turning him into a major-league baseball player,” Maddon said.

It didn’t take much time for Maddon to go through the list of what has gone right this season.

In fact, Maddon spent more time during his pregame media session talking about playing a tripleheader in 1980 in Sturgis, S.D., when he was a player/coach for the semipro Boulder (Colorado) Collegians and how they made the drive to Sturgis in a beat-up Pontiac with a bad exhaust system and how they stayed a night in Deadwood, S.D., along the way and how he met a parrot named Shemp at a bar and how Shemp performed tricks, including walking on a wire over a small bed of nails and how someone at the bar screamed, “Don’t do it, Shemp!” Maddon still laughs at that memory and how they were scheduled to play three straight doubleheaders but one was rained out and how the Collegians won all three games of the triple dip and how he caught the final game and how he worked doing odd jobs for team owner Bauldie Moschetti and how the checks bounced and ...

Yeah, it was that kind of a first half for the Rays.

 

rmooney@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7227

Twitter: @RMooneyTBO

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