As the season keeps rolling along, the Tampa Bay Rays keep breaking personal records in this "break-out" season... but is it safe to say that they are for real? By getting rid of the "Devil" within their name, did they actually get rid of the Demon within their play?
Being in the AL East is no picnic to begin with as the team with the second lowest payroll (the Rays) competes with teams that are not afraid to spend some money. But, after an exciting sweep of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Rays are looking strong, young, relatively healthy, and holding their spot in 2nd place in the division.
Fast, strong, and young, the Rays are leading the league in stolen bases, 6th in Runs scored and Home Runs; but the stats don't stop there as the pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays is 5th in ERA, 4th in opponent batting average with James Shields leading the team with a 3.14 ERA, and leading the league in complete game shutouts with 2, early in the season.
Are the Rays good enough to act tough throughout the 162 game season? Only 36 games in, the Rays are 5 games above .500 which is the franchise record, and on the verge of winning their 10th straight home game tonight against the Yankees, which would be another franchise record. Who knows how long the Rays will hold their second place in the AL East, but this year breaks yet another franchise record for the Rays being 2nd place this late into the season.
Carl Crawford, who leads the league in runs scored (30) and fourth in stolen bases (12), told reporters after the 8-5 victory over the Angels which completed the 3-game sweep, "We feel like we're going to win every game right now... we know that's not possible, but we have the confidence to feel that way."
Confidence is key for the Rays as their rookie third basemen, Evan Longoria, keeps his rookie-of-the-year bid in sight. Longoria's walk off 2 run homerun against the Angels on Friday helped James Shields get his second complete game shutout (a 1-hitter to boot).
Heading into a 4-game series against the Yankees, a team that the Rays have never had too much success against, might just be the answer of how well the Rays can hold up against the AL East at the moment. However, The Rays' ace Scott Kazmir is coming off the DL and scheduled to play the fourth game against the Yankees which brightens the outlook of the series for the team in the sunshine state; but BJ Upton is still day-to-day (but we all know he won't want to sit against the Yanks).
Are the Rays actually the force they portray to be? Lots of questions fill the air around young teams that are doing better than predicted, and good teams that are doing poorly; but which teams are just pulling our chains early in this 2008 baseball season?