Home Series No. 18 Preview: Cubs vs. Rays
(Photo by Marilyn Indahl/Getty)
After making the postseason with a young and talented nucleus in 2013, the Rays got off to a terrible start this year before rebounding around the trade deadline. But even with their improved play of late, they still sit four games under .500 and 10 games back in the AL East entering the series with the Cubs. A combination of injuries, underperformance, and plain old bad luck has left Tampa Bay looking more like the team that was consistently among the worst in the game for a decade than the last few seasons’ perennial playoff contenders. However, unlike previous struggling Tampa teams, the 2014 Rays had actual assets to sell off at the deadline. The Rays rotation took a big hit last month when the team moved longtime ace and former Cy Young winner David Price to Detroit.
(3.9 RA/G, 5TH IN AL)
The Rays’ real strength this season lies on the mound. Things haven’t gone as expected, but with a core of former Cub, and Friday starter, Chris Archer, Alex Cobb (Saturday) and Jake Odorizzi (Sunday), the future of the pitching staff appears sound. Add to that a healthy Jeremy Hellickson, and Matt Moore, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and there is plenty of hope for the Rays to bounce back strong in 2015. Grant Balfour’s struggles in the closer role have just added to the list of things that haven’t gone right for Tampa Bay in 2014. Jake McGee has recently taken over that role.
(3.9 RS/G, 12TH IN AL)
Tampa Bay’s offense has never been a world beater, but this year it has been particularly poor. Wil Myers has been hurt, but even when healthy, he hasn’t lived up to the hype that accompanies being a reigning Rookie of the Year. And Desmond Jennings is in the same boat. For some reason, the Rays consistently struggle to develop their own hitters. Perennial MVP candidate Evan Longoria has proven to be the exception to that rule, but even he has been unspectacular this year. Ben Zobrist has provided his valuable versatility in the field along with a solid hit tool, and Matt Joyce has been one of the Rays’ best offensive weapons. James Loney continues to hit better with Tampa than he did with the Dodgers, but the Rays’ offense is still something less than formidable.