With the 2018 MLB season coming to a close today, September 30, it is time to take a look back and see how the Tampa Bay Rays did.
It was not a season where the Rays were expected to do anything but compete for the worst record in the league, especially after the offseason the team had. Trading away their franchise icon Evan Longoria, along with a number of other cost cutting maneuvers sent the signal to the league that the Rays were waiving the white flag on the season, that the team was not going to be a contender. It was going to be a long year for the fans of Tampa Bay. Boy how we were wrong.
It started with a record of 13-14 at the end of April. The team had a rough start, going 1-7 in their first eight games, but gathered momentum to end the all-star break at 49-47.
That momentum grew from two main sources. One is traditional, the other decidedly not.
Rookie Jake Bauers filled a hole when he was called up to the majors in early June. A 22-year-old first baseman, Bauers was an upgrade at the position and has turned into a potential cornerstone for years to come. Combine that with a healthy Matt Duffy, who finally fulfilled some of his promising talent replacing the traded Longoria at third base, as well as the arrival of Tommy Pham in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals, giving the Rays a solid offense.
In terms of pitching, the Rays dealt away their Ace Chris Archer at the trade deadline. This was just one of the ways the team changed up their staff. Mid May saw them tinker with the idea of using what they call an “opener,” a relief pitcher to start the game. The opener only pitched for one, maybe two innings, much like a closing pitcher would do to end the game. Using this method, the Rays have been on fire for the last two months, going 21-13 from August through September 19. Combine that with Blake Snell turning into a dominant force on the mound and the Rays had hope deep into the season.
Finishing the season with a record of 90-72, the Rays end up 18 games behind the AL East champion Boston Red Sox, and seven games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second wild card spot. This means the Rays missed out on the playoffs for the fifth straight season, but they go into the offseason with plenty of promise. This is the first winning season for the Rays since 2013, when they finished 92-70 with a wild card spot. With the youth and promise here in Tampa Bay, if the Rays add one or two pieces, we might be seeing October baseball in Tampa Bay again.