The Rays finished the month of April with a 15-8 record but lost Evan Longoria to a partially torn hamstring on April 30th.
There was a moment of hope that the loss of Longoria wouldn't be the huge negative that it ended up being as the Rays won their first four games without him before tailing off to struggle the rest of the month dropping 14 of the next 24 to finish the month of May with a record of 14-14. They ended the month with an overall record of 29-22 and were tied with the Baltimore Orioles (don't worry they'll fade) for first place in the AL East.
The month of May ended with all 5 AL East teams above .500 and separated by only 3 games for the first time since realignment in 1994 and only the second time all 5 teams were above .500 this late in the season since June 10, 2008.
The story of the month of May was the injuries and the players that suddenly appeared in the Rays lineup. The month began with Evan Longoria being placed on the disabled list and Will Rhymes being added to the roster. On May 10th Brandon Guyer's (who had come up to replace Jeff Keppinger who was on the restricted list for a family issue) roster spot was secured when Brandon Allen was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right quad.
The normally roster savvy Rays dropped the ball when handling an injury to Desmond Jennings. On May 5th he scored on a head first slide at home plate in the first inning against the A's and had to leave the game with left knee soreness. Jennings went on to pinch hit on May 6, May 9, and May 11th and wasn't placed in the disabled list until May 14th. He was replaced on the roster by Stephen Vogt.
Jeff Niemann was placed on the disabled list on May 15th after he was hit by a line drive resulting in a broken right fibula. Josh Leuke came up until Niemann's next start was due and then Alex Cobb took his spot in the Rays rotation.
On May 16th the Rays traded minor league outfielder Kyle Hudson to the Phillies in exchange for minor league outfielder Rich Thompson (great story about Thompson by Bradley Woodrum: Rich Thompson and the MLB Dream) who was placed on the active roster to take the place of Brandon Guyer who was placed on the 15 day disabled list with a left shoulder strain. For Guyer nothing went right in 2012. It was his SUV that Matt Bush was driving when he went on his binge resulting in nearly killing a motorcycle rider and Guyer's season ended when it was announced on May 29th that he would have season ending shoulder surgery.
During a game against the Atlanta Braves on May 19th Jeff Keppinger was sitting in the dugout when he was struck in the foot by a foul ball resulting in a broken right toe. He was placed on the disabled list on May 21st and to take his place on the roster the Rays traded for Drew Sutton. It was an odd day for Sutton as he was dealt earlier in the day from the Atlanta Braves to the Pittsburgh Pirates and was on his way to join the Pirates AAA club when he received a call to change his flight and he was going to the big leagues.
One of the other interesting stories in the month of May was the recall of Hideki Matsui to the Rays on May 29th. His arrival was met with applause as he launched a 2-run homer in his second plate appearance with the Rays.
For the second year in a row Matt Joyce played the role of Rays den mother posting an impressive May slash line of .282/.425/.482 with a team leading wRC+ of 158 and wOBA of .397.
James Shields set a team record for the month of May with 46 strike outs in the month of May and the Rays pitching staff struck out 244 batters setting the record for the highest monthly total in team history.
Fernando Rodney tied Rafael Soriano (2010) and Troy Percival (2008) for most saves in the month of May with 9.
Check out the Game of the Month April. Now, let's take a look at the memorable games in the month of May.
May 2nd: Shields battles and bullpen slams door as Rays beat the Mariners 5-4
James Shields threw 38 pitches and gave up 3 runs in the first inning to the Seattle Mariners. The Rays battled back on a 2-run homer by Sean Rodriguez in the 3rd. Jose Molina doubled home 2 runs in the fourth inning to put the Rays ahead 4-3. Kyle Seager hit a leadoff homer in the top of the 6th to tie the game at 4-4 but Luke Scott led off the bottom of the inning with a solo homer of his own to put the Rays ahead. J.P Howell worked a scoreless inning, Wade Davis worked 1/3 of an inning and Joel Peralta came in to get the final 5 outs.
May 13th: Rays hold off pesky Orioles 9-8 in rare slugfest
The game looked like it was in hand after the Rays took a 7-1 lead into the 6th inning and had James Shields on the mound. The Orioles put up 3 runs in the bottom of the 6th including a 2-run homer off the bat of Matt Wieters to cut the Rays lead to 7-4. In the bottom of the 7th inning the "replacement level defense" showed up when Will Rhymes failed to turn a tailor made double play leading to the end of Shields day.
Burke Badenhop got a groundball back to the mound but the Rays were unable to turn the double play. Jake McGee came in with runners at first and third and gave up a 2-run double to Nick Markakis to cut the lead to 7-6. The Rays got two insurance runs in the top of the eighth thanks to back to back homers by Ben Zobrist and Elliot Johnson to push the lead to 9-6. In the bottom of the 8th Joel Peralta came in and faced Nick Johnson and for the second day in a row gave up a homer to cut the lead to 9-7. Even Fernando Rodney was touched for a run to cut the lead to 9--8 and had the tying run at 3rd and winning run at 2nd but Sean Rodriguez made amends for a poor throw earlier in the inning by making a nice stop on a hard grounder and firing a bullet to first to end the game.
May 16th: Hellickson and Rays bullpen sytmie Red Sox offense en route to 2-1 victory
Jeremy Hellickson worked the first 6 innings allowing only 1R/ER on 5 hits while striking out 6 and walking 2. He was followed to the mound by Jake McGee, Joel Peralta, and Fernando Rodney who delivered 3 scoreless innings. The game featured a few odd moments including the Red Sox pitchers committing 3 balks - one of which led to one of the Rays runs and a scary moment after Will Rhymes fainted after arriving at first base after getting hit by a 95 mph fastball in the wrist.
May 27th: Sean Rodriguez crushes homer to give Rays 4-3 victory over the Red Sox
One day after Jared Saltalamacchia delivered a walk-off home run off closer Fernando Rodney Sean Rodriguez returned the favor. Rodriguez came to the plate in the top of the ninth with 1-out, Ben Zobrist at 1st, and Alfredo Aceves on the mound. Aceves fell behind 3-1 and tried to push a fastball by Rodriguez who turned on it and lined it over the monster and out of Fenway Park to put the Rays ahead 4-3. Fernando Rodney came in to retire the side, including Jared Saltalamacchia, to end the game.