The Rays finished the 2012 season with a record of 90-72 and although they did not make the post season they were not eliminated until the final series of the season. The 2012 season can best be described as a series of one frustrating setback after another. From the very first day of spring training the injury bug bit the team, the bats were inconsistent, and the teams defense was shaky.
This trio of ailments followed the Rays all season as they tried to find the antidote to rid themselves once and for all of these nasty viruses. It seemed the return of Evan Longoria was one part of the potion as they began to win with consistency after his return and posted 36-22 record over the final 2+ months of the season. Along the way there were a number of great games and fantastic finishes.
The favorite game of each of the Game of the Month series have been compiled below to be voted on as the Rays Game of the Year. Watching the video clips and remembering each of these games makes me thankful for the baseball season even through all the ups and downs.
Rays Game of the Month: April - Rays finish the month with a record of 15-8 but lose Evan Longoria to a hamstring injury in their last game of the month.
The favorite game of the month of April was the 7-6 Opening Day victory over the New York Yankees. The game was highlighted by a Carlos Pena grand slam in his first plate appearance and he capped his return to Tampa off by delivering a walkoff single off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.
Rays Game of the Month: May - In their first month without Evan Longoria the Rays finished with a record of 14-14. The injury bug continued to bite the team as Desmond Jennings, Jeff Keppinger, Brandon Guyer, and Jeff Niemann joined Longoria on the disabled list.
The favorite game of the month of May was the May 27th 4-3 Rays victory over the Boston Red Sox. The Rays had lost the previous game as Jared Saltalamacchia delivered a 2-run walkoff homer off Fernando Rodney to give the Red Sox a 3-2 win. On Sunday, Sean Rodriguez stepped to the plate with the Rays trailing 3-2 and delivered a 2-run homer of his own to give the Rays a 4-3 lead. Fernando Rodney came in to work the bottom of the ninth, including a rematch with Saltalamacchia, to close the door.
Rays Game of the Month: June - June was the Rays worst month of the year as they finished with a 12-15 record. Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Joyce were added to the ever growing number of Rays players to wind up on the disabled list and Joel Peralta missed 8 games after being caught with pine tar in his glove against the Nationals.
The favorite game of month of June was the 2nd game of a June 24th doubleheader against Cliff Lee and the Phillies. David Price out dueled Cole Hamels for a 3-2 Rays victory in game 1 but the Rays turned to a mosaic of pitchers to take on Cliff Lee in game 2. Cesar Ramos started and was followed by Brandon Gomes and Wade Davis. The trio each gave 2.2 innings of work and the Rays offense provided 3 early runs in the 2nd and 2 more in the 6th and 8th innings. J.P. Howell came in to work a scoreless ninth to preserve a Rays doubleheader sweep over Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.
Rays Game of the Month: July - The Rays continued to wallow in mediocrity through the month of July and finished the month with a record of 13-13.
The favorite game of the month of July was the Rays comeback victory of Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez on July 8th, the final day of the first half, as the Rays defeated the Indians 7-6. Chris Perez hadn't blown a save opportunity since opening day and was handed a 6-4 lead and had the Rays had Jose Lobaton, Will Rhymes, and Elliot Johnson due up. Will Rhymes surprised Perez with a solo homer to bring the Rays to within 6-5 and Carlos Pena tripled by a diving Michael Brantley to bring Elliot Johnson who had singled around from first to tie the game at 6-6. Pena came home on a Ben Zobrist single to give the Rays a 7-6 lead. Fernando Rodney came in to retire the Indians and earn his 25th save of the year.
Rays Game of the Month: August - With the much needed return of Evan Longoria to the lineup and a pitching staff that was clicking on all cylinders the Rays began the month 16-5 but ended but fell off losing 6 of their last 7 to finish the month 17-11.
The favorite game of the month of August was the August 18th 10-8 Rays victory. Alex Cobb was battered by the Angels allowing 8 runs on 12 hits in 2.2 innings of work. The chances of winning when trailing 8-0 are slim enough without factoring in Rays nemesis C.J. Wilson on the mound but the Rays battled back and knocked Wilson out of the game in the 5th inning with a 7 spot capped off by a 2-run homer off the bat of Evan Longoria. The Rays tied the game at 8-8 on a Jose Lobaton sacrifice fly in the 6th inning and took a 10-8 lead on a Carlos Pena homer in the 8th. Fernando Rodney came in to work the 9th and earn his 38th save on the year and complete the Rays largest comeback in franchise history.
Rays Game of the Month: September/October - The Rays finished September/October with a record of 19-11. After going 17-10 in September they pulled to within 3 games of the wild card as the Orioles came to Tropicana Field for a 3 game series but their playoff push was no longer in their control. When the Oakland A's beat the Texas Rangers on October 1st the Rays season came to an end and after taking 2 out of 3 from the Orioles the Rays finished the year with an overall record of 90-72.
The favorite game of the month of September was the Rays 1-0 loss to the Baltimore Orioles but James Shields delivered what may be the most impressive game in Rays history. The numbers tell the story. James Shields strikes out 15, walks none, only needs 106 pitches, and only faces 29 hitters. His only mistake on the evening was changeup that Chris Davis hit for a home run.