Sunday’s loss was probably the most painful of the season. Given the big lead, the opponent and location (Red Sox at Fenway), and the fact that it pushed the losing streak to eight, this felt a bit like the straw that broke the camel’s back. And we’re less than ten games into the season.
Of course, many Rays fans are not thinking about October just yet -- we just want to see another W sometime this season and hug our loved ones.
But can we step back a minute and try to gain some perspective? Sunday’s game, despite its dispiriting end, had some definite positives. The offense looked the best it has all season, with the move from big-bopper to contact-friendly finally looking like it could pay off. The Rays scored in six of the first seven innings. When was the last time that happened?
The bullpen day also had another entry into the (rather empty) “Success” bin for the 2018 season. Yonny Chirinos and Ryan Yarbrough are quickly becoming fan favorites. We had joked about TBD emerging as our best starter, but we’re not laughing about that now.
The fact that the Rays now sit at 0-5 in one-run games is both depressing as all get-out, and very intriguing. Does this mean the Rays are destined to another season of underperforming their third-order winning percentage? Could it possibly be the case that the bullpen having to start games is wearing them out later in games? Is this merely bad luck, and the Rays will end the year right around .500 in these games? There are just so many more questions than answers in that regard at the moment.
My biggest takeaway from Sunday: Thank god we’re done with the Red Sox and Yankees for a minute (although we somehow face Boston again before the end of the month). Next up for the Rays are the White Sox, Phillies, and Rangers. No shade to that trio, but the Sox and Yankees look like the two of the top five teams in baseball right now. Playing literally anyone other than them should be nice. It should also give us a much better feel for where this season is headed. Is a wild card chase not out of the question, after all, or is it time to start scouting the top of this year’s draft class?
My second biggest takeaway from Sunday: It may be time to start debating different options at the closer’s spot. Yes, we are talking about the most minute of sample sizes; yes, every team doesn’t love their closer; yes, Colome’s velocity was back to normal on Sunday.
Still, when you bring on your closer and the entire fanbase immediately gets heart palpitations and reaches for the Xanax, it’s not a good sign. I have long been a proponent of Jose Alvarado of the closer of the future, and while I realize that he is simply not going to take over while Colome is on the roster because of the salary implications and what that would do to Colome’s trade value, you know what else is going to hurt Colome’s trade value? Opposing scouts having eyeballs and watching Colome pitch. There couldn’t be a lower time to sell on Colome, and I would still pull the trigger for a bag of balls and some Juicy Fruit if the offer came along. It would shed the salary, make the end of games at least fun-interesting instead of depressing-interesting, and it would open up the closer spot for some young talent. Time to pull the band-aid off.
Final thought: Even if this season ends up being a bust in terms of record (and I VERY MUCH am not accepting that after just nine games, I’m just saying), this should still be the season Rays fans get to see the debuts of Willy Adames, Jake Bauers, and maybe more of the young talents that have Rays fans excited for the future. While the days are dark right now, well, you know where this is going.