The weekend sweep of the New York Yankees, in front of a packed Trop, signaled the beginning of a new era. One that ought to be full of walk-off home runs, top ten catches, and most importantly: wins.
It was the first weekend for Rays fans to see both Adames and Bauers on their home turf — two rookies who already have the maturity and plate discipline of seasoned vets. The young duo stole the show, hitting a combined 7-for-21 with five RBI, three runs, and four walks.
The result? The Yankees first three-game losing streak of the season and the Rays home winning streak extending to six.
“Pretty special weekend,’’ Rays manager Kevin Cash told Tampa Bay Times’ columnist Mark Jones after Sunday’s win.
One of the many reasons this team is a joy to watch comes from their genuine passion for baseball. They are buying into the innovating strategies of Erik Neander and Co., and furthermore, they enjoy playing with each other.
“They’re having fun,’’ Cash said after Sunday’s sweep. “And guys are buying in. There are a lot of teams that would not be able to do this because you wouldn’t get the buy in. You can say it’s because of youth, but there are also some veteran guys who are willing to do anything.’’
While the clutch play from “the kids” has been thrilling to watch, the Rays are receiving contributions from a multitude of players.
Matt Duffy is hitting .318/.364/.438 with a .348 wOBA and 124 wRC+. CJ Cron has tied his home run total from last season (16), and it’s only June 25. Daniel Robertson displays dazzling defense with a stellar bat (133 wRC+). Mallex Smith remains the team’s firecracker.
And the pitching.
With three or less starters healthy for the majority of the season thus far, the starting pitching depth is bleeding. However, “The Opener,” relievers turned to starters, and consecutive bullpen days have spurred an MLB-best 2.95 ERA since May 19. The Rays have played Baltimore, Oakland, Seattle, Toronto, Houston, New York, and Washington during the stretch.
Those teams have a combined .536 winning percentage on the season.
And after the weekend sweep, I can’t help but stargaze into the future...
By using innovative strategies like “The Opener” (this decade’s version of The Shift) along with a loaded farm system, the Rays finally have a multi-year window to build, compete, and then contend for championships.
The Rays are absolutely stacked in the upper minors and practically all of it’s right there and ready for the big leagues. Banda, De Leon, Honeywell, McKay, Sanchez, Solak, Fox, McCarthy, Lowe, Williams, Franco, Poche, Whitley. Combine that with the young stars already with the big league club, and that’s a hell of a group the Rays have to choose from as they attempt to build a contender.
Who knows, maybe in five years we’ll all be looking at last weekend as the prologue. The Rebuilding Rays followed up the weekend performance with an eleven run shot out of the Nationals last night, and are two games away from .500 baseball.
The rebuild is working.