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The best 10 game hitting stretch in Tampa Bay Rays history belongs to...

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Bet you can’t guess

Tampa Bay Rays Photo Day Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images

The Rays have had some outstanding position players, and I’ll bet when I ask you “which Rays player is the owner of the best ten game stretch in team history” you’d think of one of them. Carl Crawford? Evan Longoria? Carlos Peña?

Spoiler alert: It’s none of them.

From June 12th, 2009 through June 30th, 2009, this player only appeared in 10 games. However, his line over those 10 games is the best offensive stretch of games of any Tampa Bay Rays player.

During the 2009 season, the Tampa Bay Rays brought in veteran outfielder Gabe Kapler as a platoon outfielder. A year earlier, while as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers, Kapler crushed southpaws as he hit .354/.379/.622 over 87 plate appearances, and had been well above average against left-handed pitchers throughout his career. And he clearly knewe the game. He had served in some managerial capacities during his time as a professional baseball player; he was the manager of the Boston Red Sox Single-A Greenville Drive during the 2007 season.

Thus, he had a role on the youngling American League pennant winning Rays squad.

He would find his niche with the team as a platoon partner with outfielder Matt Joyce, whom the Rays had acquired during the offseason, and then later with Gabe Gross. Unfortunately, Kapler struggled mightily over the first two months of the season, hitting just .173/.261/.296 with 1 HR over 92 plate appearances.

By June 12th Kapler could have been considered a candidate to be designated for assignment. However, it was this date that would start the greatest offensive stretch of 10 games in franchise history and among the best offensive stretches in baseball over the past 12 years.

The Washington Nationals were in town and right-handed pitcher Craig Stammen was on the mound to start the game for them, thus outfielder Gabe Gross received the start. As the game dragged on, the two sides were tied at 3. Nationals southpaw Ron Villone was in his second inning of work looking to maintain the tie. He had secured the first two outs of the inning, including a flyball off the bat of Pat Burrell that sent Dewayne Staats into a tizzy. Then it came to Gabe Gross’ turn in the lineup. Wanting the more favorable matchup, Joe Maddon turned to Gabe Kapler.

On a 1-1 pitch, Kapler saw a center-cut fastball. He reached down, extended his arms, and met the ball with the barrel of his bat. The ball soared into the canopied domed roof of Tropicana Field. This sent a Nationals fielder scurrying in an attempt to retrieve the ball. However, the fielder scurrying was first baseman Nick Johnson who was jogging over into foul territory along the first base line. Fortunately for the Rays and Kapler, Johnson overran the ball and watched it bounce harmlessly off of his glove and to the turf for an error and giving Kapler a second chance.

Kapler made the Nationals pay for the mistake, as Villone grooved a slider across the heart of the plate and immediately dropped to his knees in despair (as most pitchers would do if they had just given up solid contact to Gabe Kapler.) Kapler was able to golf the pitch into the first row of seats in left field for a solo homerun, giving the Rays a lead and an eventual victory.

Kapler Game Diary
1 game - 1 PA - 1 H - 1 HR

Kapler next played on June 14th, receiving a spot in the starting lineup with left-handed pitcher Ross Detwiler throwing for the Nationals. During his first trip to the plate, Detwiler walked Kapler on four pitches.

The next trip to the plate for Kapler came in the 4th inning with the Rays trailing 4-0. He stepped to the plate with runners on second and third and took a first pitch ball. Then he laced a pitch over a jumping Alberto Gonzalez and into left field for a single that brought home a run for the Rays.

Later on in the same game, Kapler faced Detwiler for a third time. Kapler’s platoon partner Gabe Gross had just reached on a walk and despite clinging to a two run lead, Nationals Manager Manny Acta chose to stick with Detwiler (a decision that may or may not have led to Acta’s firing less than a month later.)

There may be an alternate timeline in which Acta removes Detwiler and the events of June 14th, 2009 play out much differently. In that timeline, the Nationals, who are 17-44, may turn things around. They go on an epic run. So epic in fact that they aren’t able to select Bryce Harper first overall in 2010. And then the baseball landscape as we know it would have been significantly altered.

However, Acta didn’t remove Detwiler. So, Detwiler pitched to Kapler.

Kapler took what looked to be a half-hearted swing at a breaking ball running in on his shoe tips. He made contact, which may have even come as a surprise to him based on his reaction. Kapler was able to meet the pitch with the barrel of his bat and provide just enough lift to send it hurdling towards the left field corner and just over the cutout fence beyond the foul pole for a game trying two run homerun.

The Nationals and Acta had learned their lesson by the time Kapler came to bat again in the 8th inning.

He was intentionally walked.

Kapler, not used to this kind of treatment and like flummoxed as a result of it, was immediately thrown out trying to steal second base (it was not a close play).

Kapler Game Diary
2 Games - 5 PA - 3 H - 2 HR - 1 3B - 2 BB

The Rays traveled to Denver, Colorado following their series against the Nationals and as often happens at Coors Field Kapler and the rest of the Rays offense were certainly in high spirits. The team homered five times, including yet another one from the southpaw masher himself, Mr Kapler.

Kapler kicked off his offensive day with another excuse me swing, hitting a ball that found its way to the seemingly never ending green pastures of the Coors Field outfield, putting Kapler on third base with a triple.

An inning later, likely still winded from his trip to third base, Kapler lofted a flyball to deep left field that he provided just enough oomph to clear the fence for another homerun; his third consecutive game with a longball.

Kapler singled in the 7th to put him just a double shy of the cycle but it would be for naught as he’d be removed from the game as part of a double-switch in the bottom of the 7th.

Kapler Game Diary
3 Games - 9 PA - 6 H - 3 HR - 1 3B - 2 BB

Joe Maddon, never one to tempt the baseball deities, decided to rest his suddenly very hot outfielder. Although Kapler was called upon to pinch hit for Michel Hernandez against Colorado closer Houston Street, and he grounded out. Unsurprisingly, the Rays lost this game.

Kapler Game Diary
4 Games - 10 PA - 6 H - 3 HR - 1 3B - 2 BB

Two more days would pass before Kapler received more playing time. The Rays were now in New York set to take on the Mets for some more interleague play. James Shields threw for Tampa Bay while Johan Santana went for New York in a battle of some excellent late 2000’s pitchers.

With the Rays trailing 1-0 in the 5th, Kapler followed up a Jason Bartlett double with one of his own as he laced a ball down the right field line to bring in Bartlett to tie the game.

That would be Kapler’s lone hit in the game as he sandwiched the double between a pair of flyouts. Nonetheless, the Rays returned to their winning ways (thanks to Kapler’s return to the lineup).

Kapler Game Diary
5 Games - 13 PA - 7 H - 3 HR - 1 3B - 1 2B - 2 BB

Kapler was back to the bench for the following game, but made a late inning appearance as he pinch-hit against Ken Takahashi in the top of the 7th. The Rays had just retaken the lead . Now Kapler was up with the Rays leading 7-5, and runners on first and second.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Although Kapler’s swing looked like something you’d find towards the 9th inning of a beer league softball game in hottest days of August, he still managed to make significant contact on a pitch and laced into the left field corner for another extra base hit, to bring home another run for Tampa Bay.

Kapler would continue to be productive in his following plate appearance, lifting a sacrifice fly.

Kapler Game Diary
6 Games - 15 PA - 8 H - 3 HR - 1 3B - 2 2B - 2 BB - 1 SF

The Rays returned home to Tropicana Field the following night and faced their 2008 World Series foe, the Philadelphia Phillies, in a matchup that brought back all too familiar pain of their series the past October. The Rays fell behind early and didn’t even come close to mustering enough offense to form any sort of threat.

Kapler did as much as he could, collecting a double and walk over his four trips to the plate.

Kapler Game Diary
7 Games - 19 PA - 9 H - 3 HR - 1 3B - 3 2B - 3 BB - 1 SF - 1 K

Kapler doubled in his first plate appearance on June 25th, during the Rays second game against the Phillies. He would draw yet another walk in his second plate appearance, continuing to get on base at an insane clip. However, with the Phillies having brought in RHP Chad Durbin, Joe Maddon replaced Kapler with the lefty hitting Gabe Gross, ending Kapler’s involvement.

Kapler Game Diary
8 Games - 21 PA - 10 H - 3 HR - 1 3B - 4 2B - 4 BB - 1 SF - 1 K

The reigning World Series champs were now gone from the Trop and the vaunted Citrus Series began in Tampa Bay as the Florida Marlins came to town. However, the Citrus Series was beneath the stature of Kapler, who would not play until the series finale on Sunday.

Gabe Kapler continued what the hottest hitting Gabe Kapler does, which is hitting for extra bases. During his three trips to the plate for the Rays, Kapler would collect a double, plus two flyouts, before once again being removed for Gabe Gross.

Kapler Game Diary
9 Games - 24 PA - 11 H - 3 HR - 1 3B - 5 2B - 4 BB - 1 SF - 1 K
For the final game of this entry, Kapler didn’t even make a plate appearance. Instead, he took over for the greatest Ray of all-time as he replaced Evan Longoria, following Longoria pinch hitting in the top of the 8th.

Kapler Game Diary
10 Games - 24 PA - 11 H - 3 HR - 1 3B - 5 2B - 4 BB - 1 SF - 1 K
.579/.625/1.421

And thus wraps the thrilling sage of the greatest stretch of 10 games in franchise history.