The Tampa Bay Rays were in danger of falling out of the playoff picture after a miserable start to August. However, since August 12th they've been 12-4 and now have 70 wins. Which means...the Rays will once again be a competitive nuisance in the playoffs this year, it seems like.
It's interesting that the Rays have gone on this tear since getting Manuel Margot back from the IL. Margot has been fantastic all season, and though the injury did put a dent in things, he still has a .302 average, 32 RBIs and 64 hits in 59 games. Margot has been a contact beast for the Rays ever since coming over, and he's aiding this lineup now by making it feel a bit more full. The Rays can have fun with their dutiful band of role-players like Yandy Diaz, Ji-Man Choi and Francisco Mejia all the want, but people like Margot add pop and add the kind of energy that most normal competitive teams have.
I mean, I've talked about this before, but the Rays don't operate like normal teams in that they don't have big stars that dominate the statistical fields. A lot of the team's best players are people that aren't big names but succeed in very niche statistical categories. Taylor Walls is not hitting at all this year, but his defensive skills have made him the fourth-highest position player in WAR on this team. Jeffrey Springs and Jason Adam are incorrigible homophobes who won't get vaccinated, but both of them have ERAs below 3 and don't seem to want to go away. And as good of a team anchor that Randy Arozarena can be, Isaac Paredes is still leading this team in RBIs.
This Rays team is succeeding without Kevin Kiermaier, Tyler Glasnow, Wander Franco, Mike Zunino or Andrew Kittredge. That's NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN. Imagine if they make the World Series. Joe Buck is really gonna be struggling to talk about the Rays whenever they come up. "And here comes Yu Chang, he has three hits already tonight, uh...John, what'd you do over your vacation?'
It frustrates me because this team does have traditional stars that could be doing something, like Brandon Lowe and Corey Kluber...and none of them really are. Kluber is having a smooth but pedestrian season. Lowe is hitting .234 with 8 homers in 61 games. The Rays wanted Lowe to be the Dustin Pedroia of this team, and instead Yandy Diaz is the guy holding things together. It's baffling. I suppose it's nice that Shane McClanahan is playing the role of the ace and delivering a season that definitely will get him some Cy Young votes, but it's really just him.
I dunno, the Rays just defy logic. They'll probably do really well, do it on no budget and then trade most of these guys away for the people who'll give them the next 5 years, and then repeat. Like the Astros, a very well run organization. But man is it boring to see them just buy a win for 50 cents every damned year when my teams overpay by the millions and fail miserably when everyone watches them.
Coming Tomorrow- A major rookie for the Braves. It could be one of several, honestly.