ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – At some point the Rays were going to run into a speedbump or two. Their 10-game trip, which concluded with a 3-2 loss to the Mets in Queens on Thursday afternoon, certainly served as an impediment to what had been a remarkable start to this 2023 season.
Even after a 4-6 trip, the Rays will arrive home with a 32-13 record that is the best in MLB. Keeping all three phases – pitching, offense, defense – humming at all times is, of course, unrealistic during a 162-game slate.
That is especially so when two starting pitchers, Jeffrey Springs, and Drew Rasmussen, sustain long-term injuries before the season is six weeks old.
Speaking of starting pitching, the Rays got nice efforts from Taj Bradley (5 IP, 2 ER) and Josh Fleming (five shutout innings) the last two games. Still, they lost two the series to the Mets.
“Two of three games didn’t go our way,” said manager Kevin Cash. “We were close in a couple, though close doesn’t necessarily cut it. Frustrating.”
In the news: Resilient Rays Conclude Road Trip With Three-Game Series Against Mets
The bullpen sprouted some serious leaks on the trip. The two runs Javy Guerra allowed in the ninth inning last Thursday evening against the Yankees were inconsequential in that they only spoiled a shutout in an 8-2 win. Those two runs, though, served as a starting point for a rough stretch in which the bullpen allowed 27 earned runs in 25 1/3 innings (9.60 ERA) in six games ending with Wednesday evening’s late-inning meltdowns at Citi Field.
While the arms keep rotating in and out of the bullpen – Guerra is in Durham — Pete Fairbanks, who took the loss Wednesday in his first appearance since returning for the IL, was bound to be scored upon at some point after not allowing a run since last season.
Of course, the key is to prevent prolonged skids. The Rays have yet to lose as many as three in a row having halted two-game slides on four occasions so far this season. They will attempt to make it five Friday night against visiting Milwaukee.
That leads us to the 10-game homestand at Tropicana Field where the Rays are an eye-opening 19-3, and which could see the return of Tyler Glasnow following another rehab start. At some point, the luster on such an impressive home mark will not look as good. That’s the nature of the beast. For Rays fans, the hope is Tampa Bay’s winning ways at home continue, especially following a sub-.500 trip.
The Rays welcome Willy Adames and the Brewers on Friday evening (6:40) to begin a three-game weekend series. The Blue Jays arrive in St. Pete for four games beginning Monday, and the Dodgers are in town for three games next weekend.
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