ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The season’s unofficial first half concluded Sunday afternoon at Tropicana Field in a manner consistent with how things have gone for the Rays this season: with an injury.
Harold Ramirez, hitting .400 this month and .329 on the season, fractured his right thumb when he was hit by a Jordan Lyles pitch in the first inning.
The injury put a damper on a 7-5 win over the Orioles to polish off a 6-1 homestand that sent the Rays into the all-star break 51-41 and in the American League wild card lead.
“You feel for Harold, he cares a lot,” said manager Kevin Cash. “He is really frustrated by it. He might have been putting together his best season and hopefully he is a quick healer.”
While the loss of Ramirez is sure to sting, no matter how long his absence, the Rays have persevered through a first half largely defined by injuries and player movement. Consider the following numbers heading into Sunday’s game….
49: Players the Rays have used this season,
29: Pitchers that have taken the mound
25: Different players who have combined for a total of 31 stints on the injured list.
15: Players on the IL, including 11 pitchers
15: Players with at least 100 plate appearances, most in the majors
8: Players on the opening day roster who have remained active all season.
3: Players who have appeared with the Rays this season who are no longer with the organization: Robert Dugger, Chris Mazza and David McKay. It is a number that could grow by one with Dustin Knight having been designated for assignment Sunday.
Ramirez will obviously alter a couple of those numbers. The above figures include Pete Fairbanks being welcomed back from the injured list Sunday and Jalen Beeks (calf) being placed on the 10-day IL.
Despite with so many players shuffling in and out of the clubhouse, the Rays continue to find ways to win.
“I feel like we have done a good job,” said manager Kevin Cash, prior to Sunday’s game. “There are a lot of faces that have contributed that maybe we didn’t expect to be a part (of the team at the start of the season) because when we are healthy it is a different looking club. But I applaud the effort and the willingness to just continue to find ways to get better. I feel like, as a of late, we have played pretty good baseball. It’s a good feeling going into the break.”
Inconsistencies at the plate, thanks in no small part to lack of continuity brought upon by the injuries, have been noticeable. There was a stretch starting in mid-June when the Rays scored less than five runs in 13 of 16 games and went 5-11.
Of late, though, the Rays’ offense has perked up. That is especially the case so far in July when they have scored at least five runs in 10 of 17 games.
“Our offense has shown signs of really coming together, but we have to find a way to be a little more consistent with that because we have had some droughts in between hot streaks and you would like to be a little more balanced,” said Cash. “With guys coming back, certainly (Brandon Lowe), that helps.”
Lowe returned Saturday and started at second in his first action with the club since May 15 when lower back problems sent him to the IL. He served as the DH on Sunday, when he went 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles, and went 6-for-8 with four runs scored in the two games.
“To win as many games as we have with an as many guys on the IL, it’s been really impressive,” said Lowe. “I don’t see there being any way that we don’t keep up the trend of winning and, hopefully as crunch time comes along, we start having a healthy team and show everybody a real Rays baseball team.”
Following the all-star break, the Rays embark on a seven-game road trip. They travel to Kansas City for a three-game series starting Friday and then it is on to Baltimore for four games. They return to Tropicana Field on July 29 to begin a three-game series against Cleveland.
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