by Luke Ramundo
This week has proven to be a rough one for the Tampa Bay Rays. While winning an exciting offensive game against the surging Houston Astros (87-48) on Thursday, Aug. 29, by a score of 9-8. However, this was about the only real sound outing for the Rays all week as they had previously lost four straight; two of which to the lowly Baltimore Orioles (44-89) and two previous blowout losses to the Astros.
The Rays pitching has not looked like its usual self over the course of the week. The pitching staff gave up a whopping 15 runs to the Astros on Tuesday, Aug. 27, and eight more runs on Wednesday, Aug. 28. On Thursday, Aug. 29, the Rays’ pitching looked off by walking multiple hitters and squeaking out the win thanks to home runs by all-star outfielder Austin Meadows and catcher Travis D’arnaud. D’arnaud has been Tampa Bay’s best player this series going 4 for 8 with four RBIs and a home run.
After the game, D’arnaud said to Fox Sports reporter Tricia Whitaker, “A lot of adrenaline going in and out of this whole game. A lot of energy was spent today and fortunately we came out on top. “The home run, however, has not been the story of the young Rays’ solid season, but rather the solid pitching and fielding has driven the team’s success.
The Rays were fairly unorthodox in giving up 10 walks to the Astros in Thursday’s game. Rays manager Kevin Cash also said to Fox Sports, “We probably didn’t do ourselves any favors today with all the walks, but certainly impressed with the way the guys stayed patient, kept coming back, kept answering, kept picking up their teammates. That was really encouraging.”
The Rays are in the midst of a possible playoff-bound season at 77-58 (second in the AL East). They are trying to keep pace with the current Wild Card holder Cleveland Indians and Oakland Athletics whom the Rays are only one game back of.
This past week has also been a sad one for the Rays after the announcement of original Rays owner, Vince Naimoli’s passing away eighty-one years old. Naimoli had a rare neurological disorder for about five years called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy and it had plagued his health since. Naimoli’s ownership group was given the Rays franchise in 1995 and helped obtain the rights to Tropicana Field along with significant upgrades to the equipment. Naimoli is credited with ushering a new Major League Baseball franchise to the Tampa Bay area. Current owner of the Rays, Stu Sternberg, stated, “Vince Naimoli was instrumental in bringing baseball to Tampa Bay. I am forever grateful that he entrusted me with the franchise in 2005,” (CBS Sports). Vince Naimoli leaves behind his wife, Lenda, and his four daughters.
In other sad news, Rays minor-league prospect Blake Bivens lost his wife, child and mother-in-law in a triple homicide on Tuesday, Aug. 27. Blake Bivens was traveling with the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits when he received the horrible news. The Tampa Bay organization has rallied to support Bivens during this time. The Biscuits held a moment of silence before their Thursday game. Many of Bivens teammates had heartfelt words to say like Biscuits pitcher, Ryan Thompson, who said, “His family was everything to him. He never let the game get in the way of who he is as a human being. He’s such a great guy, and something like this couldn’t happen to a better human being,” (Boston Globe).
The Rays will continue their wildcard push into the month of September. They will have the Cleveland Indians (79-55) for a three game set over the weekend and then another three game-set with the Baltimore Orioles. The Rays will hope that the Oakland Athletics, who remain one game ahead of the Rays, will drop a few games to the red-hot New York Yankees (88-47) in order to put them ahead in the wild card standings.
Luke Ramundo can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org