AL EastAnalysis

Rays Report: And Then There Were Nine

It was the Rays' week and we all just lived in it.

While the rest of the baseball world cries about soft schedules and overperforming, the Rays, which may be open for betting on sites such as 벳엔드, continued to ride their wave of overflowing confidence to another two series sweeps over Washington and Oakland en route to a nine-game win streak. In just nine games this team is truly flexing its every muscle, and man does this team look jacked right now.

What’s happening right now in Tampa Bay is no mirage. It’s a bordering upon-unprecedented start that has this Rays core putting on a show of strength to let the baseball world know to consider them among baseball’s elite.

Around the league the doubt has been adamant; a Rays team, fresh off of a brutal shellacking to its hitting core after the quiet wild card exit, puts up a +54 run differential and averages 8 runs a game through its first nine games remaining unbeaten. You can chalk up this dominant run to an easy schedule to start, but even an easy schedule doesn’t explain the type of dynamism this team is playing with on the field at the moment. It’s a team that has no intentions of putting themselves before the squad, in a next-man-up mentality that has come to perfectly describe the baseball culture that is one of the most unique in baseball. The Rays have evidently shown that baseball culture and maintaining such a strong sense of camaraderie can go leaps and bounds farther to winning ball games than pure talent alone. Watch what they have done the past week as they’ve electrified baseball, and it’s clear to see the talent oozing on this roster goes beyond just Franco and McClanahans. It’s Jeffrey Springs who has taken his star from the depths of a 30th-round pick and as a failing reliever to now one of the most coveted starters in the game. It’s lefty platoon hitter Luke Raley finally given a role on a big league team and seizing it and then some so far. And it’s the cloudy future that was Josh Lowe’s career after a rough 2022, revitalizing itself after his polished skillset is coming more into focus with each game he performs. The Rays so far have been a model team to play for what’s on the front of their jerseys and if this same type of pep is carried down the line we could be seeing the start of a special pennant run. 

To go more into depth though about how this machine continues to trounce its opponents I believe Drew Rasmussen and Brandon Lowe are worth analyzing to show how integral they will be with both of them putting up insanely productive weeks. 

Brandon Lowe is out on a mission this year and that mission’s to establish himself as one of the top hitters in baseball yet again. He was the WAR leader on a pennant-winning team in 2020, a two-time top ten MVP voting finisher, and performed in a 2021 season that saw him reach nearly 40 home runs. The resume is all there for B-Lowe, it’s proving himself as a consistent top hitter that will be the problem. The injuries were nagging him all of last year and this year it’s been more smooth sailing thus far. Speaking of smooth, Lowe also has the tremendous power and type of home run swing that can seriously reach 45 home run potential. He can pull the ball as hard as the best and has an all-fields approach with his power reminiscent of Yordan Alvarez’s. The strikeout issues were always talked about as holding him back from a truly elite level, but early signs of taking more walks than striking out have been incredibly encouraging toward that possible elite outlook. His being in the middle of seemingly every offensive attack by the Rays this weekend at the Trop with 2 homers and 8 RBIs reminded the baseball world to not take him lightly.

Meanwhile, Drew Rasmussen is a fourth starter in this rotation? The depth the Rays are running out on the pitching staff is becoming more and more remarkable to witness. The project pitcher the Rays have done wonders on since acquiring him for the equally as great Willy Adames, Rasmussen has firmly cemented a dynamite four-pitch sequence with a cutter that dominates as his best pitch. Pair this along with a sweeper curveball, wicked slider, and a fastball he can dot anytime, and yet again the Rays have just discovered an ace. After enticing the national stage with a near-perfect hitter last year, the next ace in line of this Rays staff has started the following year with 13 innings, 15 strikeouts, and not a single run against his name. The development of the cutter and sweeper has been revolutionary for him especially, as he had batters in both the Washington and Oakland game flailing against the wicked movement the cutter acts with. The ability this team has to get the most out of each and every player on this team is starting to become clear around the league and I think Lowe and Rasmussen demonstrated that quite amazingly this past week.

The real tests are on the horizon now. Boston comes into town tomorrow, and its scorching offense has the ability to go toe to toe with Tampa Bay’s pitching. It’ll be up to the bats to continue praying on pitching staff’s weaknesses and the way this lineup has stung the ball in every way so far, they just need to keep doing what they’re doing. Toronto will be next and while the idea of beloved Kevin Kiermeir making a home run robbery at the Trop in a Jays uniform is sickening, business must be attended to against the other eastern powerhouse that will be tussling with the Rays all season long. These divisional games are also worth a bit more now. Fewer games will be played against division rivals, and the weeks that Tampa Bay will be facing two will be crucial to cash in on for wins in a chance to establish themselves as kings of the AL East in the early going.

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