That title has so many meanings.
First, it is good to be back. Vacation was great. A week at a resort ain’t bad no matter what.
But, obviously, I have missed alot. Let me check that, I have not written about alot. I have missed nothing.
Second, it seems that “catchin’ up” is exactly what the Rays have been doing. They fought back in this tough division to take the lead by a game, only to fall back out of it before finding themselves back in the thick of it with a few strong games of late.
Here are some of the things I have seen over these last weeks.
The Rays have not given up on this season at all. As I mentioned, they took the division lead a week or so ago, despite a 7-game losing streak. Then, just as soon as they got the lead, they relinquished it to the Yanks again.
Even though they currently sit in 2nd place in the division, they could easily have packed it in. They overcame a mini-losing streak in the last few weeks before getting a nice start from Jeremy Hellickson his last time out (before today). Then they seemed to hit rock bottom, being shut out by the last place Orioles on Friday. Now they have won 2 in a row (again, behind a strong start from Hellickson) and find themselves wrapping up the weekend in the thick of it once again.
One Game Out
The Rays are sitting just one game behind the Yanks.
They are heading into a very difficult series with the AL West division leading Texas Rangers. There will be no easy wins there. The Rangers are as good as it gets, and the Rays will have to be on top of their game if they want to get closer than they already are.
Hellickson is Awesome
How good is this kid?
His win today pushed his record to 3-0. He has given up almost no hits in his starts; specifically, he has not given up more than 3 hits in any of his three starts. And he is still a kid. He has stopped any bad baseball played by the Rays to inspire them to wins in each of his starts this sesaon.
In other words, he is exactly what a contending team needs down the stretch.
DL? What DL?
You would have thought that the Rays would have faltered when 19 wins of their starting rotation left at the exact same time with shoulder injuries.
I know that I was very worried when Jeff Nieman and Wade Davis went on the DL together. However, Andy Sonnanstine and Hellickson have not missed a beat, pitching solid baseball over these last few weeks to bridge the gap to the two starters’ return from their respective ailments.
What’ll Joe Do?
Finally, there are some really important decisions Joe Maddon will have to make in the coming days.
First, he will have to decide what to do once Nieman and Davis return from the DL. Does he replace a hot Hellickson and solid Sonnanstine or does he ride the hot hand and send the incumbant starters to a “rehab” in the minors? You would think that Sonny’s move to the ‘pen is a foregone conclusion–he’s a great spot starter, but it is tough to rely on him longterm–but you really don’t want to send down Hellickson. Tough one.
The other decision will be what to do when Carlos Pena returns from his plantar faciatis issue. Maddon has already said that nobody from the bullpen will be sent down. So, does that mean Dan Johnson’s days are numbered? They might be. He has a ******** .405 OBP, but his average (.125) is pitiful, even when compared with Pena’s.
Caught up. Now let’s get ahead.