I challenge you to find a better two week period for the Rays franchise outside of the playoff run in 2008 that compares to what has happened in the past two weeks.
- The team goes 9-1 on a road trip that includes stops in Boston and Chicago where the club has historically struggled in the regular season which includes a four game sweep of the Red Sox.
- Pat Burrell finds his bat
- B.J. Upton finds his power
- Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann dominate
- Ben Zobrist gets a new five year deal at a discount for the club
- Desmond Jennings comes off the minor league DL earlier than expected and hits the ground running, literally
- Jeremy Hellickson continues to dominate AAA batters.
- The club now has the best record in baseball
Sure, Matt Joyce is out another 3-4 weeks, J.P. Howell has yet to throw a regular season pitch, and Kelly Shoppach is now on the disabled but the club has the best record in baseball and is starting a nine game homestand against three teams that did not finish over .500 last season in Toronto, Oakland, and Kansas City. Like it or not, the 9-1 road trip has definitely raised the expectations of the fanbase and the national media so there is no easy game from here on out despite the variable pricing model that is assigned to tickets for some of these games. A loss against the Royals, Jays, or Red Sox counts just as much as a loss against the Yankees or Red Sox.
The club catches two breaks in this opening series in that Roy Halladay no longer comes to down with Toronto and lefty Brian Tallet is not able to pitch. However, Brett Cecil and Ricky Romero are pitching in this series and they have both had good success against the Rays in the past and Romero is pitching particularly well right now. Given the road success, the I love Longo t-shirts for the ladies, the Zorilla Gorillas, and post-game concerts from John Fogerty and ZZ Top this weekend, those seats better be filled up!
I’ll have more over the weekend but it has been one long week in Texas for work and I am exhausted as I sit here at the airport gate ready to get home to my wife and kids.