Tampa Bay Rays
1976-1997: Years before Tampa Bay got the Devil Rays, the city was used by several Major League Teams to shake down their cities for renovations or a new ballpark. The Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics, Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, and San Francisco Giants all threatened moves to the West Coast of Florida. Once they got what they wanted, they decided to stay put, leaving Tampa without a Major League team. After the White Sox got a new stadium in the Windy City, Tampa officials decided to build a ballpark that could be used to attract a team quicker or an expansion team. In 1991 even expansion passed Tampa by, as MLB hierarchy thought teams in Miami and Denver were more feasible. Tampa Bay was not deterred after flirting with Mariners and Rangers. It seemed almost inevitable that Tampa was going to be home of the Giants in 1993. Vincent J. Naimoli had agreed to purchase and move the Giants to Tampa in 1993. However, MLB did not approve of the move, and arranged it for George Schinn to but and keep the Giants in San Francisco. Naimoli was all about to sue baseball, but after being promised an expansion team backed off and waited patiently. In 1995 amid an awful player’s strike, MLB owner unanimously approved Tampa Bay and Phoenix for expansion teams to begin to play in 1998.
1998: Baseball has a rich history on Florida’s west coast, from spring training to the number of baseball stars that have been born and raised in the area. Finally, they would have Major League team of its own, as the Devil Rays made their debut before a sold-out crowd at Tropicana Field on March 31st. The Devil Rays lost that first game 11-6 to the Detroit Tigers but bounced back to win their first game the next day. The Devil Rays did not win much that first year only winning 63 while narrowly avoiding the century mark in losses at 99.
1999: To attract fans to the Devil Rays, big names of the past are now the downsides of their career sign with Tampa in an attempt to reach career milestones. In another disappointing 69-93 season, two of these big stars of the past get career milestones. First up to get a milestone was Jose Canseco, who singed in the off-season and hit his 400th career HR on April 14th at Toronto against one of his former teams, the Blue Jays. Jose Canseco hit a lot of home runs for the Rays in the early going of the season and led the AL with 30 in late June. A back injury would take two months out of Jose’s season, and he would only hit four more. Another HR marked a milestone on August 7th for Wade Boggs, a Tampa native, when he became the first player ever to hit a Home Run for his 3,000th career base hit. The season is also marked by a scary moment involving Tony Saunders, who was the first player the Rays selected in the expansion draft. In just his third big league season, Saunders throws a pitch and has his left arm snaps from the pressure he placed on it. Saunders will miss a full year of action before attempting a comeback in 2000. That comeback would also end before it ever starts, as Saunders snaps his arm again, while pitching in the minors, and is forced to retire.
2000: After watching their partners in expansion the Arizona Diamond Backs win the NL West, the Devil Rays try to make their team more competitive in hurry by acquiring big sluggers Greg Vaughn, and Vinny Castilla from the National League. The moves give Ray fans hopes as the middle of their line up McGriff, Canseco, Vaughn, and Castillia have the look of Murderer’s Row, as each regularly hit 30 homers in a season throughout their careers. The move ends up being a big bust as Castillia only hits 6 HR, and bats .219 in an injury-plagued season. Jose Canseco is injured early, and by August, the New York Yankees is picked off on waivers. Greg Vaughn’s season is not much better, as he only manages to hit 28 home runs in 127 games. While Fred McGriff is the only one of the four, who has a strong season with 106 RBI and 27 HR. One of those home runs on June 2nd at Shea Stadium ends up being the Crime Dog’s 400th of his career. The Devil Rays end the season in last place again with a 69-92 record.
2001: The Devil Rays get off to a miserable start, and Manager Larry Rothschild is fired, before the end of April, and replaced by Hal McRae. The team that initially filled their roster with stars of the past now suffers from poor attendance, as those stars seem just to mope around, as the Rays lose. The team decides to help improve the team’s play that it is time to start bringing up some of their prospects to try to infuse a new attitude. Vinny Castilla would be released and picked up by the Houston Astros, while Fred McGriff is traded to the Chicago Cubs. The lone holdover is Greg Vaughn, who hits a miserable .233 while only hitting 24 homers. The moves had an unexpected impact as the Rays play much better in the 2nd half. However, the losses in the early part of the season mounted, and the team losses 100 games and finishes in last place for the fourth year in a row. Adding salt to the ruin was the fact that Arizona Diamondbacks, who joined the Majors with Rays in 1998, won the World Series in just their 4th season.
2002: The Devil Rays misery continues, as they become the first team in more than 20 years to lose 100 games in consecutive seasons, posting a horrid 55-106 record. So inept were the Rays that two players (Toby Hall and Jason Tyner) saw their bobblehead giveaways canceled after they were sent down to the Minors. With even their prospects struggling, management felt a drastic change was needed, so following the season, they traded their only All-Star Randy Winn to the Seattle Mariners for Manager Lou Piniella. He had along successful tenure year in Seattle, in an attempt to bring legitimacy to a franchise with none.
2003: Exactly five years to the date of their first every game, the Devil Rays dramatically began the Lou Piniella era as Carl Crawford hit a dramatic 3-run walk-off homer to give the Devil Rays a 6-4 win over the Boston Red Sox. However, it would be the only shining moment for the Rays early in the season as they quickly found themselves at the bottom of the AL East again. There began to be signs of hope as some prospects that worked their way through the system began to form the core of the Devil Rays’ future. Crawford, the author of the opening day homer, would win the AL stolen base crown with 55. At the same time, rookie Rocco Baldelli gave Tampa fans something to cheer about all season with an all-out style of play that led to him finishing a solid third in Rookie of the Year voting. As the season wore on, the Devils Rays played a more competitive style of baseball and were able to avoid their third straight 100-loss season while posting a record of 63-99.
2004: The Devil Rays began the season in the land of the rising sun as they played the New York Yankees in a 2-game series in Tokyo, Japan. The Rays would get the jump on the Yankees in the first game-winning 8-3 as Victor Zambrano handcuffed the vaunted Bronx Bombers. However, the Yankees would recover to win the second game. When the Rays came back home, their struggles continued as they won just 10 of their first 38 games. The Rays would begin to play better as May came to a close as they won eight of their last 11 games, which led them into June where they played the best baseball in their short seven-year history posting a baseball best 20-6 record which included a franchise-record 12-game winning streak as the Devils Rays 15-3 record in interleague games was better than anyone else in baseball, as the Rays were above .500 in July for the first time. A four-game series on the road against the Yankees at the end of the first half would send the Rays back to reality as they were swept and never saw .500 again. As July closed, the Rays were struggling, as moves were made for the future with Zambrano their top pitcher being shipped to the New York Mets for pitching prospect Scott Kazmir. As September began, the Rays were floundering amid a 12-game losing streak as their great June seemed like just a dream, as they topped 90 losses again. However, they would escape last place for the first time in team history as they finished three games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays with a 71-91 record, which was their best record to date.
2005: The Devils Rays continued to struggle, as they get off to a horrible 8-16 start. Once again, the Devil Rays would sink to the bottom of the AL East once again, where they would remain for the entire season. This led to increased frustration from manager Lou Piniella, who made it no secret that he wanted out of his contract. At the same time, Rocco Baldelli, one of the Rays’ best young players a few years earlier, missed the entire season with a knee injury. The Devil Rays continued to play terrible baseball into the All-Star Break, holding an awful 28-61 record. One of the only bright spots early was their play against the New York Yankees as they took three out four games in two separate series on the way to winning the season series against their famous division rivals. After the All-Star some of the Rays young talent began to filter up from the minors, while players already on the roster began to adjust to life in the Majors. Players like 2B Jorge Cantu who hit 28 homers while driving in 117 RBI, while on the mound there was Scott Kazmir who posted a 10-9 record with a 3.77 ERA, as the Rays bullpen had the best-kept secret in baseball Danys Baez who saved who nearly saved two-thirds of the Devil Rays wins at 41. The Rays would play much better baseball in the second half posting a winning record in August. However, they would not escape last place as they finished with a 67-95 record. As the season came to an end, an era came to an end as Vince Naimoli, the man who led the group to bring baseball to Tampa Bay, sold his controlling interest to Stuart Sternberg, while Lou Piniella made good on his threat to resign. The road to respectability is still a long way off for the Rays who were forced to trade their star close Danys Baez to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the off-season. However, with longtime Los Angeles Angels Coach Joe Maddon replacing Piniella and prospects like Delmon Young and B.J. Upton close to getting called up, the Rays finally appear to have plan and foundation in place.
2006: With a new owner and a new manager, the Devils Rays started from scratch. Prospects in the minors were getting more attention than the big club, and not all of it was good as Delmon Young received national media attention and a 50-game suspension for throwing a bat at an umpire while playing for the Durham Bulls of the AAA International League. For the big league Rays, it was two former New York Mets who were leading the way as Scott Kazmir developed into an All-Star ace posting a 10-8 record with a solid 3.24 ERA, while 2B Ty Wiggington had a breakout season with a team-high 24 home runs and 79 RBI. As the season in which the Devils Rays were in last place all year again, dragged on the Rays continued to make changes trading pitcher Mark Hendrickson and catcher Toby Hall to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Jae Weong Seo, 22-year old catcher Dioner Navarro, and minor league outfielder Justin Ruggiano, the Rays would later send Julio Lugo to the Dodgers in a separate deal for minor league prospects. In contrast, Aubrey Huff was sent to the Houston Astros for Ben Zobrist and minor league pitcher Mitch Talbot. At Tropicana Field, the Rays played solid baseball all season as attendance increased 20% to see the Rays post a 41-40 home record, the first time they had a winning home record. However, the road was a path of woe, as the Rays won just three of 36 road games after July 1st while posting a 20-61 record on the road, the third-worst road record since 1961. The Devil Rays would hold a lead in 121, but in the end, they managed to post another terrible record of 61-101.
2007: Youth was the blueprint for the Devil Rays again, as Elijah Dukes and Delmon Young were both significant parts of the line up early in the season. Dukes got off to a fast start hitting a Home Run in his first Major League at-bat, then hitting a game-winning home three days later in his second career. Dukes would hit the ball hard with ten homers in 52 games, but he struggled to hit for average with a .190 average. Off the field, troubles would pave his way out of Tampa Bay, as he was put on the inactive list after allegedly threatening to kill his wife, while news broke that he got a 17-year old foster child living with a relative pregnant. Despite his unlimited potential, the Devil Rays would begin to look to trade him, which they would do in the off-season to the Washington Nationals. Delmon Young, the 2003 first pick in the MLB Draft, also had a troubling history, once throwing a bat at a minor league umpire. In his first full season in the majors, Young played well, hitting 13 homers with 93 RBI as he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. However, the Rays looking to change the atmosphere would deal him at the end of the season to the Minnesota Twins and Jason Pridie and Brendan Harris for Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, and Eduardo Morlan. Meanwhile, a veteran reclamation project would set a team record in homers as Carlos Pena was named Comeback Player of the Year after hitting 46 homers, with 121 RBI, after hitting just one homer in 18 games with the Boston Red Sox in 2006. The improved offense with solid pitching from Scott Kazmir and James Shields should have taken the Devil Rays further, but their bullpen was faulty all year, leading the Devil Rays to finish with the worst record in baseball again at 66-96.
2008: Hoping to change their fortunes, Tampa Bay debuted with a new more traditional look and color scheme, while dropping the Devil from their nickname, while unveiling a new fight song. The new-look also gave way to a new attitude as the Rays showed in Spring Training they were not going to be pushed around as they got involved in a dust-up with the New York Yankees. Despite their top starting pitcher Scott Kazmir starting the season on the disabled list, the Rays had a strong April. Evan Longoria came up after starting the season in the minors. He provided an immediate spark, as the Rays posted a 15-12 record for their first winning April in franchise history, which included their first-ever sweep of the Boston Red Sox. Kazmir would return in May, as the Rays continued to play solid baseball, taking three out of four games against the Yankees to grab first place for the first time in franchise history, as Yankees Owner Hank Steinbrenner lamented he “wished the Yankees were playing as good as the Rays.” On Memorial Day, the Rays held the best record in baseball, marking the first time over 100 years to hold the best record in the league through Memorial Day, having the worst record in the league the year before. The Rays would post a 19-10 record in May, their first winning May ever, and end the month with a one-game lead over the Red Sox. Still, as June began, most felt the Rays were due to slip, as they were not a true contender, and the AL East would end up being the Yankees and the Red Sox fighting for the top spot. And when the Rays were swept in Fenway Park, most expected it to be the beginning of the end, of the Rays early feel-good story. Much like their spring brawl with the Yankees, the Rays were not going to be pushed around, and in the finale got in a bench-clearing brawl with the Red Sox, several players on each side would earn suspensions. Still, the Rays acquired respect from the Red Sox, as they would rebound quickly and continue to play strong baseball sweeping the Red Sox when they came down to Tropicana Field to regain first place at the start of July to build a five-game lead over the Sox. Heading into the All-Star Break, the Rays hit a pothole, losing seven straight as they lost their grip on first place. The All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium would see three Rays on the American League roster, as Rookie Evan Longoria won a fan vote for the final spot while participating in the Home Run Derby. After the All-Star Break, the Rays recovered and quickly regained their place atop the AL East, as they entered August with a solid 63-44. At the trade deadline, the Rays were buyers, not sellers for the first time in franchise history, as the baseball experts quickly realized that these Rays were not going away. To strengthen the bullpen, the Rays would acquire Chad Bradford from the Baltimore Orioles. Still, the most significant addition would come later in the month when Rocco Baldelli returned after missing returned after a year and a half on the disabled list. August would bring rough waters for Tampa Bay as Longoria, Carl Crawford, and Closer Troy Percival were lost due to injuries. The resilient Rays would not be deterred as they posted a 21-7 record, their best month in franchise history as they eclipsed the 70-win mark for the first time in franchise history on August 9th month with a record 84-51, ensuring their first-ever winning season. As September began, the Rays hit another road bump, losing two of three to the Yankees, before getting swept by the Toronto Blue Jays on the road. This all preceded a trip into Boston, where the Rays continued to struggle, losing the first two games of a critical four-game series. Down 4-3 in the ninth inning of the third game, with the Sox poised to leap past the Rays when September call up Dan Johnson hit a pinch-hit home run off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon to tie the game, as Dioner Navarro won the game with an RBI double. The Rays would go on to win the split the series, winning the finale in 14 innings 4-2. A week later in Tampa, the Rays would take two of three from the Sox, to win the season series, as they would go on and stun the baseball world by winning the AL East with a record of 97-65. The solid regular season would earn honors for Joe Maddon, who was named Manager of the Year, and Evan Longoria, who was named Rookie of the Year with a .272 average, with 27 home runs, and 85 RBI.
2008 Postseason: Entering the playoffs, the new hairstyle gripping the Tampa area was a Mohawk, dyed blue as everyone had Rays fever. The Rays who, at times, had trouble getting their fans to believe they were for real, were suddenly the biggest story in baseball as they faced the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS. In the opener at Tropicana Field, Evan Longoria got the Rays off to a fast start as he blasted two home runs to lead the Rays to a 6-4 win. After falling behind 2-0 in Game 2, the Rays would come back to win 6-2, as Scott Kazmir settled down after a shaky first inning, while Akinori Iwamura slammed a two-run home run to give Tampa the lead for good in the fifth inning. After losing Game 3 in Chicago, the Rays closed the series out in four games, with a 6-2 win powered by two homers from B.J. Upton. The Rays faced the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS with a trip to the World Series on the line. After losing the opener 2-0 at home, the Rays would even the series with a 9-8 win in extra innings, as B.J. Upton drove home Pinch-runner Fernando Perez with the winning run in the 11th inning, ending a classic back and forth battle. As the series shifted to Fenway Park, the Rays bats came alive as they slammed four homers in a stunning 9-1 win to take a 2-1 series lead. The Rays bats continued to pound the Green Monster in Game 4, as the Rays took a 3-1 series lead with a 13-4 win. In Game 5, the Rays appeared poised to make a trip to the World Series as they held a 7-0 in the seventh inning. The Red Sox would rally to score eight unanswered runs, sending the series back to Tampa. The stunning Rays would be hamstrung in Game 6, as Josh Beckett, the Red Sox 2007 postseason hero, sent the game to a decisive seventh game by quieting the Rays bats with a 4-2 win. The second batter of the game would give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead in Game 7 as Dustin Pedroia homered off Matt Garza. However, Garza would not allow another run, as the Rays rallied to take a 3-1 lead. The Sox would not go down without a fight as they loaded the bases in the eighth inning. Manager Joe Maddon, who saw his pen implode in Game 5, turned to David Price, the 2007 number one overall pick who was a September call up to save the day as he struck out J.D. Drew to preserve the lead. The Sox would go on to win the game and advance to the World Series, where they would face the Philadelphia Phillies. In Game 1, the Rays would fall behind early as Chase Utley homered off Scott Kazmir in the first inning, on the way to winning the opener 3-2. The Rays would bounce back with a 4-2 win in Game 2 as the series went to Philadelphia tied at a game apiece. A cold chilly rain would delay Game 3, as the Rays fell behind early 4-1. They would rally to tie the game, but in the end, the Phillies would take advantage of the Rays sloppy play, winning the game 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth inning, on an infield single by Carlos Ruiz, after Dioner Navarro’s throwing error but the winning run on third base with nobody out. The Phillies would grab a 3-1 series lead after blowing the Rays out 10-2 in Game 4. Needing to win Game 5 just to get the series back to Tampa, the Rays again found themselves waterlogged as the trailed 2-1 after five innings in the middle of a steady downpour that turned Citizen’s Bank Park into a quagmire. With the umpires reluctant to call the game and give the Phillies a rained shortened clinching victory, the Rays rallied to tie the game in the sixth inning before the game was halted in the sixth inning. With bad weather in continuing, it would be two days before the series resumed. However, there would be no saving the Rays, as the Phillies won the game and the World Series 4-3, as Pedro Feliz drove in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.
2009: After making it to the World Series, the Rays entered the season knowing they would have a hard act to follow, especially in the American League East, as the New York Yankees made significant improvements during the off-season. As April began, the Rays struggled, posting a 9-14 record. The Rays would not play much better in May as they entered June in fourth place with a record of 25-28 with injuries to several key players. However, as summer arrived, the Rays began to resemble the 2009 American League Champions, as they entered the All-Star Break with a record of 48-41 and were within a game and a half of the wild card race. With Joe Maddon managing the American League squad in St. Louis and Carl Crawford, Jason Bartlett, Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist, and Evan Longoria named as All-Stars the American League won 4-3 as Crawford was named All-Star Game MVP by making a leaping catch of Brad Hawpe of the Colorado Rockies. After the All-Star Break, the Rays still found themselves stuck in third place as they were on the wrong side of history on July 23rd against the Chicago White Sox, as they lost 5-0 with Mark Buehrle tossing a perfect game. The Rays would post a 15-12 record in August, but they could not keep pace with the Yankees or Boston Red Sox, who were leading the American League Wild Card race. With the playoffs fading, the Rays decided to part with Pitcher Scott Kazmir, sending him to the Los Angeles Angels for two minor league players and second baseman Sean Rodriguez just before the September 1st roster deadline. The Rays would endure an 11 game losing streak in September, but they would play strong over the last ten games to finish with a record of 86-76, as B.J. Upton became the first Ray to hit for the cycle in an October 2nd game against the New York Yankees in the final weekend of the season.
2010: After finishing in third place, the Rays looked to prove they belonged in the same conversation as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox as the best teams in the American League while playing in baseball’s toughest division. Hoping to improve their bullpen, the Rays picked up Rafael Soriano in a deal with the Atlanta Braves during the off-season. Soriano would prove to be a significant pick-up as it helped anchor the Rays pen all season and was named Fireman of the Year, with a league-high 45 saves. The Rays would quickly prove they could battle the Yankees and Red Sox as they got off to a franchise-best 10-3 start highlighted by a sweep of the Red Sox in Fenway Park. The Rays would finish April in first place with a record of 17-6. The Rays continued to hold on first place through May, despite having a perfect game pitched against them on May 9th by Dallas Braden of the Oakland Athletics. The perfect game would be warning of offensive struggles to come as the Rays posted an 11-14 record in June, and lost their grip on the first place. On June 25th, they would be no-hit for a second time, by former teammate Edwin Jackson, who was pitching with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rays would enter the All-Star Break in second place, behind the Yankees with a solid 54-34 record, while leading the Red Sox for the Wild Card. Despite losing two of three games in a series against the Yankees in the Bronx, following the break, July would be a strong month for the Rays as they posted a 19-7 record. There would be another no-hitter in July, but this time the Rays were on the right side of history as Matt Garza held the Tigers hitless at Tropicana Field on July 26th for the first No-Hitter in Tampa Bay history. The Rays would enter August, still trailing the Yankees. As top pitching prospect, Jeremy Hellickson got a taste of the majors with a 4-2 win on August 2nd against the Minnesota Twins that helped get the Rays into a tie of the division lead. Meanwhile, David Price set a franchise record with his 15th win on August 9th; he would finish the season with a 19-6 record and an ERA of 2.72 while finishing second in voting for the Cy Young Award. When September arrived, the Red Sox beset with injuries faded in the race for a playoff spot with the Yankees and Rays battling for the best record in the American League. This would take any meaning out of the division race as both teams were all but certain of making the playoffs. Neither the Yankees or Rays played that strong down the stretch; the Rays would win the season series and get any tiebreaker. In the end, it was the Rays who got the top spot in the East with a 96-66 record, one game better than the Yankees who won the Wild Card. As the playoffs began, most experts anticipated an ultimate showdown between the Yankees and Rays in the ALCS. However, the Rays needed to get past the Texas Rangers first in the ALDS. Game 1 at Tropicana Field would not go as planned, as David Price struggled in a 5-1 loss. Game 2 would bring further trouble for the Rays as the Rangers won 6-0 to take a 2-0 lead in the best of five series. As the series shifted to Texas, the Rays fought off a sweep with a 6-3 win in Game 3, as Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena hit crucial ninth-inning home runs to give the Rays a lead. With Evan Longoria pacing the offense, the Rays forced a fifth game and sent the series back to Tampa with a 5-2 win in Game 4. However, Tropicana Field would not be home sweet dome, as the Rangers behind Cliff Lee outdueled David Price again 5-1 to win the series. Following the season, the Rays would be forced to cut payroll as attendance did not match the team’s success. Carl Crawford was the most significant loss signing the Red Sox, while Rafael Soriano signed with the Yankees. The Rays would also trade Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs for prospects.
2011: With a reduced payroll, the Rays looked to get something out of former All-Stars Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, who each signed a one year contract. Early in the season, the veteran Rays looked like the early day Rays as they dropped their first six games, including a 0-5 record on their first homestand. After just a week in Tampa, Manny Ramirez suddenly retired after learning he would serve a 100 game suspension for a second positive test for performance-enhancing drugs. The Rays were also without 3B Evan Longoria, who missed a month with a strained oblique. After starting 1-8, the Rays began a series in Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox, who had also gotten off to a bad start. With Sam Fuld leading the way, the Rays offense finally broke out of its slump, beating the Sox 16-5. The Rays would win twice in Boston before rain postponed the series finale. The series in Boston would get the Rays going as they would win 14 of their next 18 games as they closed April over .500 at 15-12, becoming the first team in league history to start the season 0-6 and finish April with a winning record. The Rays continued to play winning baseball in May, thanks to strong pitching from Jeremy Hellickson, who posted a 4-1 record, with an ERA of 1.36. Hellickson would go on to win the American League Rookie of the Year, posting a record of 13-10 and a solid 2.,95 ERA. The Rays continued to play good baseball up into the All-Star Break, as they held a 49-41 record, as David Price, James Shields, and Matt Joyce were selected American League All-Stars. After the break, the Rays would stumble, losing four of seven to the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. One of the losses saw 15 shutout innings wasted as the Red Sox beat the Rays 1-0 in 16 innings, with the Rays managing just three hits. By the end of July, the Rays appeared to be fading in the American League East as they were ten and a half games out of first place. Despite a solid 18-10 record in August, the Rays failed to gain ground on the Red Sox and Yankees, who appeared to be ready for a battle for the division, with the loser getting the Wild Card. After losing their first two games to start September, the Rays were nine-game behind the Red Sox and nine and a half behind the Yankees, no team had ever overcome that deficit in September. With one last chance to get back in the race, the Rays took six of seven games against the Red Sox to close the gap in the chase for the Wild Card. Unfortunately, the Rays were not as successful when they faced Yankees in the Bronx, as the Yankees took the first three games of a four-game series to clinch the division. However, with the Red Sox in a historic free fall, the Rays were able to stay in the race, as September Matt Moore earned his first Major League win, as the Rays won the finale against the Yankees 15-8. After winning two of three from the Toronto Blue Jays, the Rays faced the Yankees with the wild card in reach. With a 5-2 win in the series opener, the Rays found themselves in a tie for the Wild Card with two games left, making up nine games in just three weeks. After both the Rays and Red Sox won on September 27th, the Rays went into the final game of the season tied for the Wild Card. Early on, things looked bleak as the Yankees raced out to a 7-0 lead, as the Red Sox had a lead on the road against the Baltimore Orioles. However, the Rays would get back in the game with six runs in the eighth inning capped by a three-run home run from Evan Longoria. At the same time, the Orioles were making a comeback in Baltimore; the Rays tied the game 7-7 on a pinch-hit home run by Dan Johnson with two outs and two strikes. With a .108 average on the season, Johnson was the least likely hero for the Rays. Meanwhile, in Baltimore, Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon unraveled in the ninth as the Orioles won 4-3. Back in Tampa, Evan Longoria played hero again with a walk-off home run in the 12th inning to give the Rays an 8-7 win to clinch the Wild Card with a record of 91-71.
2011 ALDS: In the ALDS against the Texas Rangers, the Rays were forced to start Rookie Matt Moore in the opener as they had used up their pitching staff in their remarkable late-season comeback. Moore pitched better than could have been expected, allowing just two hits over seven innings, while striking out six as the Rays won 9-0 behind two home runs from Kelly Shoppach. In Game 2, the Rays would jump out to a 3-0 lead, with a home run by Matt Joyce. However, the Rangers quickly came back, scoring five runs in the fourth inning on the way to an 8-6 win. As the series shifted to Tampa, the Rangers continued to use Tropicana Field as their personal playground, winning 4-3 to take control of the series. The Rangers would go on to win the series in four games, as Adrian Beltre hit three home runs to lead the Rangers to a 4-3 series-clinching win.
2012: After their dramatic surge to make the playoffs in 2011, the Rays looked to take the momentum into 2012, as they started the season with a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field, beating Mariano Rivera on a triple by Ben Zobrist and a single by Carlos Pena. He had returned to Tampa in the off-season. Led by a reliable pitching staff, backed by closer Fernando Rodney, the Rays broke out in front early, posting a record of 19-8 in their first 27 games. However, as April came to an end, the Rays season hit a bump in the road as Evan Longoria suffered a hamstring injury. First expected just to be out six to eight weeks, Longoria would miss 13 weeks, as the Rays struggled in his absence posting a record of 41-44. The injury to Longoria put extra pressure on B.J. Upton, who plays his final season, would do his best to keep the Rays offense rolling, leading the team with 28 home runs and 78 RBI. However, without their top hitter, Longoria, who still managed 17 homers and 55 RBI in less than half a season, the Rays offense became the team’s big weak spot, as their .240 average and 697 runs scored were among the worst in the American League. However, their pitching was the Rays’ strength as their 3.19 ERA was best in the league. The lack of runs scored would hurt the pitching staff’s win-loss record as both Matt Moore posted an 11-11 record, while Jeremy Hellickson was 10-11, despite ERA of 3.81 and 3.10, respectively. James Shield managed a somewhat better record of 15-10 with an ERA of 3.52, while David Price anchored the staff with a record of 20-5 with a league-leading 2.54 ERA. Price would go on to win the Cy Young Award, beating Justin Verlander in one of the closest votes in recent years. Bolstering the Rays starting staff, was a solid bullpen led by Fernando Rodney. He went from being released by the Los Angeles Angels after a terrible 2011 season to one of the most reliable closers in all of baseball. He saved 48 games and posted a microscopic ERA of 0.60 as he was named Comeback Player of the Year in the American League. After Longoria returned to the lineup, the Rays made another late surge towards the postseason. However, they would fall just short, as the Baltimore Orioles swept them in a critical three-game series in mid-September. The Rays would finish three games in back of the Orioles for the second Wild Card spot, posting a record of 90-72. The off-season would see more players leave Tampa, as the B.J. Upton signed with the Atlanta Braves. At the same time, James Shields was sent to the Kansas City Royals, along with Wade Davis in a trade for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard. Meyers, considered to be one of the top prospects in baseball was the key to the deal.
2013: After the Rays missed the playoffs, they had another busy off-season, as they continued to be restrained by their budget. The Rays would see B.J. Upton make a move north and sign with the Atlanta Braves. At the same time, pitching-rich they traded James Shields and Wade Davis to the Kansas City Royals with Elliot Johnson for Wil Myers, who was considered to be the top Outfield prospect in all of baseball, also receiving pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery, and third baseman Patrick Leonard in return. The Rays had their struggles early in the season as they lost 10 of their first 15 games, including as they suffered a three-game sweep at the hands of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on the day they were leaving Boston the city would be devastated by a terrorist attack at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The Rays would finish April strong and get back within two games of .500. The Rays would carry over the strong finish into May, as they won 18 games. Still, the Tampa had some troubles, as reigning Cy Young winner was put on the Disabled List with a triceps injury after losing four of his first five decisions. While Price was struggling, Matt Moore won his first eight decisions on his way to posting a 17-4 record, while Alex Cobb also started strong at 6-2. Cobb would suffer a scary injury on June 15th when he was struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals. Cobb’s injury would symbolize another tough month in which they posted a record of 13-15. Looking for a jumpstart, the Rays recalled Wil Myers on June 18th. Myers would have an immediate impact as he hit .293 and hit 23 home runs with 55 RBI to lead all American League Rookies in 88 games and would be named Rookie of the Year. From the time Myers arrived, the Rays fortunes took off as they posted a 26-6 record between June 19th and July 30th. This would allow the Rays to make a run at the division championship, but head to head struggles against the Red Sox prevented them from ever taking over the division lead. Another rookie who helped the Rays was Chris Archer, who had a strong second half and posted a record of 9-7. A rough Interleague road trip against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers ended the Rays run in August as they suffered a six-game losing streak. The Rays would go back West at the end of the month and continued to struggle as they dropped seven of ten against the Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners and lost their lead for the Wild Card as their hopes to win the American League East vanished. As the playoff chase reached its final stretch, the Rays were in a three-team battle for the two Wild Card spots with the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers. With a chance to create some separation, the Rays only managed a split of a four-game series against the Rangers at Tropicana Field. Fortunately, the Rays would take their next seven games against the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees and entered the final weekend in control of their own destiny. They would drop two of three to the Toronto Blue Jays and finished with a record of 91-71, which was the same record as the Rangers creating the need for a one-game playoff in Arlington for the second Wild Card Spot. David Price, who had solid second half, was tasked to make a start and pitched a complete game, allowing two runs and seven hits as the Rays won the game 5-2 to get in the Wild Card at 92-71. Evan Longoria, who had an excellent season, provided the offense going 3-for-4 with a key two-run homer in the third inning. Longoria would lead the Rays with 32 home runs and 88 RBI.
2013 Postseason: Alex Cobb, who returned from getting hit by a line drive and posted a solid record of 11-3, would get the start in the Wild Card Game as the Rays faced the Cleveland Indians in their third game in three cities in four days. Cobb was brilliant pitching six-and-two-thirds, scoreless innings, as Delmon Young picked up late in the year off waivers hit a home run in the third inning to give the Rays an early lead at Progressive Field. The Rays would add three more runs on an RBI double by Desmond Jennings in the fourth inning a single by Yunel Escobar in the ninth to win the game 4-0. The Rays would go on to face the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. The Rays all seasons struggled against the Red Sox, posting a 7-12 mark. Matt Moore got the start in Game 1 and looked good early retiring the first nine batters as the Rays held an early 2-0 lead on homers by Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist. However, the Red Sox took advantage of poor Tampa fielding and exploded for five runs in the fourth, adding three more in the fifth inning on the way to win the game at Fenway Park 12-2. Game 2 would bring more pain for the Rays as David Ortiz hit two home runs off David Price to lead the Red Sox to a 7-4 win. As the series shifted to Tampa, the Rays got a solid start from Alex Cobb and a homer from Evan Longoria and led the game 4-3 heading into the ninth inning. However, the Sox would tie the game as Closer Fernando Rodney faltered. The Rays would bounce back to hold off the sweep as Jose Lobaton hit a walk-off home run off Koji Uehara in the ninth inning to give Tampa new life and a 5-4 win. It would be the only run Uehara allowed during the postseason as he bounced back to get the save in Game 4, as the Red Sox eliminated the Rays with a 3-1 win. The Red Sox would go on to win the World Series for the third time in ten years.
2014: After winning the Wild Card Game, the Tampa Bay Rays entered the season with lofty expectations. However, right from the start of the season, the Rays were ravaged by injuries. After just two starts, the Rays would lose Matt Moore for the season, with torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament requiring Tommy John surgery. An elbow injury also sidelined Jeremy Hellickson in April. With two key starting pitchers on the disabled list, the Rays struggled in the first two months and sat in last place with a record of 23-33. Things would only get worse in June as the Rays lost Outfielder Wil Meyers to a wrist injury. At the time of the Meyers injury, the Rays were in the midst of their worst stretch since the club’s early years as they lost ten straight and 14 of 15 games to fall to 24-42. During this time, they lost a member of the family as longtime Coach Don Zimmer passed away at the age of 83. Just at it looked their season would unravel, the Rays surged back into contention and came within one game of .500 by posting a record of 29-12 over six weeks from the middle of June to the end of July. Helping to key the Rays resurgence was David Price, who struggled with a 4-65 record and an ERA of 3.97 in the first two and half months, but won seven of eight decisions with a 1.69 ERA during the Rays turnaround. However, Rays management fearing the loss of David Price to free agency, decided to trade their ace to the Detroit Tigers. In return, the Rays would get Drew Smyly, Nick Franklin, and Willy Adames in a three-team deal that also included the Seattle Mariners. The trade of Price stopped the Rays momentum as they lost four of five games to start the month of August. Eventually, the Rays would get back on track and made it back to .500 at 61-61 as Alex Cobb blanked the New York Yankees 4-0 at Tropicana Field. The Rays would drop their next four games before Cobb outdueled David Price in a 1-0 win over the Detroit Tigers, in the former Cy Young winner’s return to Tampa. The Rays would go on to finish the season in fourth place with a record of 77-85. After the season was over, manager Joe Maddon exercised an opt-out clause in his contract and became a managerial free agent, eventually becoming manager of the Chicago Cubs.
2015: It was a new era for the Tampa Bay Rays after the departure of manager Joe Maddon, who exercised an out clause to become a free agent later becoming manager of the Chicago Cubs. The Rays new manager would be Kevin Cash, who had played with the Rays in 2005. Besides the departure of Maddon, the Rays roster underwent a makeover as the Rays looked to add more youth. The new-look Rays had their ups and downs in the season early as they posted a record of 12-10 in April. Such streaky play would be the hallmark of the Rays all season as they hovered near .500 most of the season. Despite this, they would be near the top of the American League East as the division itself was mired in parity. June would be Tampa’s best month as they spent a week in first place. July, however, would be a backbreaker as they struggled with a record of 9-16. When the season was over, the up and down Rays would land in fourth place with a record of 80-82. Pitching was again the substantial part of the Rays as their staff ERA of 3.74 was ranked fourth in the American League. Chris Archer was Tampa’s top pitcher as he finished fifth in Cy Young voting, despite a 12-13 record. Archer often pitched in hard luck with little run support as his 3.23 ERA and 252 strikeouts would attest. Jake Odorizzi was also solid in the Rays rotation, posting a record of 9-9 and a 3.35 ERA. At the same time, Ermaso Ramirez, who was acquired from the Seattle Mariners just before the start of the season, had a strong second half posting a record of 11-6 with an ERA of 3.75. Unfortunately, the Rays lineup was not as strong as the lowest-scoring team in the American League. Evan Longoria was the Rays top hitter, batting .270 with a team-high in home runs (21) and RBI (70). Logan Forsythe meanwhile had a breakout season, hitting .281 with 17 homers and 68 RBI.
2016: The Tampa Bay Rays struggled right from the start of the season, as they lost seven of their first ten games. Chris Archer, who entered the season as a favorite to win the Cy Young, was among the Rays who got off to poor starts, losing his first four starts. Archer pitched poorly throughout the first half, holding a record of 4-12, with an ERA of 4.66 before the All-Star Break. With Chris Archer struggling, the Rays found themselves languishing in last place with a record of 34-54. Chris Archer pitched better in the second half but had poor run support as he narrowly missed a 20-loss season, posting a record of 9-19 with an ERA of 4.02. Despite the struggles, Archer still ranked second in the American League with 233 strikeouts. While Archer underperformed, the Rays got a solid season from Jake Odorizzi, who posted a record of 10-6 with an ERA of 3.69. At the same time, Evan Longoria remained the bedrock of the lineup, hitting .273, with 36 home runs and 98 RBI. Nothing save the Rays from finishing in last place as they posted a record of 68-94.
2017: After finishing in last place in 2016, the Tampa Bay Rays entered the season hoping to be more competitive, while continuing to face the tribulations of a small market team in a terrible stadium. The Rays played well at Tropicana Field early in the season, winning nine games in April, taking two of three to start the season against the New York Yankees. If the goal was to stay at or near .500, the Rays accomplished it as they held a 29-27 record at the end of May. Heading into the All-Star Break, Tampa was in the thick of the Wild Card hunt, as they won three of four at the Trop against the first-place Boston Red Sox to sit at 47-43 during the break. Out of the break, reality struck the Rays, as they lost 21 of 30 games and slipped below .500. The Rays would go on to finish the season in third place with a record of 80-82. In what would be his final season in Tampa, Evan Longoria hit .261 with 20 home runs with 86 RBI, as he became the second member of the Rays to hit for the cycle on August 1st. Logan Morrison led the team in home runs with 38, adding 85 RBI with a .246 average, with the 30-home run mark with Steve Souza. After losing 19 games, Chris Archer rebounded in 2017, posting a 10-12 record while representing the Rays at the All-Star Game.
2018: After finishing near .500, the Tampa Bay Rays had to make hard decisions and traded All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants, receiving Denard Span, Christian Arroyo, and two other prospects. The Rays got off to a poor start, losing 13 of the first 17 games. Tampa Bay would quickly turn things around, winning 10 of 12 games. May would see the same pattern for the Rays, as they struggled at the start of the month, played well at the end of the month, and found themselves near .500 when the month was over. In May looking to change things up, manager Kevin Cash using relievers to make critical starts during the season. The plan was getting a fresh arm at the beginning and throughout the game instead of using a back end of the rotation player. The new strategy was called using an “opener,” and other teams in MLB would soon copy it. When June ended, it was the same script, leaving Tampa Bay sitting at 41-41 at the end of June. Continuing their .500 wade, the Rays looked to move contracts at the trade deadline as Chris Archer was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows, and Shawn Baez. The Rays continued to hover near .500 until the middle of August. The Rays would begin a late push for the Wild Card, winning eight-straight games. This included four wins over the Boston Red Sox, who were on their way to 108-wins. This continued into September, where they won 14 of 17, but ran out of gas in their pursuit to catch the Wild Card leaders. In the end, the Rays would finish 90-72, falling seven games short of the Wild Card. A big part of the Rays late charge was Blake Snell. Over the last two months, Snell posted a record of 9-0 with an ERA of 1.17. Overall, Blake Snell posted a record of 21-5, with an ERA of 1.89 and 221 strikeouts. After leading the American League in wins and ERA, Blake Snell would win the Cy Young Award. The Rays did not provide much power, as C.J. Cron was the team’s leading home run hitter with 30. Wilson Ramos ranked second in home runs with 14. Neither play would be retained, as Cron signed with the Minnesota Twins and Ramos signed with the Mets.
2019: The Tampa Bay Rays had a quiet offseason, as their most significant move was the signing of Charlie Morton to a two-year $30 million contract. Morton would prove to be an essential addition, as Blake Snell suffered through a season full of injury. Making 23 starts, Snell posted a record of 6-8 with a 4.29 ERA as he made several trips to the injured list. Morton meanwhile emerged as the ace of the Rays, posting a record of 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA and a third in Cy Young voting. Two players who ended up playing a significant role for Tampa Bay were the players that had gotten for Chris Archer. Tyler Glasnow posted a record of 6-1 with a 1.78 ERA before injuries forced him to miss nearly four months. Meanwhile, Austin Meadows was the Rays’ power source, hitting 33 home runs with 89 RBI as he made it to his first All-Star Game. The Rays also continued to employ the opener to perfection, as more teams when they needed an emergency start began to look towards their bullpens. The Rays jumped out of the gate with 14-4 start, which would show they would be a factor in the chase of October all season. While the New York Yankees overtook Tampa for the division lead, the Rays were in the heart of the Wild Card all season. Except for June, the Rays had a winning record in each month during the regular season as they battled the Oakland Athletics and Cleveland Indians for the two Wild Card spots in the American League. On Labor Day weekend, the Rays took a big step towards earning a playoff berth as they swept a series against the Indians at Tropicana Field. The Rays would do well at home in September, winning 12 of 14 games. This would allow them to pull away from Cleveland, as they posted a record of 96-66, the second-best mark in franchise history. The 96 wins would earn the Tampa Bay Rays a trip to the postseason as the second Wild Card in the American League.
2019 Wild Card: The Tampa Bay Rays would make the long journey to the West Coast as they faced the Oakland Athletics for a trip to the ALDS. The Rays sent Charlie Morton to the mound against Sean Manaea. Yandy Diaz would start the game with a bang hitting a leadoff home run. In the second inning, Avisail Garcia delivered a two-run bomb to stake Morton and the Rays to a 3-0 lead. Diaz would later make it 4-0, with a second home run as Tampa was enjoying a power surge. Charlie Morton would allow one run on five hits in five innings. The Tampa bullpen would allow just three hits the rest of the way as Tommy Pham added a home run for a 5-1 victory by the Rays.
2019 ALDS: The Tampa Bay Rays would face the Houston Astros in the Division Series. Houston had the two top pitchers in baseball and won 107 games in the regular season. In the opener, Tyler Glasnow was able to match Justin Verlander zero for zero until the fifth inning when he ran out of gas. The Astros would score four runs that inning, more than enough Verlander allowed just one hit over seven innings as the Astros took Game 1 by a score of 6-2. Blake Snell would take on Gerrit Cole in Game 2, as the Rays bats again were silenced in a 3-1 loss. Charlie Morton was on the mound looking to shut his former team down, as the Rays hoped to avoid a sweep at Tropicana Field. Morton gave up a first-inning run but quickly settled down. Meanwhile, Kevin Kiermaier woke the Rays’ offense up with three-run homer in the second inning. The Rays would go on to pound Zack Greinke and the Astros 10-3. The Astros turned to Verlander on short rest in Game 4, while Diego Castillo was Tampa’s opener, a bullpen Game 4. Tampa jumped on Verlander for three runs in the first as the opener strategy worked well for the Rays, keeping the Astros off-balance all game as they won 4-1 to send the series back to Houston for a decisive fifth game. The Rays season would end in Houston as Gerrit Cole allowed just two hits in eight innings, while the Astros scored four runs off Glasnow in the first en route to a 6-1 win as they would eventually play in the World Series.
©MMXX Tank Productions. Stats researched by Frank Fleming, all information, statistics, logos, and team names are property of Major League Baseball. This site is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Rays or MLB. This site is maintained for research purposes only. All logos used on this page were from Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page.
Page created on April 8, 2001. Last updated on June 5, 2020, at 9:55 am ET.