With 3 games before the calendar turns, the wild ride that is the month of August continues for the Tampa Bay Rays. Following another 1-0 loss to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday, August 28, the club has disappointingly dropped 4 consecutive games. Such streaks have characterized Tampa Bay's play throughout the month, as have several worthy achievements and also a few notorious failures. Despite the turbulence, the Rays sport a record of 16-9 in August and stand closer to the playoffs than when the month began. Here's a look at the significant milestones of a memorable month.
7 Game Winning Streak, August 7th - 13th: After shutout in back-to-back games from the Baltimore Orioles, the Rays received an injection of offense with the return on Evan Longoria on August 7th. Longo missed 3 1/2 months due to a torn hamstring and his absence deprived the team of its most feared hitter. Returning to DH duties, and more importantly his cleanup spot in the middle of the order, Tampa Bay swept consecutive series against the Toronto Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins. With improved offensive production, the stretch further included a triumph over the Seattle Mariners. Rising in the AL standing, the Rays were accomplishing the task that pennant contenders must perform down the stretch -- feast on sub-par teams.
Perfect Game by Felix Hernandez, August 15th: After the aforementioned streak concluded, the Rays dropped consecutive contests in Seattle. Each was a 1 run defeat, where Tampa Bay's pitching remained solid, but its rising offense smashed into a road bump. Indeed, the 1-0 loss on August 15th proved more of a prison for the club's hitters. During an afternoon game, Mariners' ace Felix Hernandez pitched the 23rd perfect game in MLB history. Incredibly, the 12 strikeout performance was the 3rd such accomplishment in 2012 and the 3rd time the Rays have been victims of a perfect game in the past 4 seasons. The only positive from this historic development was how quickly the team put the loss behind them.
5 Game Winning Streak, August 16th - August 20th: Immediately following the inability to produce a single baserunner against Seattle, the Rays posted a record-setting explosion against the Los Angeles Angels. Sweeping a 4 game set in Southern California, Tampa Bay broke its team record for runs plated in a series by out-scoring the Angels 37-14. The sweep included a dramatic 10-8 victory on August 18th, where the surging club overcame a 8 run deficit to shock Angels' pitcher C.J. Wilson. The Rays concluded the critical 10 game trip with an impressive 8-2 record, seized the top wildcard position, and even drew within 2.5 games of the division leading New York Yankees.
4 Game Losing Streak, August 24th - August 28th: After capturing the 1st game against the wildcard rival Oakland A's, it appeared the scrappy Rays could not handle so much success. Though the offense had been rolling, and received another boost from the return of DH Luke Scott, Tampa Bay's bats again turned ice cold. Dropping the final 2 contests against Oakland, the team managed only 4 hits in a 4-2 loss to end a 3-3 home-stand. Hoping fortunes would again improve on the road, the Rays then dropped the opening pair to the Texas Rangers. These defeats were particularly frustrating in that ace David Price was actually provided run support, but suffered a rare letdown in a 6-5 defeat, before the Rays followed that failure on the losing end of another 4 hit shutout.
5 Shutout Losses, including four 1-0 defeats: When the Rays lose, Joe Maddon's boys do it in style. Though Tampa Bay has only dropped 9 games in August, they actually failed to score a run in 5 of those defeats. These disasters typically do not occur against top teams or pitchers, King Felix excluded. The 5 shutouts include 2 blankings by Baltimore, 1 from Seattle, 1 from Kansas City, and 1 from hitting-minded Texas. Furthermore, the Rays' hard-luck hurlers deserved better in these defeats. In 4 of the 5 shutouts, the final score was 1-0. Tampa Bay's pitching was superior enough that a bloop or blast by a single hitter could have prevented defeat in any of these 4 games. Unfortunately, that was too much to ask from this currently offensively-challenged squad. As the series in Texas concludes on August 29th, the 70-59 Rays sit 1.5 games out of the wildcard.
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Jeff Briscoe is a regular contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network and a follower of theTampa Bay Rays. He talks Rays' baseball and more on The Sports Train radio show in Southwest Florida.