The Tampa Bay Rays have been looking forward to Thursday. This day will be like no other that they have experienced since April 27.
It is called on off-day.
Thursday marks only their third day off since the season began, but it will be the first for them at home. The other two were in New York and traveling between Baltimore and Toronto.
The span of 20-games-in-20 days started with 5 games in Toronto and Miami and finished with 6 games in Boston and Cleveland. In between were 9 home games with Miami, Toronto and Kansas City.
While the Rays went 10-10 over that span, the 3-6 home stand left many wondering if the team was poised for a prolonged tailspin. After all, they were heading out to face the Red Sox and Indians on the road, which is no easy task to put it mildly.
Winning four of those 6 games gives the team a welcome boost heading into the off day. Taking the last two in Cleveland was extra important.
Their stay in Cleveland was eventful. Doing what they do best, the Rays hit 10-home runs at Progressive Field over the three games, a franchise record.
“Home runs are fun,” Colby Rasmus said on mlb.com. “Chicks dig the long ball. We’re just trying to put good swings on it.”
For those needing a refresher, the Rasmus reference to “chicks” came from the famous ad featuring Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Mark McGwire.
Tuesday’s game, a 6-4 Rays’ win, provided the best example of the dichotomy that describes this Rays team. Tampa Bay became only the third team in history to hit 5 home runs, while striking out 16 times in the same game.
While they lead MLB in strikeouts by a wide margin, the Rays, as they should, choose to look at the positive.
“Obviously, a great series,” said Rays’ Manager Kevin Cash. “It’s a pretty challenging task to go into Boston and come in (to Cleveland) and find a way to have a winning road trip.”
After the day off, the Rays welcome the Yankees to Tropicana Field on Friday. They are six games behind New York, who continues to surprise with the performance of young players.
Friday’s game begins a stretch of 13 games before their next day off on June 1, meaning they will have played 33 games in 34 days barring any rainouts.
Hopefully, they will take advantage of the brief respite Thursday provides.