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Rays’ win in Texas caps winning month of May

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Did Wednesday’s game in Arlington against the Texas Rangers signal a turning point for the Tampa Bay Rays? While there is no question the dramatic 7-5, 10-inning comeback win was the highlight of the season, it is still only one win.

A better barometer is established using a larger sample size. The signs are good for Tampa Bay.

A quality team must win on the road, or at least break even. The win in Texas brought the Rays’ overall road record to 13-14.

While that is nothing to celebrate, the good news lies in their road record for the entire month of May. Playing 14 games in Miami, Boston, Cleveland, Minnesota and Texas, the Rays went 10-4.

During the current trip, which now continues in Seattle, they are showing signs of putting the ball in play more often. During the first 6 games of the current road trip, which continues in Seattle on Friday, the Rays have fanned more than 10 times only twice.

Why is this significant? Tampa Bay leads Major League Baseball in strikeouts by a wide margin, averaging more than 10 per game. In the final two games in Texas, they struck out only 5 times each game.

The Rays also lead Major League Baseball in home runs with 83. While making better contact recently, the power continues, hitting 15 home runs during the 6 games of this road trip.

While everyone is making a contribution, how big has Logan Morrison come up? He has hit two home runs in extra innings on this trip, paving the way for a Rays’ victory. Morrison homered in the 15th inning of the Rays 8-6 win over the Twins and in the 10th inning of Wednesday’s victory over Texas.

Evan Longoria has also homered in extra innings on the trip. Morrison would not have had the chance to put the Rays on top Wednesday had it not been for a dramatic, two-out, game-tying homer by Kevin Kiermaier.

Tampa Bay’s pitching has been good enough to keep them in several games in which they have found ways to win later. Wednesday’s game is a case in point.

Thursday provides a welcome day off for a tired group, although the plane ride to Seattle must have been more relaxing after such an emotional victory.

“We’re looking forward to the off-day for sure,” said Manager Kevin Cash after the Texas win. “It’s going to help a lot of guys to just relax, lay around, not pick up a baseball.”

The Rays just completed a stretch where they played 33 games in 34 days in 7 different cities.

Now that they are playing much better away from Tropicana Field, the next step toward a successful season is to perform better at home. They were only 7-9 in May home games.

They can work on that beginning next Tuesday. After spending the weekend in Seattle, they return home to face the Chicago White Sox.

In the meantime, Jake Odorizzi takes the mound on Friday night in Seattle to start the month of June.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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