Now that the Rays 7-game burst has ended, it begs the question: what does it mean?
Did the Rays just hit a soft part of the schedule and capitalize? A little.
Did the return of Evan Longoria fundamentally alter the appearance of the lineup? A little.
Did it get them back in the race in the AL East? No.*
Was it a flash in the pan?
That last question is really the key. Right? A 7-game win streak is all well and good but, not worth a lot if it is followed by a stretch of more mediocre baseball. Nevertheless, there is something about the way the win-streak came about that makes me think it is a foundation upon which the Rays can build.
Before the last 7 games, every story was about the Rays’ inept offense. And rightfully so. That kind of pressure mounts and forces players to stretch in an effort to end all the negativity on every pitch. When Longo returned, it looked to me like hitters relaxed. There wasn’t as much pressure because Longo was in the lineup (however realistic that outlook is, and I think statistically it might be strained, it is undeniable that it has a mental effect on the others).
Now the story is about the Rays being the team everyone expected in 2012. They are getting asked questions about the success instead of the failure. That relaxes players and allows them to avoid pressing in clutch situations.
In fact, I think you can argue that the Rays improved defense during the streak has a correlation to their offensive performance. Maybe they were making so many errors earlier in the season because they knew their margins were razor-thin. Maybe they were pressing in the field AND at the plate. It’s not a totally crazy possibility. Right?
So, hopefully that 7-gamer sets them up for a big weekend in
Anaheim Los Angeles. Secretly, I am glad they lost in Seattle. If they headed into that series with the Angels on a 9-game streak, the streak becomes more important than the games and they end up playing themselves back into pressing. Now that the streak is over, they can focus on winning serieses (is that the plural of ‘series?’ no way, right?).