Time to pay attention to the Tampa Bay Rays again

The Rays are fun to watch again, hitting homeruns (three last night, a team-record-setting 41 in June) and stealing bases. (They're one of five teams to notch 100 homers and 100 steals before the All-Star break, and did it faster than any other team in Major League history.)

They're defense has improved (centerfielder B.J. Upton has made several extraordinary plays in recent games, making them look kind of easy.)

The pitching has found its equilibrium. The bullpen, vulnerable as recently as three weeks ago, has shut down teams in the late innings.

For all you casual Rays fans, and for those of you who witnessed the early part of this season and figured last year's World Series run was a fluke, it's time to start paying attention again.

The Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays last night 4-1, and now have a season-long seven-game winning streak.

After hovering around .500 for several weeks, the St. Pete club has busted out to a record of 44-35, nine games over for the first time this year.

The Rays are four games behind AL East-leading Boston and a game-and-half behind second-place New York, which currently holds the wildcard playoff spot. Their record is better than Al Central-leading Detroit (43-34) and AL West-leading Los Angeles (42-33). (Yes, it's early — with only 79 of 162 games played — but I tell you this just to reinforce the idea that the Ray are back in the hunt.

Third baseman Evan Longoria, who's been hobbled with a hamstring injury in recent weeks, was voted by the fans to start in the All-Star Game. Left fielder Carl Crawford is having a career year, and should be chosen to the team, as should shortstop Jason Bartlett. Utility man Ben Zobrist and relief pitcher J.P. Howell have drawn serious consideration, but Joe Maddon, who will manage the American League in the All-Star Game, may find it all but impossible to place either one on the squad.

About The Author

Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
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