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Thursday, Nov 23, 2017
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Rays' hot start cries out for perspective

TAMPA - … And then the championship parade circles Tropicana Field, goes along the bay for another splash of ticker tape, then it circles Mayor Bill Foster's office, twice, then it's out to 275 and over the Howard Frankland Bridge to Tampa. And it doesn't ever come back! OK, that's really getting ahead of the story. For now, though, your world beating Rays are a spotless 3-0, with a big, fat three-game lead over the Yankees and Red Sox, who are 0-3 together for the first time in 46 years. The Rays craved a good start and, three games in, this is as good as it gets. Now it's off to Detroit for three days games against the 3-0 Tigers, beginning today.
And, oh, yes, Matt Moore is pitching. Are we having fun yet? Then it's four afternoons in Boston, which will give the Rays eight consecutive day games when you throw in Sunday's series sweeper over the Yankees. This has to be some kind of modern, non-Cubs, before-there-was-light record. There are going to be a lot of long late lunches in Tampa Bay this week. But perspective should be on the menu. Yes, Evan Longoria is leading the American League in hitting with a .600 average, but we're almost certain his average will drop slightly during the season. Carlos Pena is on pace for 378 RBIs and David Price and Jeremy Hellickson both project out to go 33-0. Truth be told, I think even 30-3 is a reach. Take a deep breath, everyone, and quit building parade floats. This is just the kind of start the Rays needed to get the buzz going, but it's no final indicator, any more than last season's 0-6 start doomed all chances. Remember that Boston began 2011 by going 2-10, but it still took until the last night of the season for the Rays to beat them out. All you need to know is the last time the Rays went 3-0 was the 2002 Devil Rays, who proceeded to drop 100 games faster than any AL team had in 53 years on the way to losing a team record 106. All you need to know is the last time the Yankees began 0-3 was 1998, when they finished with a then AL-record 114 wins and won another world championship. Keep that in mind, kids. That's hard to do right now, I know. Consider that the returning Pena and new man Luke Scott combined for 10 RBIs against New York and newcomer Jeff Keppinger homered Sunday. The Rays just put up 18 runs in three games, ungodly for them, especially since they included five off CC Sabathia, two off Mo Rivera. Consider that Price looked solid in his first outing of 2012 and that reigning AL rookie of the year Hellickson, displaying no perceivable heart rate, as usual, allowed just three hits in 8 2/3 innings. Consider that the bullpen didn't cough up any game, though it tried Saturday. Meanwhile, Josh Beckett was squashed like a bug in Detroit and the Red Sox bullpen, without injured closer Andrew Bailey, handed over 10 earned runs in roughly 12 innings. In addition, the Sox scored 12 times Sunday and lost , and some Boston players are apparently still seething over the clubhouse mole who blew the lid on Beer Gate after last season's fold. Bobby Valentine is three games into his Boston managerial career and there's already a death watch? That's ridiculous, but the more time the Red Sox have to spend talking or thinking about this, the better for the Rays. And now Matt Moore pitches. Last year's September and October phenom makes his first start of the season this afternoon in Detroit, where he'll battle Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. It's worth calling in sick, isn't it? "I'm glad to be in a position where I can maybe kind of get people excited about team and this season," Moore said a few weeks ago. But a baseball season goes on and on and on. And then it goes on and on some more. What was it Yogi Berra once said? "C'mon, Mickey, take off the fishnets." Oops, that wasn't Yogi saying. Oh, here it is: "It ain't over 'til it's over." And this ain't hardly started.
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