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Monday, May 21, 2018
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Martin Fennelly Columns

This is how Rays were supposed to look

— The road back seems impossibly long.

“Very tough. Awful math,” admitted true believer and Rays manager Joe Maddon said.


Figuring a way out of that is algebra 2 and 3 and trig rolled into one.

In short, it's a world away from 9=8.

Here we are, in late June, and we're staring at a long, cold summer, devoid of playoff fever.

Saturday, an 8-0 win over Houston at the Trop, was how the 2014 Rays were supposed to look.

You hit the ball, you throw the ball, you catch the ball.

“We just haven't done it all together,” Rays first baseman James Loney said.

Happy days.

Where have those been?

The pitching, namely starter Jake Odorizzi (one hit, 10 strikeouts), was outstanding. The Rays lineup for once treated a pitcher making his major-league debut like ... a pitcher making his major-league debut. The Rays offense got all timely with runners in scoring position (5-for-13) instead of assuming the fetal position. And the defense never faltered.

And all of that brought the Rays back to: 16 games under .500.

They're still looking up at the Astros, and everybody else in baseball.

It's awful math.

There isn't a real Rays playoff chase to talk about.

How boring. How hopeless.

The real math is trying to compute whether David Price stays or goes.

Sell, sell, sell.

But Saturday was how it was supposed to look.

“It's the kind of game we're capable of, absolutely,” Maddon said.

Problem is, at this point you can't even invoke 2011, when the Rays caught the Red Sox for the wild card from nine games back in September.

“The difference there is how many teams are in front of you,” Maddon said. “This is like the whole world is in front of us.”

Saturday, Odorizzi was masterful. It was his first win in five weeks, but he has been coming around. Saturday's outing would look great in a playoff stretch run in September, wouldn't it? That is, if September mattered anymore.

Saturday, the Rays actually took advantage of the greenery that comes with a pitcher in his first game in the majors. Just last season, Houston's Jarred Cosart beat the Rays in his big-league debut; the Rays didn't get a hit off Cosart until the seventh inning. No such luck for the Astros starter Saturday. I'm not saying the Rays pounded Jake Buchanan, up from the minors. But the Rays scored twice off Buchanan in the first, added three more before he left and three more after that. Loney had three RBIs. He hadn't done that in two months. The Rays hadn't scored eight runs in a game since last month against the Red Sox.

Saturday was how it was supposed to look all 2014.

It stood out like a healthy thumb.

Maddon the compulsive optimist thinks the bats still have a chance to get hot, all at once.

“At the end of the day it's about math, and if guys' numbers are less than they usually are, you've got to believe that they'll come back,” he said.

Saturday was how it was supposed to look.

But it hardly made a dent the real math.

That's the awful truth.

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