As the Rays reconvene today for a workout in advance of resuming play Friday vs. Boston, here are five numbers to keep in mind:
That's how many games the Rays are out of first place, and five from the wild card. How that number changes over the next couple weeks is likely to dictate what the Rays do by the July 31 deadline for trades without waivers. As much as the Rays insist it's never as simple as being labeled buyers or sellers, if that number goes down, or remains the same, they'd seem more likely to look to a add a piece or two, with a late-inning reliever most likely, and a DH/LF type probably next; and if it goes up, to sell off some parts (with B.J. Upton and James Shields likely to be the names atop the rumor list) for longer-term improvements to the overall organization.
Know this: They've already been hard at it. "We're having a lot of conversations with other teams right now," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "We've gotten through the information-gathering phase and now we're starting to have more pointed conversations on a number of fronts and if something lines up that makes sense for us in terms of the areas that we're focused on, we'll be aggressive to act."
That's the difference in the average number of runs the Rays score in home games (3.26) and road games (5.06). That's a potentially historic accomplishment, as the last team to finish a season with a greater disparity was the 1957 Milwaukee Braves, who were at 1.97 — and happened to win the World Series. But in the present, it's a big problem for the Rays as the Trop is suddenly no longer providing much of a homefield advantage. They're hitting for a .228 average there vs. .258 on the road, have a lower OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) at home, .676 vs. .741. (Their pitching is much more similar, a 3.27 ERA at home, 3.87 on the road.) After averaging 53 wins the last three seasons under the tilted roof, the Rays are only 21-21 this season, and thus on a pace for 40.5 home wins. At that rate, to win 90 games, they'd have to finish 22-11 on the road.
That's the Rays record in games started by any pitchers not named James Shields and David Price. With the two All-Stars on the mound, the Rays are 23-15. But with all the others, they are a .500 team, and how they pitch will be a key in determining what they Rays are playing for and how long they're playing.
Rookie RHP Jeremy Hellickson has pitched in some bad luck recently, as he lost four consecutive June starts with his teammates scoring exactly one run for him. (Then again he enjoyed tremendous run support early in the season.) Also, the Rays would like to limit him to 170-180 innings, and he's already at 103 2/3).
The bigger concern are the other two starters, Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis. Niemann has had three good starts and one bad one since coming off the DL, and last time out flashed the dazzling form he showed early in 2010. Davis has been inconsistent throughout the season, and is currently on the DL with a forearm strain though expected back next week.
That's the percentage of the Rays' 72 remaining games — 26 — that are against the Red Sox and Yankees, the two teams they are chasing. That includes their first seven after the break, and 13 of their last 19. Overall, their post-break schedule is taxing (53 games in 55 days to start out) and treacherous, ranked the most difficult of all contenders by ESPN's Buster Olney, based on having 36 games against teams currently above .500. While 39 of their games are at home (which isn't necessarily a good thing, see below), they still face two 10-game treks, to Kansas City, Oakland and Seattle this month, and to Baltimore, Boston and New York in September. They also have to go to Texas, which tends to be a problem. On the plus side, 20 games with the last-place A's, O's and Royals.
That's the number of games (out of their first 90) in which the Rays scored three or fewer runs and had fewer than 10 hits. It's the third highest such total of American League teams (the Mariners have 55 and the A's 48), but the Rays have the worst record in those situations, going only 9-33 (.214).
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.