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Rays Tales: Wrapping up Tampa Bay's 19th season

Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) in the dugout after scoring on the three run double by Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Matt Duffy (5) in the sixth inning of the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]

Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) in the dugout after scoring on the three run double by Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Matt Duffy (5) in the sixth inning of the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]

Some highlights, lowlights and sidelights as the Rays today put a wrap on their 19th season:

THREE WHO IMPRESSED

• 3B Evan Longoria answered any and all questions, candidly admitting his own included, about his career arc with a season that ranks among the best of his nine seasons with the Rays. Longoria, with two games left, had put up career highs in homers (36), hits (171), extra-base hits (80, including 40 doubles), total bases (327), and is closing in on his third season of 100 RBIs, all while playing Gold Glove quality defense at third and providing positive leadership through the disappointing season.

• RHP Alex Colome had not saved a game in the minors or majors (and only two in winter ball) before taking over as closer when RHP Brad Boxberger was injured in spring training. All he did was convert 36 of 38 with a side trip to the All-Star Game.

• As if the value of CF Kevin Kiermaier's golden touch wasn't clear, it became immensely obvious during the seven weeks he was sidelined with a broken left hand, the Rays going 14-34 in his absence. Further, he moved up to No. 2 in the order and became a better offensive player, dropping bunts, working counts and stealing bases.

THREE WHO DISAPPOINTED

• RHP Chris Archer definitely pitched better than his 9-19, 4.02 numbers show, victimized by a lack of run support and shaky defense behind him, and he got better as the season went. But after his impressive 2015 breakthrough, more was expected this season, and even by one measure he values, team wins in his starts (10-23), Archer disappointed.

• For the second straight season, OF Steven Souza Jr. showed flashes of the five-tool talent that led the Rays to acquire him, but also the frustrating inconsistency that raises the question if he ever will live up to it. Injuries provided some cover, but — especially with one of the players the Rays gave up, INF/OF Trea Turner, emerging for the Nationals — Souza may be running out of time.

• From a bevy of other candidates (RHP Brad Boxberger, OF Desmond Jennings, OF Mikie Mahtook, RHP Erasmo Ramirez, LHP Enny Romero, LHP Drew Smyly etc.), C Curt Casali makes this list since he was given the chance to grab the starting job and not only failed but played his way to Triple A, and likely sent the Rays back to the market.

THREE WHO SURPRISED

• SS/1B Brad Miller makes this list for good and bad reasons. The 30 homers were an unexpected contribution, given that he'd hit only 29 in 2½ previous seasons with the Mariners, and a promising sign for the future. But his significant shortcomings at shortstop forced the Rays into several other decisions, including having to use one of their top trade chips, LHP Matt Moore, to get another shortstop, Matt Duffy.

• INF/OF Nick Franklin seemed out of the plans given his lost 2015 season and limited look in spring training. But he came up during the season and impressed with his ability to play the outfield and first base, while showing an improved approach from both sides of the plate, making him the leading candidate for a super utility job.

• RHP Ryan Garton's stat line won't impress, but for a guy from Mitchell High who was a 34th round pick, for a guy who had only one season above Class A, for a guy who was one of the first candidates in Rays somewhat experimental velocity improvement program, his emergence as a big-league reliever was a pleasant surprise.

OH, THE PAIN

Injuries were a big part of the story for the Rays, with CF Kevin Kiermaier's 48-game absence a big reason for the mid-season collapse, including a 3-24 stretch, that soiled their season. Overall, 17 players were on the DL, including 10 at one time, serving 22 DL stints. Here is a list, with their games missed, injuries and team record in their absence (through Friday):

OF Oswaldo Arcia, 20, right elbow strain, 12-8

RH Brad Boxberger, 49, adductor surgery, 22-27; 50, left oblique strain, 17-33

RH Alex Cobb, 129, Tommy John surgery, 55-74

RH Alex Colome 16, right medial biceps tendinitis, 3-13

INF Matt Duffy, 10, left Achilles strain, 4-6; 24, left heel surgery, 8-16

2B Logan Forsythe, 28, left scapula hairline fracture, 12-16

INF/OF Nick Franklin, 7, concussion, 4-3

OF Brandon Guyer, 23, left hamstring strain, 9-14

OF Desmond Jennings, 25, left hamstring strain, 9-16; 23, left knee contusion, 12-11

CF Kevin Kiermaier, 48, left hand fracture, 14-34

OF Mikie Mahtook, 40, left hand fracture, 13-27

1B Logan Morrison, 16, right forearm strain, 8-8; 14, left wrist strain, 3-11

INF Steve Pearce, 24, right hamstring strain, 4-20

LH Enny Romero, 15, strained back, 8-7

OF Steven Souza Jr., 17, left hip strain, 3-14; 9, left hip surgery; 2-7

RH Ryan Webb, 28, right pectoral strain, 10-18

RH Chase Whitley, 119, Tommy John surgery, 50-69

AND THAT HAPPENED ...

• The Rays, through Friday, had hit a team-record 215 home runs, which ranked sixth in the majors, though scored only 662 runs, which ranked 25th. Barring a massive finale, they, along with the Mets, will become the first teams in major-league history to hit 200 homers and score less than 700. They also are among 23 teams in history to both hit and allow 200 homers. And no team has hit as many homers and lost as many games as the Rays. And it was the first time the Rays had four players with 20 or more homers.

• Rays hitters led the AL with 1,470 strikeouts going into play Saturday, the second highest total in AL history, behind the 2013 Astros, who fanned a major-league record 1,535 times.

• RHP Alex Colome, with 36 saves through Friday, was the their 11th different saves leader in the last 12 seasons.

• RHP Jake Odorizzi went into Saturday's start with 17 no-decisions, matching the most by an AL starter since at least 1913. Worse, or better, his 13 while allowed two runs or fewer are the most over that span (as far back as baseball-reference.com data goes) in the majors.

• After beating the Mariners 3-2 in 13 innings June 15, the Rays went into a dizzying 3-22 spiral that left them 34-54 at the All-Star break, then lost the next two as well. During the 3-24 stretch they hit .236 (worst in AL) while averaging a majors-low 3.04 runs per game and posting a majors-worst 5.76 ERA.

• RHP Chris Archer became the first major-leaguer to lose 19 games since 2004, but he avoided the infamy of being the first 20-game loser since 2003, and just the second since 1980. Of some solace, Archer finished his season with a better ERA (4.02) than ex-mate David Price (4.04), who was 17-9 for the AL East.

• The Rays through Friday were a majors-worst 13-27 in one-run games.

• The 10-18 record in September was their worst monthly record in the Rays era, since July 2007.

• The Rays used 25 pitchers, matching their most in a single season. (2006, 2015).

• SS/1B Brad Miller had quite a stretch, carried the team at times, with his home runs accounting for all their runs in eight different games.

Marc Topkin can be reached at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @ TBTimes_Rays.

Rays Tales: Wrapping up Tampa Bay's 19th season 10/01/16 [Last modified: Saturday, October 1, 2016 11:58pm]
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