DETROIT — In a strictly bottom-line fashion, the number that will most determine the success of the Rays’ season is four — the games they need to win in the World Series to clinch their first championship. But there are many numbers that illustrate what they have done to this point and what it will take to get to the end. Here are 10:
The Rays seem headed for a couple of parties, possibly starting as soon as next week. They have a “magic number” to clinch a franchise-record third straight playoff berth of 13 — the combination of Rays wins and losses by the No. 3 team in the wild-card chase (currently the Blue Jays, who they face after the Tigers.) If every game goes the right way, the Rays could clinch as soon as Thursday, when they open a 10-game homestand. The bigger prize is a second straight and fourth overall American League East title, and that might not be far behind. The Rays’ “magic number” to eliminate the second-place Red Sox and third-place Yankees is also 13.
The Cruz effect
Since joining the Rays July 23, veteran designated hitter Nelson Cruz has hit .238 with 11 homers, 32 RBIs and a .793 OPS. The Rays have gone 30-13 (.697) since then, averaging a majors-most 6.58 runs per game (283 total), and scoring eight or more 21 times in those 43 games. In the 97 games before Cruz arrived, they averaged 4.89 runs and scored eight or more 14 times. Since Aug. 29, they have led the majors in runs.
The Rays have the best road record in the AL and third-best in the majors (behind the Brewers and Giants). They have scored the most runs of any team on the road (404) and average 5.86. They have hit the most road home runs of AL teams (108 in 69 games) and are tied for second-most overall. Though they have a slightly better record at home (45-26), they are scoring less (4.97 runs per game) and hitting fewer homers (87 in 71 games). That would at least raise the question of whether having homefield advantage (and the extra home playoff game in each series) is that big of a deal for them, but there is also this: Rays pitchers have a 2.99 ERA at Tropicana Field, 4.53 on the road.
Rookie Wander Franco, as you may have heard, has reached base in 38 straight games, most of any player 20 and younger except Frank Robinson, who did it in 43 for the 1956 Reds. It obviously is helping the Rays, who are 28-13 over that stretch (Franco didn’t play three games). He has had hits in 30 of the games, walks in seven and was hit by a pitch once. He is hitting .320 during the streak (despite back-to-back 0-fers) with .389 on-base and .527 slugging percentages. He has more walks (15) than strikeouts (14) and, more amazing, more hits (48) than swings-and-misses (45).
It takes a village
Rookie outfielder Josh Lowe on Wednesday was the 58th player used, breaking the team mark set in 2019.
If the Rays do win the East again, they will have earned it. They have a 46-21 record so far against division foes, with six games remaining versus the Blue Jays and three with the Yankees. The Sox are next-best at 37-30, the Jays 31-28, the Yankees 28-35 and the Orioles 16-44. Yes, the Rays bolstered that record going 18-1 against Baltimore, but they are 11-8 vs. Boston, 9-7 vs. New York and 8-5 vs. Toronto.
With 22 games left, the Rays are on pace for 102 wins, which would easily break the team record of 97 in 2008.
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A save for you, and you, and you
A string of injuries starting in spring training forced the Rays to test and expand the depth of their bullpen, most evidenced by the 13 pitchers earning saves — breaking the previously long-standing major-league record (1973 Rangers) they tied last year. And there may be more, as JT Chargois and David Robertson don’t have saves yet, and Nick Anderson may be activated soon. Can you name the 13? As a hint, four are currently in the minors, three are no longer in the organization and one is out for the season with an injury. Here’s the list: x-Diego Castillo 14; Andrew Kittredge 6; Pete Fairbanks 5; JP Feyereisen 3; i-Jeffrey Springs 2; m-Josh Fleming 1; Collin McHugh 1; Matt Wisler 1; m-Chris Mazza 1; m-Ryan Sherriff 1; x-Trevor Richards 1; m-Dietrich Enns 1; x-Evan Phillips 1
x-no longer with Rays; i-out for season with injury; m-currently in minors
Brandon Lowe has 33 homers, and when Mike Zunino (29) hits another the Rays will have just their fifth duo of 30-homer players. (Nelson Cruz has 30 for the season, but only 11 with the Rays.) Previously to do so: Jose Canseco (34) and Fred McGriff (32) in 1999, Carlos Pena (39) and Evan Longoria (33) in 2009, Longoria (36) and Brad Miller (30) in 2016, Logan Morrison (38) and Steven Souza Jr. (30) in 2017. Austin Meadows is three RBIs from being the Rays’ first to 100 since Longoria in 2010.
The Rays lead the majors with 43 come-from-behind wins, due largely to their majors-most 278 runs from the seventh inning on, including 100 in the eighth and 74 in the ninth. (Of some concern, however, the Rays are 18-20 in one-run games and 6-11 in extra innings.)
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