The last two games before the all-star break sum up the Rays entire first half perfectly. The Rays got the hitting they needed in both games, they got good starting pitching one game and average the next, the bullpen blew both games, and Joe Maddon rested players for no reason. The Rays could easily have gone into the break on a three game winning streak and with some confidence, but that wouldn't have made sense for this team.
Even the supposed luckiest day on earth could not stop the blowpen from blowing the game on Saturday night. With the Rays up 6-4 in the 8th inning the blowpen was called in to get the last six outs of the game. They preceded to give up 5 straight walks and than a single to allow the Royals to get the go ahead run. The Rays bats responded in the ninth like they have most of the year, but the blowpen blew it again in the ninth.
The Rays got a less than stellar outing from their supposed ace Scott Kazmir on Sunday, but the bats scored enough to keep them in the game, until the blowpen came in. Now Sundays game was the last game before the break and the Rays were looking to go into the break with some momentum, so naturally Maddon benched our only All-Star Carl Crawford. Its a good thing he benched Crawford because he definitely needed that rest with the stretch of 3 straight off days coming up.
This bullpen is quite possibly the worst bullpen that has ever been assembled and has made the Devil Rays the laughing stock of the league once again. It does not matter who you go to in the pen, you know they won't be able to keep it close or close out the game. While the bullpen is horrid, the starters have not been great this year either. James Shields has been a great surprise this year, but outside of him the rotation has been inconsistent at best and horrible at worst. Scott Kazmir was supposed to be the staff ace, but he has adjusted his delivery and is wasting pitches and walking everyone in sight. Andy Sonnanstine is learning on the job, but his talent projects to be a back of the rotation starter. Edwin Jackson has the talent, but can't put it together and needs time in the minors that the Rays cannot give them. The Rays have no 5th starter at the moment because JP Howell has looked awful recently, so the Rays are looking for a pitcher to fill that spot.
The Rays also have another problem and that is the horrible decision making by Joe Maddon. Now you can only play who you have and at times you have to just play with crap, but you don't always have to play with crap. This manager insists on sitting young guys to give them days off for no reason. Maddon sits a player who should be playing to Jorge Cantu a couple extra at bats. Sunday was a prime example of the incompetence that Joe Maddon has shown as manager of the Rays this season. With a 3 day break coming up for the All-Star game and needing to win to get some kind of momentum going Maddon sat Crawford. Why would you rest a hot hitting Crawford when you need a win and he is about to get 3 days of rest? It really is like Joe wants to get players on the field and does not care about winning. I like Joe as a person and like I said you have to play what you have, but when you don't play the good players you do have, you do not deserve the benefit of the doubt.
The Rays have a three day break before starting a four game home set with Yankees. The Rays need to figure out what to do in this second half to stop what has gone on in the first half. If the Rays do not make some sort of moves to get this team winning again they will be look like they have for the last 10 years and many fans will start to believe that this team will never change. I can see some light on this team, but it is hard to keep up the positives when you are the laughing stock of the league because of such a horrible bullpen and terrible decisions by their manager. The Rays front office has a second half to prove to this town that they are moving in the right direction, I sure hope they do.