Aug 15, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) and teammates high five after they beat the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the New York Yankees 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Rays have somehow climbed back to .500

This season I have documented the highs and the lows of what has been a bipolar 2014 Tampa Bay Rays squad.

For most of the summer the Rays found themselves at or near the basement of the American League East. They were 24-42 — a season-worst 18 games below .500 — on June 10, which ultimately led to the trading of David Price to the Detroit Tigers at the non-waver trade deadline.

But, in typical Rays fashion, Joe Maddon‘s team has done more with less and continued to be competitive despite parting with their ace pitcher.

With their 5-0 win over the New York Yankees Friday night, the Rays have clawed their way back to .500 at 61-61. The team last had a winning record way back on April 22 when they were 10-10 after downing the Minnesota Twins 7-3 at Tropicana Field.

Being without the services of Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Wil Myers for much of the season has hindered Tampa Bay’s playoff aspirations. Their turnaround, however, has been quite remarkable.

They are just the fourth team in MLB history to get back to .500 after falling as many as 18 games below in the same season. The last team to do so was the 2006 Florida Marlins.

It has helped that the other teams in the AL East sans the Baltimore Orioles who have scuffled recently. The Toronto Blue Jays have lost seven of their last ten games while the Yankees have dropped five straight and six of ten. The Orioles have stretched their division lead to 7.5 games over second-place Toronto.

The Rays’ 3.50 ERA ranks third in the AL and first in their division. The likes of starters Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and Drew Smyly — who was acquired in the Price trade — are continuing the ever-running theme of quality Rays pitching. Add a healthy Hellickson to the mix and every starting pitcher on the depth chart is sporting an ERA in the 3’s or lower.

And more help should be on the way, with Wil Myers slated to return to the club in the coming days.

Still, the Rays have a steep hill to climb as they are nine games out of the division lead and 5.5 out of a Wild Card spot. Their remaining schedule could prove challenging, with 30 of 40 games coming against teams currently with winning records.

It remains to be seen if Joe Maddon and the Rays can keep the magic alive and make a playoff push. At 61-61, they still have roughly a quarter of a season remaining. That’s a quarter of a season to complete  what would be one of the most amazing turnarounds in baseball history.

Tags: Tampa Bay Rays

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