ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Rays have been the hardest puzzle for teams and sports analysts to solve this season. A small market ball club with no major superstars or consistent starting pitching that competes in one of the toughest divisions in major league baseball.
Even in this sabermetric era of baseball when numbers can tell us every little detail about a player, no stat has really been able to capture the Rays' success.
The team doesn't lead in any offensive or defensive category, they have no players that are in the discussion for MVP and arguably their best pitcher is out with an injury for the remainder of the season. But, even with all that, the Rays can't stop winning.
At this pace, Tampa Bay will enter the postseason with the best record in baseball and even possibly the best record in franchise history.
Entering the last month of the season, the Rays are firmly in first place with an eight-game lead over the New York Yankees.
But, things didn't always look like smooth sailing for Tampa Bay. The team started the year off strong, trading first place with the Boston Red Sox for the first two months of the season before hitting a snag in June.
Boston looked like it would put some distance on their lead over the Rays after the team went 11-15 in June. But, something clicked following the All-Star break.
Maybe it was rookie sensation Wander Franco being called up to the majors in June. Maybe it was trading for the ageless power bat of Nelson Cruz. Or, maybe it was the extra bullpen arms that were acquired through other trades.
Whatever ended up being the catalyst, the Rays have gone on a 31-11 run since the All-Star game, leaving the Yankees and Red Sox in the dust.
With a little over 30 days left in the season, the team has to make sure they finish strong to cap off one of the franchise's best and most bafflingly successful years. They'll need that momentum to launch them to a second straight World Series appearance.