Surging Rays in tight race with Red Sox atop AL East

MLB Baseball

It should be obvious by now: You doubt the Tampa Bay Rays at your own risk.

Tampa Bay has won 15 of its last 16 games and leads the AL East heading into Monday’s game against the New York Yankees. The Rays are second in the American League in runs and third in ERA. They’re 19-7 on the road.

Tampa Bay is doing all of this after trading former Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell to San Diego in the offseason. Snell is struggling out west – he’s 1-2 with a 5.55 ERA – and a couple of the players the Rays received in return have contributed for them. Luis Patino is 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in five appearances, and catcher Francisco Mejia has started 21 games behind the plate.

Of course, it’s another Tampa Bay catcher who has really turned heads. Mike Zunino already has a dozen homers.

The Rays also have the game’s top prospect, per MLB Pipeline: Shortstop Wander Franco seems to have adjusted fine to Triple-A this year. Tampa Bay traded shortstop Willy Adames to Milwaukee on May 21, and J.P. Feyereisen – one of the pitchers the Rays received – already has two saves since the deal.

Tampa Bay has a one-game lead in the division over Boston. The Red Sox also have an impressive road record (16-7) and their run differential of plus-54 is almost equal to Tampa Bay’s plus-61. The Yankees are 4 1/2 games back after being swept in a three-game series at Detroit. But they have a chance to make up ground in a four-game home series against the Rays.

BIG WINNER

Oakland’s Yusmeiro Petit (7-0) is just one win shy of the major league lead, even though he hasn’t started a game this year. All 26 of his appearances have been in relief. Petit has a 3.21 ERA.

TRIVIA TIME

In their franchise history, the Rays have had four players start the All-Star game. Name them.

LINE OF THE WEEK

Oakland’s Chris Bassitt threw his first complete game, a two-hit shutout in a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday night. He struck out nine with one walk.

COMEBACK OF THE WEEK

Houston had a 99.6% chance to beat San Diego in the ninth inning Saturday, according to Statcast. That was with two outs, nobody on and the Astros up 6-3. Then a walk and a double brought Fernando Tatis Jr. up as the tying run, and he went deep to even the game. The Padres ultimately won 11-8 in 12 innings.

HIGHLIGHT

It’s hard to know where to begin with the freakish play from Thursday’s Cubs-Pirates game – one that may go down as one of baseball’s all-time bloopers.

With a man on second, Chicago’s Javier Baez hit a two-out grounder to third. The throw by Erik Gonzalez pulled first baseman Will Craig a bit off the bag. Rather than run into a tag, Baez retreated toward home, and Craig started chasing him, even though he could have simply stepped on first for the third out.

Craig forced Baez almost all the way back to the plate, but by that time, Willson Contreras – the runner on second – was almost at home. Craig threw to catcher Michael Perez, but Contreras slid safely into the plate.

Then Baez took off for first, needing to make it there in time for the run to count. Second baseman Adam Frazier had neglected to cover the vacant bag – although in fairness to him, players probably don’t spend much time contemplating where to be on a rundown between first and home. As Frazier scrambled to get there, Perez threw wildly and Baez somehow ended up on second.

TRIVIA ANSWER

David Price, Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford – all in 2010 – and Corey Dickerson in 2017.

Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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