ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Rays lost on Sunday. Of course they lost.
They were starting a rookie pitcher, a rookie third baseman and a rookie designated hitter. Their team MVP left in the second inning with hamstring tightness and was replaced by another rookie. Their starting catcher began the season in the minors, and the guy who pitched the ninth inning has been released by three teams in three years.
Of the 28 players on the active roster, 16 were not wearing a Tampa Bay uniform on opening day.
So, no, the story is not how the Rays lost 9-5 to the Blue Jays on Sunday but rather how they are still standing.
Purists are fond of saying that a 162-game season is a grind, but 2023 has been a grind, a buzz saw, a medical rabbit hole and a psychological exam in Tampa Bay. And somehow, the Rays have the second-best record in the American League. Going into the final week of the regular seaosn, they even have a miniscule chance for 100 wins.
So save your playoff worries until October. Stop obsessing over injuries, potential postseason opponents and missed opportunities in the American League East.
Instead, take a moment to appreciate one of the damnedest regular seasons you will ever see, and one of the more persistent, deep and flexible rosters around.
“There’s been a lot of (stuff),” manager Kevin Cash said Sunday afternoon. “Look, injuries are a part of the game. You have to learn how to deal with them. We’ve had our share; (Toronto) has had their share. You look throughout our division and there’s been a lot of injuries.
“There’s been other things this year that have taken a toll on this clubhouse, and that’s why you’re so proud of the group, how they’ve kind of stuck together through some very, very challenging times.”
Anything can happen on any given day, but the Rays have had bizarre, unforeseen moments on a ridiculous number of days.
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