When or can the Rays reverse a perplexing start?

MIAMI – For an organization that prides itself on consistency, momentum, and energy, Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash, and Rays’ decision-makers, could well take heed of the words of Thomas Paine, an American patriot during the Revolutionary War.

Paine was an influential writer and in the dark days of the conflict with Great Britain, he wrote, “these are the times that try men’s souls.” Cash and his intrepid band of players could listen to Paine for his words aptly describe the opening months of the baseball season.

Entering a two-game set with the Miami Marlins in loanDepot Park this week, the Rays were two games under .500, but surprisingly 4.5 games out of a wild card spot in the American League.

Over the past decade, the Rays have been a most productive team. Though the club qualified for the post-season in the past five years, their record in that period is a less than attractive 15-19. Yet, Cash’s record, as manager and now in this 10th season directing Tampa Bay, is 768-645 and that contracts to the below .500 mark for post-season.

The ebb and flow of this season is characterized by the lack of an important winning streak. Coming into the Marlins series, the largest winning streak for Tampa Bay was five games. That was achieved between May 3 and May 7, Then, the Rays dropped three of their next four games. Another point in the opening two-plus months, they won five of six and proceeded to drop six straight between May 13 and May 18.

To exacerbate a challenging condition, consider a few numbers.

First baseman Yandy Diaz, who led the American League in hitting with a .330 batting average a year ago, was hitting .243 coming into the Marlins series. Outfielder Randy Arozarena, with a lifetime batting average of .265 was hitting .162 coming into the Marlins series. Second baseman Brandon Lowe, fighting a series of injuries but coming off a 39-home run season in 2011 and 21 last season, was hitting .183 before the Marlins series. Other alarming numbers represent, before the Marlin series .189 from outfielder Jose Siri, .182 from outfielder Jonny DeLuca and .054 from catcher Alex Jackson.

All of which has Cash wondering when, and if, his team can regain past achievement.

“I don’t know how to put a time frame on this,” Cash said before Tuesday’s game with the Marlins. “We have to start playing better baseball at a more consistent rate. I think that’s the easiest way to look at it. I’m confident that guys are looking at it. There are things we can do better on a nightly basis. The players are mindful of it and we continue to work to do that.”

Rays, do we have lift-off?

With a two-game sweep of the lowly Miami Marlins, and a modest three-game winning streak from that sweep, this would appear encouraging. Yet, such triumphs, participants agree, would not be a consistent remedy.

Following 9-5 and 5-3 victories over the Marlins, the Rays reached the .500 mark and such an achievement since May 22. There’s a sense of recovery from the difficulties of the opening eight weeks. At the same time, the salvage of recent doom could be protracted.

“(The sweep) is one of the things we expect from these guys,” said second baseman Brandon Lowe, who went 4-for-8, five RBIs and four runs scored in the two wins over Miami. “This group is extremely talented, and we just haven’t hit our stride yet. It feels like we’ve held on, and it doesn’t feel that we’re on the attack like we have in the past years. What we’re seeing is the accumulation of the past few weeks and we’re taking better at-bats. We’re coming back healthy, and people are seeing the ball a little bit better. It’s coming and showing.”

Next … After the trip to south Florida, the Rays return to Tropicana Field for a seven-game home stand. This features four with the Orioles and three with the Cubs. … In the opener on Friday, look for righty Aaron Civale (2-4, 5.37) to get the ball for the Rays and draw lefty Cole Irwin (6-2, 2.84) as his mount opponent. On Saturday, it’s righty Taj Bradley (1-3, 5.810 taking on righthander Grayson Rodriguez (6-2, 3.28). For Sunday afternoon, righty Zack Littell (2-3, 3.56) takes on Corbin Burnes (6-2, 2.36). In the series finale Monday night, righthander Ryan Pepiot (4-3, 3.95) goes for Tampa Bay and the Orioles, prior to the start of the series, the Orioles were undecided. Then the Chicago Cubs visit Tropicana Field for a three-game set. Then, the Rays head to Atlanta, Minnesota, and Pittsburgh on a nine-game road trip.

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