The Tampa Bay Rays entered an exclusive club Friday night after beating the New York Yankees 5-0.
With the win, Tampa Bay evened its record on the season at 61-61, becoming just the fourth team in Major League Baseball history to get to the .500 mark in the same season during which they were once 18 games below the mediocrity milepost.
After a 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Tropicana Field on June 10, the Rays were 24-42—the worst record in baseball—and were 15 games in back of the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East; 11 games behind the Seattle Mariners for the second AL wild-card berth.
Since then, Tampa Bay is 37-19 and trails the Baltimore Orioles by nine games in the AL East and the Mariners by 5½ games for the second wild card (although they still have four teams in between them and the M’s, including the Detroit Tigers, the Blue Jays, the Yankees and the Cleveland Indians).
However, things didn’t work out so well for the last three teams that fought their way back to .500.
The last team to do it, the Florida Marlins of 2006, actually fell 20 games under .500 at 11-31 on May 21 of that season, but battled back to reach .500 on Sept. 3, when they beat the Milwaukee Brewers to get to 68-68.
The Fish got to 73-71 with a 16-5 win over the New York Mets on Sept. 11, but dropped back below .500 at 74-75 on Sept. 17 and finished 78-84. Joe Girardi was fired at season’s end, then was named NL Manager of the Year.
Before that, the Rays franchise did it once before, when the 2004 Devil Rays made a dramatic turnaround.
That team hit started 10-28, got back to .500 at 35-35 on June 25 and hit their high water mark at 40-38 on July 3.
Then the bottom fell out as the Devil Rays were just 30-53 the rest of the way, finishing 70-91 and in fourth place in the AL East under Lou Piniella.
No team in the 20th century pulled off this feat of turnaround magic.
The first team to do it was the 1899 Louisville Colonels of the National League, led by future Hall of Famer Honus Wagner.
With a loss to the Baltimore Orioles on June 20, 1899, the Colonels were 16-38, but a 6-1 win over the Chicago Orphans (we know them today as the Cubs) on Oct. 3 got Louisville to 72-72.
The Colonels dropped five of their last eight to finish 75-77 and when we say finish, we mean finish.
The team folded after the 1899 season, along with the aforementioned Orioles, the Celveland Spiders and the first iteration of the Washington Senators.
All historical information from baseball-reference.com.
Tags: Tampa Bay Rays