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Wednesday, July 31, 2013
That red-hot Rays rotation is red hot

By David Schoenfield

From ESPN Stats & Information, following Roberto Hernandez's complete-game win for the Rays on Tuesday: The Rays now have seven complete games this month thrown by four different starters (David Price, Chris Archer, Matt Moore and Hernandez, with Jeremy Hellickson the slacker). The last MLB team with 7+ complete games in a month was the Phillies in May 1999 (7). The last team with complete games from four different starters in one month was the Marlins in August 2005 (Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Jason Vargas, Dontrelle Willis).

It's an amazing run for that rotation. Collectively, the rotation is 18-3 with a 2.10 ERA in July and has averaged just over seven innings per start. Going deep into games has a ripple effect, of course -- the bullpen doesn't get overused and Joe Maddon always has his best relievers available.

What's impressive is that Maddon hasn't had to stretch out the starters in any of these games. All three of Price's complete games required fewer than 100 pitches, as did one of Archer's complete games. The high pitch total was Archer's 112 in his five-hit shutout over the Astros on July 14.

This run reminds me of the run the Giants rotation went on in September of 2010, when the starters posted a 2.36 ERA and rode that momentum all the way through the postseason to a World Series victory.

Jason Collette wrote on the Rays rotation a couple days ago here: "Over the first three months of the season, the starting pitchers held opposing batters to a .242/.312/.392 slash line while striking out 21.7 percent of them and walking 8.5 percent. In July, that slash line has fallen to .197/.240/.302 and while the strikeout rate is down a bit to 19.5 percent, the walk rate has plunged four percentage points to 4.5 percent."

Right now, it's a championship-caliber rotation. But championships aren't won in July.