Is April gone already?  Last year, it couldn’t end soon enough.  The Rays 2008 World Series hangover left them 9-14 at April’s end, leaving Rays fans searching for the aspirin.  The Rays would never recover.

Lesson Learned.

The Rays capped off the first month of the season with their best start in team history.  The offense pummelled other pitchers into frequent early showers.  The starting pitching led the AL in ERA.  And for the most part, the bullpen shut the door.

But have the Rays finally started to cool off?

With Kansas City coming into town last weekend, many expected the Rays to steamroll another sub .500 team.  After the first game, it looked like that’s exactly what would happen.  Then all of a sudden the offense looked like someone you would see on the side of a milk carton.  Once the offense did its best missing person’s act (11 runs in the first game, five runs in last three games), the Rays struggled to tie the series.

Warning Sign?

There is no way the Rays could keep up the offensive pace they were on.  While critics will point to the Kansas City series, the Rays were still strong in that series.  The starting pitching was just as excellent.  The bullpen was pretty good. 

But this first month does point out the obvious.

The Rays need to keep up this pace to hold off the pinstripe powerhouse of New York.  Quietly, the New York Yankees have also gotten off to a excellent start.  Currently the Yankees are 17-8 and only one game behind the Rays.

If the Rays are going to contend for their second division crown in three years, this cannot be just a good month.  The key will be how they respond when one part of their game isn’t working.  Can they find a way to win when they are not at their best?

The best is yet to come?

The Rays, despite their start, are still not at full strength.  By the end of this month the Rays add one of the best set up men in baseball in J.P. Howell to their bullpen.  Just last week, the Rays called up Joaquin Benoit.  The Rays are built to handle the close, one run ballgames, when a bullpen is a strength.

That strength is about to get stronger in less than a month.

The Rays, as of now, have no glaring weakness.  And they will need every ounce of strength they have to hold off the Yankees.

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