For the Rays, this stuff is real, which is why they find themselves in a different place at the midpoint of the season than ever before in team history. Baseball is largely an individual sport. Contracts are built or destroyed by individual performance, yet we find the Rays finding success as a whole, the harmonious meshing of individuals working toward achieving one goal.
Carl Crawford has been around. He's got the talent, he's got the numbers and he's been a part of a lot of tough years. Now Crawford's bought in to what the Rays are doing.
"We've just got a group of guys who all have the same goal," Crawford said. "Seems like there aren't any egos in this clubhouse, it's just one of those things where we're all together right now. None of this over here, that over there, everybody is just one in this clubhouse."
Crawford played a lot of basketball as a youngster, and he played it well enough to have UCLA offer him a scholarship to be its point guard. Basketball is the consummate team game where, time and again, it's proven that the sum of a team's parts is more important than any individual. To Crawford, the Rays' first-half effort has felt like a basketball team looking only to win.
"That's what it's like," Crawford said. "It's just a good feel. Everybody's reaching for that same one goal. It's like everybody seems to have put their personal stuff aside to winning. And that's the big difference with this team this year."
Left-hander Scott Kazmir agreed.
"But it's not like we're waiting for one guy to carry us," Kazmir said. "Everybody has their role. And no one is selfish, no one is greedy, they just do their part. That's what it takes to be a winning team."
Besides being the consummate team, the Rays have relied on pitching and defense to get where they are in the American League East standings.
|RAYS TOP PERFORMANCES|
6/21, TB 4, HOU 3< -- Gross turns back the clock
Gabe Gross hits a walk-off double to elevate the Rays past Houston.
6/25, TB 15, FLA 3< -- Rays 10-der Marlins a loss
The Rays jump over the Marlins with a 10-run fifth inning on the road.
6/26, TB 6, FLA 1 -- Citrus Series sweep
Matt Garza's first career complete game leads to a Citrus Series sweep over the Marlins.
7/01, TB 3, BOS 1 -- Longoria's web gem
Evan Longoria's diving stop highlights the Rays' win over the Red Sox.
7/02, TB 7, BOS 6 -- Upton helps secure sweep
B.J. Upton makes a superb play to squash a Red Sox rally for the sweep.
"We don't have one star on this team," right-hander James Shields said. "Not someone who is shining throughout the whole league. Somebody's winning the game every night. And I think the entire pitching staff as a whole is doing well."
While the pitching staff has done well, the offense has not really clicked yet.
"We've got a long way to go," Kazmir said. "We're happy with what we've done so far, but we think that we can do a lot better. Our offense hasn't come around as much as it's capable of. Our pitching and defense has really carried us. With our hitters coming around, that's going to be a big difference."
Knowing that their offense is likely to come alive leaves the Rays will a feeling like they have money in the bank.
"It does feel like money in the bank," Kazmir said. "But we still have a long way to go. Nobody's going to remember what we did in the first half. It's what we do after that and beyond that. That's what counts, and we know that."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.