After losing 8-2 to the Texas Rangers and splitting their four game series, the Tampa Bay Rays still lead the American League Wild Card race. The Rays and the Rangers share a record of 83-69, with four teams still chasing their spots. Terry Francona’s Indians appear to be the stiffest competition for the spot, with just a half game standing between them and the playoffs. The Orioles and Royals find themselves back two and three games respectively, and the fading Yankees have fallen three and a half games back.
The Rays host a four game series against the Orioles starting tonight, and will head to the Bronx on Tuesday for a three game series with the Yankees. What this means for the Rays is that each time they lose, their competitor will gain a game on them in the race. It is crucial for the Rays to play well in the next couple of series, as well as their final one against the Blue Jays, in order to keep their coveted spot atop the Wild Card race.
The inconsistent Rays have gone 8-10 in the month of September, and are really only atop the race due to the weakness of the American League’s Wild Card teams. The New York Yankees, a team that was being laughed at two months ago, is still in reach of taking their AL East rival’s spot in the playoffs. It is very important that they play their best baseball of the season in these last few series, because no team wants to see their spot in the playoffs taken away in the last week and a half.
Alongside veterans from the 2008 Rays team that played in the World Series, like Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist, Manager Joe Maddon needs to get this team fired up about playing in October. Some of the team’s younger players may lack the experience and maturity needed for a playoff push going so deep into the regular season, but with the help of their teammates and the shortcomings of their competitors, this is a very winnable Wild Card race for the Rays.