Someone mentioned something that was thought-provoking the other day, I just can’t remember who at the moment. Cut me some slack, it was a looong weekend. Nevertheless, it was mentioned somewhere, that though the Rays have a tough schedule from here until the end of the season, they have a better opportunity (assuming that they dominate the Yankees and Blue Jays in the next 10 games) to make some headway in this wildcard race than the Red Sox.
The Red Sox did not gain any ground in the wildcard race due to their loss and win in the double-header against the Orioles yesterday. They unfortunately didn’t lose any ground either. However, since the Red Sox lost a game, the Rays are now behind them by one in the loss column.
The Rays will kick off their four game set tonight, in New York. As with their last four game series, the Rays will need to take at least three of the four if they hope to remain relevant in this very tight race. Though I love watching the Red Sox implode, we fans cannot depend on that and that alone. If the Rays are going to beat the Yankees, they will need to step up the offense over the course of the next four games.
Against the Yankees, the Rays are 5-6 with an ERA of 3.47, and a paltry .229 batting average this year. In a nutshell, the ERA is good, but the collective BA is bad. To their credit, the Rays have out homered the Yankees 15-9 which is a check mark in the positive column. The Rays have also stepped up their proverbial game over the course of the last month and a half, going 29-16 since August 2nd. Another positive: with the exception of a seven run loss on August 13, the Rays have played the Yankees very well this year, and have not been blown out of the water.
Wade Davis (10-9, 4.41 ERA) will be taking the mound in search of his 11th win against Ivan Nova (15-4, 3.81 ERA). Ivan Nova has been very good this season. Nova has not relinquished a loss since June, but his last two starts have ended in no decisions. He was also pulled from those games early after having pitched five and seven innings in each game respectively.
Davis’ W-L record and 4.41 ERA are a bit deceptive. To say that he’s had a roller coaster of a season would be stating the obvious. Yet, he has pitched better (not ground shatteringly good mind you) over the course of his last eight starts posting a 3.99 ERA, and striking out 6.6 batters per nine innings. I still feel as though that Wade is the weakest link in the Rays starting lineup, but when he is on he’s pretty damn good and pretty damn fun to watch. The key is to see how he pitches early; Is his velocity up? Is he throwing first pitch strikes? Is he relying on his pitches that work, like his fastball and curveball, or is he relying on pitches that are ineffective like his changeup? So on and so forth…
I can’t overstate the fact that it is incumbant on the Rays to win the next three out of four games, and that all starts with a strong performance tonight. The Rays starting lineup looks like this:
Of note: Ben Zobrist is not in the lineup tonight as he flew home for the birth of his daughter. Congrats go out to Ben and his wife! There’s no word whether or not he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow. Sean Rodriguez will be taking his place tonight. Johnny Damon will be hitting in the cleanup spot behind Evan and in front of Kotchman. As always, Go Rays…and O’s!