Information on the Rays post-season ticket lottery, including the possible one game tie-breaker, has been released. That information is available on the Tampa Bay Rays homepage. You can also click the jpeg below to be redirected to the aforementioned page. First pitch is at 4:10, and all money will be refunded if the Rays clinch tonight!
So it all comes down to this, only 81 outs separate the Rays from their destiny. Is it their destiny to be in or out of the post season? How will they get there? All of that remains uncertain at the moment. One thing is certain thought: the next 81 outs will be filled with tension and I, for one, cannot wait!
Sure, the Rays played like crap Friday. Then again, so did the Sox. Forget not that the Rays also picked themselves up by the bootstraps on Saturday and Sunday, and are going into the next three games amped for what’s next. And sure, the Red Sox are getting all of the credit for the position that the Rays and Angels are in. Who cares? We know the truth…we know that we wouldn’t even be considering the underlying factors without the solid baseball that the Rays have played the last two months, especially in the month of August.
So here we go. Tonight the Rays begin playing their final three regular season games against the Yankees. Tampa Bay enters this series, trailing the Red Sox by one game in the wild-card race. On the bump for the Rays is 15 game winner James Shields. Pitching for the hated Yankees is 2-1 rookie fill in, Hector Noesi. Deja vu? Certainly. This is the same pitching match up in game one of last weeks double header, a game that found the Rays losing 4-2. But today is undoubtedly a different day.
For the Rays to force a one game playoff, the Rays will need to win one more game in their final series than the Red Sox. Marc Topkin, the Rays beat writer over at the St. Petersburg Times noted that in order for the Rays to force a one game playoff, the following scenarios must occur:
1) Rays win and Red Sox win: Lead remains 1, Rays need to win one or two and need Sox to lose at least one to force a tie.
2) Rays win and Red Sox lose: Teams are tied, Rays need to win match what Sox do to force tie, or win one more to win wild-card.
3) Rays lose and Red Sox win: Rays need to win out and need Sox to lose last two to force a tie.
Is it reasonable to assume to assume that any of the scenarios above will pan out? I don’t know. It all really depends on how well the Rays play, and how poorly the Sox play. If anything, the Rays can make things very interesting especially if they play with the focus that they played with in the month of August. Anyway, isn’t this what baseball is all about? The lineups are below. C’mon out to the Trop this week, this should be fun! As always, Go Rays!
Tampa Bay Rays (88-71)
Shields RHP (15-12, 2.84 ERA)
New York Yankees (97-62)
Noesi RHP (2-1, 4.14 ERA)
Someone forgot to tell RHP Jeff Niemann that he, and the Rays, are in the make or break battle of the season. Last nights game looked ugly right out of the gate, and the Big Nyquil looked terrible on the mound within the first two pitches of the game. After an inning of work that included a two walks, a double, and a Jose Bautista blast to deep left, scoring Eric Thames, it was evident that Niemann didn’t have his stuff early. It was also obvious that something had to be done. Rays manager, Joe Maddon, had to make a tough decision: either leave Niemann in and count the losses, or put in rookie LHP Alex Torres in hopes that maybe he could get a few decent innings under his belt. As the horrendous first inning came to an end, Joe chose to put in Torres who has a very limited repertoire of big league experience under his belt. Little could he, or anyone for that matter, guess that Torres would throw five solid innings and give up no runs.
With a 2-0 deficit early, the Rays stepped up to the plate knowing that they didn’t have the luxury of taking things slowly. No, they had to start generating some runs right off the bat, no pun intended. As the baseball gods spun Yackety Sax, the Blue Jays made some really big mistakes that would affect the game in favor of Tampa Bay. The Rays are very good at taking advantage of defensive mistakes, and take advantage of the Jays mistakes they did.
To start things off, BJ Upton caught a break when the Jays first baseman, David Cooper, dropped a foul ball giving Upton another chance at the plate. Upton took advantage of the gift and followed it up with a single down the right field line. He quickly stole second. After Longo struck out, Ben Zobrist scored Upton on a single and a throwing error which found him on second. Things again got interesting when Johnny Damon hit a bloop double to center. It almost seemed as though that the Jays outfielders got in a heated battle of paper, scissors, rock to determine who should make the easy play. However, none of them could figure it out as the ball dropped into play, scoring Zobrist and sending Damon to second. The Rays were able to walk into the second inning tied up, as Torres made his way to the mound for a very important (for all intents and purposes) start.
Set with the task of keeping the game close for a little while, who’d have guessed that Torres would pitch as well as he did? Don’t get me wrong, Alex is a pretty damn good pitcher. Torres went 9-7 with 3.08 ERA pitcher in AAA Durham, so he undoubtedly has stuff. However, Torres threw 90 pitches in six innings of work, giving up three runs (two earned) on seven hits, including four walks in his last three appearances.
Torres, by and far, exceeded any and all expectations. The rookie went five solid innings, and gave up no runs on three hits and a walk, all the while inducing five strikeouts. Leaning primarily on in his fastball, a devastating changeup that baffled the Jays hitters, and somewhat on his slider, Torres was very effective pitching in the zone. In short, Torres was able to stave off a heavy hitting Jays team while keeping the Rays in the game.
Brandon Gomes came into the game in the seventh, and was followed by Joel Peralta in the eighth, and Kyle Farnsworth in the ninth. The trifecta effectively shut down the Jays for the rest of the game, collectively giving up one hit, no walks, and coaxing five strikeouts. Farnsworth, who hasn’t pitched since September 10, came into the game in a non save situation. However, he had a decent sized four run cushion in the ninth taking some of the pressure off of him. In short, Farnsworth had a low-ish pressure opportunity to knock off some of the rust that may have accrued over the course of the last two weeks. The Rays ‘pen was able to set a record, posting eight innings of no run baseball.
Tampa Bay was fairly quiet at the plate all night. After the two run god send of a first inning, the Rays were quiet until the fourth when Zobrist hit a no out, one run blast to left to give the Rays a 3-2 lead. The Rays were again quiet until they put the final nail in the coffin in the eighth, when Damon hit a three run homer to right, scoring Upton and Longoria.
With the Yankees 9-1 shellacking of the Red Sox and Tampa Bays 6-2 victory at the hands of the Jays, the Rays find themselves just 1.5 games out in the wildcard race. If the stars are aligned, the Rays could end the day tied up with the Red Sox going into this weeks final regular season series against the hated Yankees. It is imperative that the Rays take the final game of this series against Jeff Cecil and the Blue Jays. The Red Sox would have to lose two in a row against the Yanks today in their double-header. Sure, that is a tough task. But, the Red Sox are throwing Lackey and Wakefield on the mound. Those two jokers have two of the worst ERAs (10+ and 6+ respectively) in the month of September in all of baseball. So it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Red Sox could completely flub it up.
Wade Davis will take the mound today. Davis, coming off of a very disappointing start against the Yankees, was quoted as feeling “very confident” going into today’s very crucial game. Let’s hope how he feels translates into a much better start than the last. Lord knows we need Davis to be on his game. Joe Maddon said it best, “Every day is the biggest game of the year,” today’s game included.
Alright kiddies, we’ve only one more day to grin and bear the Yankees as allies. So go Yankees, put the Sox in their grave! The starting lineup’s are below. As always, Go Rays!
Tampa Bay Rays (87-71)
Toronto Blue Jays (80-78)
Tampa Bay Rays (86-71)
We here will be watching the Yankees Vs. Red Sox game before the 7:10 Rays game. That game is starting now-ish. Normally I couldn’t care less who would win in that match up. However, this is an important series for the Rays. In accordance, I’ll be sucking up my pride and rooting for the Yankees if only for the next three days. To that end, go Yankees. As always, Go Rays!
“We did not play well, we didn’t hit well; we didn’t do anything well.”
Last nights 5-1 loss at the hands of the barely over .500 Blue Jays was a very ugly, very VERY unfortunate one; a loss that came at a time when the Rays really cannot relent any other games. Especially a loss to a team that is essentially a sub .500 team. And with only five games left to play in the season, there really aren’t any opportunities for the Rays to play as inconsistently as they have for a good portion of the season, including last nights abysmal one run on three hit performance…or shall I say lack there of. Johnny Damon’s post game comments put things into perspective very well, “But now the Rays have to win all five of their remaining games to have a chance.” Here here to that.
Luckily an Angels loss to the Athletics, and a rain out in the New York, forcing a double-header between the Yankees and Red Sox Sunday, helped cushion the blow a bit. Yet, (and again) Tampa Bay cannot depend on outside factors, that they have no control over, to determine whether or not they find the post season.
The Rays are still in the race technically and mathematically. However, they looked as though that they resigned themselves emotionally. David Price’s three run, third inning defensive miscues spoke volumes about their affect at the moment. Tampa Bay will need to be dominant, both at the plate and defensively, from here on out. When all is said and done, all of the criticisms that the throngs of writers and fans have made the course of this season are applicable to their performance last night. Let’s hope that Niemann and Co. can enter tonight, and the remaining five regular season games, with the fire that rivals that of the burning of 1,000 suns.
In other news, Steve Slowinski over at DRaysbay.com just posted:
MLB Likely To Add Extra Wild Card Team
The most recent CBA rumors are suggesting that MLB is all but guaranteed to add another Wild Card team in each league, and the change could come as soon as next year. The two Wild Card teams would then play in a one-game playoff. Also, it sounds like this move would force MLB to realign into two 15-team leagues, with the Astros moving to the AL.
Yeah, it’s a double-edged sword for the Rays, but I’m incredibly excited. A balanced schedule and another Wild Card slot? Sign me up for that.
We mentioned this a while back here on raysbaseball.co, however it is wonderful to hear that these changes have gone from whispered rumors, to changes that are imminent.
More on tonight’s battle including the starting lineup’s to come later.