Well kids, the Rays are now 4.5 back. Things just got real…again. And though the Rays have a lot of heavy lifting to do between now and October third, if they keep playing like they have the last three nights, Tampa Bay might just make things very interesting. Hell, even if the Rays don’t make it, (ahem, cautious optimism) if they keep playing like this, things will at least be fun!
“The Tampa Bay Rays’ offense has awoken over the past three games, but there’s a very real possibility it’s too late to make a difference. With their margin for error dwindling, the Rays look to stay hot at the plate while running their winning streak to four Saturday night as they continue this three-game set with the visiting Toronto Blue Jays,” so says ESPN.
Believe it or not, I actually agree with ESPN on this one. Last season’s Game 162 events, or even what the 2007 Rockies accomplished, are no easy feats. The reason the 2011 Rays were special is because they were able to do something that doesn’t happen all of the time. They were able to turn something wholly unexpected into something magical. We Rays fans have become spoiled after our boys have made it to the postseason three times in four years. And now we’re talking about the Rays nipping at the heals of three teams instead of just one.
Maybe I’m just a realist, knowing full well that the odds of the Rays making it to the postseason (with only 11 games left) are heavily against them. But there is something in me that doesn’t want to wave the white flag…at least just yet. Call it cautious optimism, but I still believe.
DRaysBay put it best, “The Rays will need to play lights out down the stretch and hope that the Orioles stumble. Not to mention the Angels, who are right there in the thick of it. Longo and the boys will need to harness their inner 2007 Rockies, a team that won 14 of their last 15, including a come-from-behind 13-inning victory in the tiebreak game, to come from 6 back in the Wild Card race in September and not only advance to the playoffs but get all the way to the World Series.”
I’ll damned if they’re not trying to creep back into things. The Rays have scored 32 runs in the last three games, outscoring both the Red Sox and the Blue Jays by a score of 32-8. This comes after scoring only 19 on their last road trip, when they should have been putting a good foot forward while staying relevant. If they’re going to keep pace, intent on walking into the Trop within three games of Baltimore when the Orioles come to town on the first, the productive bats of the Rays are going to have to stay hot. Tampa Bay has posted a .268 BA/.358 OBP/.450 SLG/.808 OPS/.313 BABIP/.351 wOBA line over the last seven days, with the bulk of their offensive prowess coming over the course of the last three. To that end, with the exceptions of BJ Upton, Matt Joyce, and Ryan Roberts, the Rays regulars have posted a .250 batting average (or greater) in the last week. Can they keep it up? It fails to be seen just yet. But if they can, and if the youngsters on the pitching staff can tighten up a bit, things are going fun. Isn’t meaningful baseball fun?!
Rays 9/22/12 Starting Lineup
Noteworthiness: Neither the hot bats of Carlos Pena or Luke Scott (I’m dead serious about the hot bats) are in the lineup with Morrow on the mound. Jeff Keppinger and Ben Francisco with take over the first base and DH duties tonight, hitting fourth and sixth respectively. According to a Marc Topkin tweet, Sam Fuld ran today and noted that things felt good. He’ll test his hamstring further on Tuesday, and hopes to play again this season.