THE BAD: Edwin Jackson. We had pointed out Nuke’s “Ace-like” performance in the second-half. Others noted that Jackson had just been lucky pitching out of a lot of jams. We didn’t think it was luck so much as Jackson just seems to pitch better from the stretch (helps his slider?). Of the Rays starting pitchers, only Jackson and Scott Kazmir have opponent OPS marks that are lower when runners on base. But last night Jackson struggled with runners on base. The Yankees were 7-13 with 4 doubles when Jackson threw from the stretch. Prior to last night, opponents had an .833 OPS when bases were empty versus .664 with runners on base…The Red Sox trailed 4-0 entering the 7th inning and rallied to beat the O’s. That might have been the Rays only chance to get help from Baltimore.
THE TELLING: Yes, the lead is “down” to 3, but it is still 4 in the loss column and that has always been our magic number. As long as the lead is 4 in the loss column, nothing can change in any one series. We promised ourselves that we would not panic until the lead in the loss column was reduced to 3. And there is still a lot of room between the Rays and the Twins (9 games in the loss column). With the Twins loss last night the magic number is now 17*. At this point, if the playoffs are the ultimate goal, this series makes little difference. To make the playoffs, the only series that truly matters is the 4-game set with the Twins in late September. If the Rays have not clinched a playoff spot by that point, winning just 1 or 2 of those games will probably seal the deal.
* The White Sox and Twins play each other 3 more times, so the second place team in the Central cannot win more than 99 games. So technically the Rays’ magic number is 16. We could choose to knock off the loss now, or we can choose to knock it off when it actually happens. We choose the latter.
DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA…
- Instant replay was used for the “first time” in the 9th inning on an Alex Rodriguez home run. [Rays Report]
- Or was it?…Stacy Long reminds us last night was not the first use of instant replay in baseball. Rather it was the first authorized use of instant replay in baseball. [Biscuits' Batter]
- Earlier this week we wondered if we would see Evan Longoria at all on the upcoming road trip. That is starting to look more like a reality as days continue to pass without Dirtbag taking batting practice…This is just our own guess, but we don’t think Longoria will be back in the lineup until the Red Sox series at the Trop, September 15-17. [St. Pete Times]
- While Joe Maddon would prefer to give some of his regulars an occasional night off, injuries won’t allow that. Brittany Ghiroli reports that Maddon is instead allowing players to skip pregame batting practice and drills feeling that it is unnecessary this late in the season. [MLB]
- An 11-person committee has been convened to find alternate locations for the Rays new ballpark…Their priority appears to be Piniellas County, but there is some suggestion that they will also consider “possibly surrounding areas”. [Tampa Tribune]
- Joe Posnanski calls the Rays the “ultimate underdog” and takes a look at how the Rays got to where they are. [SI.com]
- Tim Dahlberg says everybody loves underdogs but wonders if anybody would love a Brewers-Rays World Series. [USA Today]
- The Blue Workhorse takes a look at the improbable comeback of Rocco Baldelli…which gets us to wondering, should Rocco be a leading candidate for Comeback Player of the Year? Isn’t Rocco the epitome of Comeback? [The Blue Workhorse]
- “Don’t think, it can only hurt the ball club.”- Jason Bartlett edition. [Tampa Tribune]