THE GOOD: The Rays have the 2nd best record in baseball, only a half-game behind the Angels for the best record in the AL…The Rays lead the Twins by 9 games in the loss column. Keep in mind that not only do the Red Sox have to pass the Rays, but the Twins and White Sox must also pass the Rays in order for the Rays to miss the playoffs completely…The benefit of still having a lead means the Rays only have to win 1 game in Boston to remain in first place in the AL East. 2 wins and everybody will suddenly forget this past weekend…Want to take something good from being swept by the Jays? The Jays have now moved past the Yankees into 3rd place in the East…Evan Longoria will likely be back in the lineup on Friday and Carl Crawford will likely be back the final week of the regular season (see below).
THE BAD: Maybe it is time to ditch THIS IDEA? Joe Maddon has all of the Rays, including Don Zimmer, wearing “Ed Hardy” T-shirts with jeans and a sportcoat on this current roadtrip. We are all for keeping it “light” but maybe an 0-3 record since implementing this “policy” indicates time for a change…Weddings in West Virginia during hurricane season.
THE TELLING: The Rays magic number to win the East is now 20. The magic number to clinch at least a wild card spot is 13*. The Rays have 4 games remaining with the Twins. With 9 games prior to that series, the Rays will have a hard time clinching prior to facing the Twins. But the magic number could be as low as 5 entering that September 18-21 showdown. There is a good chance the Rays will clinch a playoff spot in that series or at least put one of the final nails in the Twins’ wild card coffin.
*With the Twins now trailing the White Sox by 3 games in the Central, the head-to-head series between the Twins and White Sox no longer has an affect on the Rays’ magic number.
DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA…
- And we are pessimistic?…Marc Topkin is already asking if the season would be a disappointment if the Rays miss the playoffs…Yes. The Red Sox are very, very close now. But the Twins are still miles away. The Rays lead the Twins by 9 games (!) in the loss column. The Rays are going to the playoffs. [St. Pete Times]
- Joe Maddon says Troy Percival is still the Rays’ closer despite giving up 6 runs in 2 appearances since coming off the DL…Also, Evan Longoria took soft-toss yesterday and will finally take live batting practice on Tuesday…That suggests Longoria will be available to play on Friday. [St. Pete Times]
- Carl Crawford looked good during a recent check-up and there is still hope that he could be activated the final week of the regular season, although he would likely be limited to late-inning pinch-running and as a defensive substitution. [St. Pete Times]
- Marc Lancaster shows that the Rays were smart to limit the innings on their young arms last season, and that diligence could pay big dividends in September and October. [Tampa Tribune]
- The Hardball Times takes a closer look at the Rays’ top 3 starting pitchers and how they may measure up in October. [The Hardball Times]
However, with Kazmir’s recent struggles, he becomes the key to the depth of the rotation. If he can’t get out of the fifth inning, Tampa’s stay in the postseason could be short. On the other hand, if he can rediscover his early season form over his last several starts of the regular season and begins to pitch efficiently, the front three of this rotation will have Tampa in position to be a force in October.
- Paul Schulte, who is a member of the Tampa Bay Rays’ sponsored wheelchair softball team, is headed to Beijing as a member of the USA wheelchair basketball team. Schulte will captain Team USA. [Sticks of Fire]
- We agree…While Vince Naimoli does deserve credit for bringing baseball to the Bay Area, let’s not all of the sudden start acting like he deserves any credit for this season’s sudden success. [Walkoff Walk]
- The Red Sox are indeed scoreboard watching when they are not on the field. [Boston Herald]