Get Ready for a Power filled Series

 


Steve Nesius / AP

It is that time of the season where a single loss can be a train derailing event towards a successful run at the postseason. Every single nuance of the game has to be clicking in rhythm from the get-go or the dream could come shattering down on you like a broken pane of glass. With the Tampa Bay Rays about to a begin a 3-game weekend set against the team many around baseball have dubbed the “2009 Rays”,maybe it is time for them to remind people around baseball that they are still in this American League Wild Card race.

So what if the Texas Rangers have been anointed this seasons “Rays”. Funny,but aren’t those pesky Rays still only 3 games behind the Rangers and 4 games behind the Boston Red Sox stalking both team’s every moves,and daily taunting them to lose so the Rays can creep up in the standings. Aren’t these the same Rays that people have put in correlation with the “2007 Colorado Rockies” and have stated time and time again will not repeat into the 2009 Playoff scene. How dare those Rays make ESPN’s Baseball Tonight look like fools. They do such a good job of that all by themselves. 

But there is a problem with that premise….Someone forgot to tell the Rays they are not suppose to be in this thing. But the honest truth is that all of this can change in the blink of an eye this weekend. With all three of the  current contenders for the Wild Card race playing key opponents this weekend,separation in the standings will occur this weekend,by hook or by crook.

The Red Sox host the New York Yankees for three while the Rays tuck a 3-game series against the Rangers into the weekend. This combination of six games could,and should bring about a better overview of the Wild Card hierarchy for the last four weeks of the season. After these two series conclude,someone will be chasing someone else for that last spot into the 2009 playoffs. And behind it, the reality, that another team could begin a free fall that will fade them from the Wild Card. 


Jim Prisching / AP

Not to say that the Yankees have the A L East division all locked up yet,but a major fall from grace would have to occur,and all the stars align just right for the Rays to again take the A L East crown. But right now,all the Rays fears and the attention has to be on a team that really does mirror the 2008 edition of the Rays in so many ways. And with Elvis in the building,you never know what is going to happen.

But the key to this series is going to be all about power. Power hitting and power pitching might be the key elements to post a series win, and a leg-up in the Wild Card race. If the Rays take the series 3-0, it could boost them to within one game of the Rangers, and depending on what happens in Boston, could get them within a few games of the top spot. But it is going to be pure adulterated power that defines this series.

And both teams have the power in their line-ups to take any of these game into routs in a single innings. Both the Rays and the Rangers have done just that this season. Each teams boasts a A L MVP candidate, and a A L Rookie of the Year candidate, and both could be riding high after this series. But as usual in events that place power above all else, it could be the simple fact of control pitching and getting first pitch strikes that dominates this series.

And both teams have competent pitching staff from the starters to the closers that could take either team out of rally situations with a single pitch. But that is the fun of it all. To see if Scott Kazmir tonight can get a blast of the past glory and take down the Rangers early and often and control the plate. Or if it is going to be Dustin Nippert, who is 2-1 with a 4.21 ERA in his 4 starts this season taking control of the Rays and shutting them down.

But there might be a slight advantage to the Rays right now just based on the pitching match-ups for the weekend. The Rangers are going to send three straight right-handers to the plate to combat the left-handed Rays. That could play right into the Rays hands as they have feasted on right-handers in 2009. But this is not so one-sided as it might seem. The Rays will combat this with the hard-throwing Kazmir going tonight, then follow with another power pitcher Matt Garza on Sat. night. The series will conclude with rookie David Price taking the mound Sunday.

But the Rangers also boast a pretty good offense themselves this season.  The Rangers have hit a total of 181 home runs this season easily out-pacing the Rays 155 so far in 2009. And both teams are only .007 clicks away in team average this year. This could be a well-balanced series with defensive mistakes proving to be the big indicator of the series winner. The Rangers are modeled after the Rays successful defensive philosophy,and is currently ranked 8th in the AL in total defense. The Rays sit  about 3 slots below Texas at this time.

But even with the Rays defense having an off year, the Rays have a distinctive advantage on the base paths over the Rangers in this series. So could Carl Crawford, Jason Bartlett and B J Upton prove to be turning points in this series? Only if they get on base and have the right situations to steal bases and get into the Rangers pitching staff’s heads. 

The entire series might come down to the basics of baserunning.  If the Rays get the chance to run, it might be a long night for Texas. But if Texas can control the running game and keep the Rays out of scoring chances, it might turn towards the Rangers advantage. Right now I am feeling confident on the Rays chances to get close again in this Wild Card race.


Marc Avery / AP

Rich Herrera, who does the Rays Postgame Show on the radio always says, “The next game is the most important game of the season.” And that is so true. They are all equally as important as wins to get to that spot you want to be in before that last series of the year against the Yankees in Tropicana Field.

Hopefully at that point the Rays will have either made their play, or will still be right in the thick of it up until the end. Either way this series might be a chance for the Rays to make a statement against all those so-called experts who have doubted, and rooted against the team for most of the season. It is time to play the “Rays Way” and then let the cards fall where they may.

14 Comments

This end of the season is getting crazy! Rays vs Rangers – who do I root for? The Yankees play the Rangers next week; who do I cheer for there?? It’s enough to drive you crazy!

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

What an exciting weekend coming up!! You are right…every game counts. I think the Rays are this years Rays. Is that redundant?
http://catlovesthedodgers.mlblogs.com

Julia,
It is kind of funny that it looks like for the first time in a long while the schedulers at MLB might have gotten it right with their match-ups late in the season.
Accept for a few games against the Orioles, the Rays play all above .500 teams the rest of the way through the schedule.
They are crazy like a fox…

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I am rooting for the Rays. Their expectations are so high, yet they match what they are expected. Now they are expected to win the Wild Card. They will do it Cliff. Don’t worry. The Rangers don’t nearly have the pitching to do it, and I think they will collapse in the series against the Rays. If they sweep, they got the Wild Card in hand, but if swept, maybe it could be over…..
http://tribewithted.mlblogs.com/

Cat,
Some people might think it is redundant, but I like it and is all that matters.
I have been curious on why the media the last few years loves to label teams and even thrown teams from beyond the years into a conversation when it is a different time and roster than “back then”, or even “last season”.
But I still just think of them as the Rays circa 2009.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Tribe Ted,
I actually would love a sweep, but for some reason I see a 2-1 split in the series by the end of the game on Sunday afternoon.
The Rangers still have to visit Boston, and then in late September we get to go to hot, humid and down right nasty feeling Arlington for a 3-game series.
The MLB schedule gurus got this one right, it is going to come down to the last two weeks for pure separation to toss the three teams apart in the standings……….or could happen as soon as Sunday.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Renegade,
all you can hope for is two out of three from the Rangers. And then the Rays play good until that Boston/Texas series, and hope for a sweep of the Sox. Then you will be in good hands. :) Keep hoping, thanks for stopping by. And I have to say, Red State Blue State has some fire going on.
http://tribewithted.mlblogs.com/

Tribe Ted,
Yeah old Jeff and Alan I think are aboiut to big some pre-playoff ******** in the next few weeks.
Both teams have a shot at the playoffs, and they can dream about a World Series match-up until someone get blasted.
They can bring it, which makes reading them even more fun at times.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Talk about an important weekend of baseball. Yikes. I’ll be switching channels all over the place. Good luck versus the Rangers. Sounds like the Rays are picking it up and will be successful.

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

IT’s do or die for the Rays at this point.
-Dillon
http://dillonm.mlblogs.com

Jane,
I can tell you the air in here tonight is a bit more intense.
Not a lot of joking around in the outfield during the Rangers BP tonight.
I think both teams know that the next few days could either put an exclamation point or a period on their seasons.
Should be a fun time scoreboard watching this weekend.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Dillon,
Not sure if it is do or die yet, but it is definitely a condition RED, multiple flashing light, imperative moment this weekend.
The do or die would be the Toronto and Detroit road trip if they do not win at least 2 this weekend from the Rangers.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I would love to see the Rays overtake the Red Sox and win the Wild Card. Heck, I wouldn’t even mind it if the Rangers won it. No disrespect to Boston fans, but it would be nice to see someone else besides the usual Angels, Yankees, and Red Sox in the postseason. I thought that’s what was so great about the postseason last year.-Erinhttp://plunking-gomez.blogspot.com

Erin,
For a short time there, I was worried about Seattle and the Chicago White Sox.
But now they have fallen back a bit and might be looking more at 2010 now than this season.
All I know is the next three weeks is going to be fast and furious with no prisoners.
And that is just the way it should be when September rolls into the MLB books.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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