I am Betting on the Wild Card Factor

Now that the Tampa Bay Rays have let it be known to the entire baseball world that they want to be “Club C” in a possible 1-game playoff “winner, winner chicken dinner” type format, will there be more Rays surprises before the beginning of the Wednesday night season finale game at Tropicana Field?

Could this team pull their own unforeseen “Wild Card” from their pitching deck of cards for a potential American League Wild Card determining game set for Friday, September 30th at Tropicana Field? Problem is, will the Rays pick a staff “Ace” or go with another card hoping for a little Rays good fortune. 

If the Rays have a gut feeling that they might be in line to use their previously announced “Club C” option of facing the winner of the game against Red Sox and the Angels, would the Rays go outside their usual comfort zone and play a hunch, possibly scratching Rays southpaw David Price from his last start of the season, giving the ball instead to top prospect SP Matt Moore.

This scenario could easily play out if the Rays think they will be facing a one contest game of baseball roulette to decide if they are post season “worthy”. If it plays out even closely that the Rays would have a playoff game on Friday night in Tropicana Field, wouldn’t you want an Ace on the hill who can give you that win?

Some have said that fellow Rays starter/Ace James Shields could come back on 4-days rest and provide an a possible “Ace in the hole” sequence for the Rays for that Friday contest, but then you lose Shields in the American League Divisional Series until possibly Tuesday, October 4th which could line up to be Game 3 of the ALDS and a Rays home contest.

If Price pitched on Wednesday and the team did not seal their fate that night, Price would possibly not pitch again until Game 3 of the ALDS if you go by the present schedule on MLB.com. Seems like the Rays might be doing some midnight oil researching the possible match-ups of each of these two pitchers against their ALDS hosts either the Detroit Tigers or the Texas Rangers. Kind of hoping for a Rangers versus Rays re-match…We have some unfinished business to conclude from 2010 .

If Price is the starter of a AL Wild Card determining game on Friday night, he would essentially be lost until Game 4 or 5 realistically for the ALDS. But if Price pitched in the possible Friday AL Wild Card determining game, it would make Shields the heir apparent ALDS Game 1 starter, plus a possible second start in Game 4 or 5. The Rays might just have to play the odds, rub a few rabbits feet, possibly get Price’s palm read somewhere.

Or the Rays could pull one of the bravest moves of 2011 and end up giving the ball to Moore in a Friday deciding game of the Rays fate for the post season. Immediately people might think this is crazy, but Moore is definitely throwing the ball better than Rays starters Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis right now, so it might be a more statistically dominant suggestion over Shields or Price.

Not trying to throw the Rays young prospect into the fire here, but if you need dominant pitching and a guy who neither the Red Sox or Angels have scouted with a huge amount of game film, Moore might be a nice monkey wrench to throw into the works.

That also would free up Shields to be the ALDS Game 1 starter, with a potential for another ALDS start in Game 3. Then you might have Price come back as a potential ALDS Game 2 starter if the MLB schedule changes enough for Game 2 to be moved to Monday, October 3, and also be on the hill (if needed) for a deciding Game 5 in Detroit.

Here is where it gets tricky and you almost want to be in on the wave length conversation between the ears of Rays VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman. But some thing are easily apparent, and should make trying to decipher Friedman’s brain waves a non-brainer (sorry Andrew).

When you consider Rays AL Rookie of the Year candidate Jeremy Hellickson is a better option than Davis or Niemann in Game 2 or 3, that could lead to an odd scenario of the Rays 4th starter even getting a chance to throw considering the travel days schedule, or if the Rays are in a “must win” situation.

For some reason Moore’s name keeps flashing within my mind as the key “Wild Card” to the Wild Card. If the team uses him on the mound for the Wednesday night regular season finale, it places possibly David Price as the potential Friday night starter. If Price starts on Friday, it would push him towards the back end of the pitching probabilities for the ALDS.

If you put all the cards on the table, look at them realistically for a moment, Moore should be the Friday night starter if the Rays have a 1-game last ditch shot at the post season. That way the Rays would have Shields on the hill for Game 1 of the ALDS, either Price ( even on 4 days rest) or Hellickson for Game 2 in Detroit.

But then again, this all could become moot if the Rays run the table winning both of their remaining contests and the Red Sox stumble against in Baltimore, or Texas eliminates the Angels threat. I still think the double nickel (55) will be the Wild Card factor, I’m betting on it.

8 Comments

This Wild Card race sure is fun to watch from the outside, but for fans of these teams I can feel the tension. Rays would really be a fun team to have in the post season, just hoping they don’t eliminate my Tigers!
–Mike
‘Minoring In Baseball’

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Moore as a playoff starter. It’s just one of the exciting things the Rays would do.
The Rays Rant- http://yossif.mlblogs.com/

Michael,
Detroit is the one team I kind of fear in the post season. If you do not follow the team, you would think after Verlander they have no pitching. But that would be the error that defeats you. Their hurlers are good, and combined with that offense that sneaks up on you then pounces like a tiger….You can find yourself down 5 runs in a hurry. Whoever plays Detroit will have to bring their A game, or they might not need hotel reservation for a deciding Game 5.

Yossif,

There is merit to consider him for a post season start, but unless it is an odd Game 4 type scene, it will never happen. I know the Rays are using the “David Price circa 2008 blueprint with Moore, but I think they do not push him to start unless an injury forces their hand. This Rays staff has thrown a lot of pitches this season with no major setbacks to the top guys….A Sheilds or Price injury, even minor could derail the team even with Moore in the shadows.

Ya I meant only if they go with a 4-man rotation.

Yossif,
The ALDS will not need a 4th starter unless disaster strikes. From their on it will be interesting to see who out of Davis or Niemann is left off the playoff roster for that round. That also might send an instant signal into who might be on the trade block this Winter…if not both.

“obvious ALDS hosts, the Detroit Tigers”. Really? The Rangers are a game up on the Tigers with one to play. How is it obvious?

Well Gary,
If you had noticed the time stamp for the post it was written on September 27th before the Tigers gave way to the Rangers. I would actrually rather play the Rangers, because there is some unfinished ALDS business still lingering……I am not choosy, I’ll take either team. As of Monday night at 2 am, the Tigers still had the better record….sans the comment. I will update it just for you.

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