Results tagged ‘ 2011 AL Wild Card ’

If You Don’t Believe Now, Better Check Your Pulse



Words would just ruin the moment. Here is a photo essay of complied photos from the great AP photographers Mike Carlson / Chris O’Meara and Getty Images Photog  J. Meric  on the field and deep within the bowels of Tropicana Field  tonight. 




 

Last, but not least, the Home Run trot that began the celebration!



Wild Card Wednesday..Hope Your Ready?

Today is the day. You have to play like there is no tomorrow, because to lose is to subject yourself with the possiblity of packing boxes for your journey home this off season instead of packing for Texas or Detroit and some really meaningful games. There is a lot still to play for here. Records are going to be shattered before the dust settles either on Wild Card Wednesday, or Titantic Thursday.

After 5,392 strolls to the plate and 1,437 innings of hurling a little white sphere, the Rays most important 27 outs of their season come to fruition in game 162. Who in their right mind would have thought a squad sporting a team batting average of only .244 which is ranked 25th out of 30 teams in the Major Leagues would still have a legitimate shot at post season glory on the last day of the season? Someone slap me right now, I got to be sure this is not a dream.

Did you know that from the duo of the Tampa Bay Rays or the Boston Red Sox the eventual American League Wild Card winner will become the first American League team EVER to go from 0-6 then gain a spot in the post season?

At one point the Rays way back in early April, they were in the AL East cellar with a 1-8 mark. The Rays went on to harvest 89 wins since that low point. The most wins ever by a team that started 1-8 in the season. To put into total perspective, the Rays have gone 15-8 while Boston has floundered to a 6-17 mark since the Rays were 9 games out of any Wild Card consideration on September 4, 2011.

With the Rays win on Monday night combined with a Red Sox loss, the Rays and Red Sox have not been on the same plateau in the AL East since May 23,2011….a period of over 126 days. Want another great eye-opener? With both teams winning last night, it will set up the 8th consecutive Major League Baseball divisional or Wild Card to possibly be decided during the final regular season contest.

This is the type of environment and game intensity the combined 33 members of the Rays roster strive and dream about during the 180 days of the regular season….having a chance to clinch a post season berth at home, then having a chance to celebrate with the Rays 10th man(woman), the Rays Republic. 161 games in the books and the Rays are still very much alive and within a single game changing moment of the seasonal brass ring.

Only thing that can defeat them now is their old offensive machine to turn into a 1972 Ford Pinto instead of a 2011 Ford Mustang. But I got a feeling Rays Manager Joe Maddon will have their engine purring, revving up the RPM’s like an old muscle car tomorrow night and ready to put the pedal to the metal, find that internal fortitude and bravado and thrust it deep into the New York Yankees midsections.

I imagine there will be more than a few people in the training room after Wednesday night’s contest complaining of a sore neck going from the action on the field to just under the TBT Deck checking the out-of-town scoreboard with regularity.

I truly believe both in my mind and in my soul the Rays have an impending victory cornered and just have to be sure not to give it away. In their corner is the simple fact the Red Sox have not won back-to-back games since late August while the Rays are sporting a 4-game winning streak.

You want to think that winning tomorrow night would turn into a simple “win and your in” post season chance, but that could be farther from the truth. If the Rays play like they have over the past 4 games, play error-free baseball with a bit of an edge, then Evan Longoria and crew will have that brass ring in their hand tomorrow night. I have phoned my new friends Fate, Destiny and Hope who have have been in the stands over the past few days, they have told me their other friend Karma is really eager to come cheer and help the Rays in the finale. I have a good feeling about “Wild Card Wednesday”.

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.

Time to Grab the Brass Ring

There is an old saying, “When a door closes, another one opens”. The unfortunate thing is right now that door is a trap door and it leads to a dark place that this Tampa Bay Rays team has been trying to avoid every since their rial departure from Boston’s South Station.

Along the way this once enthusiastic Rays band of bros have been blindsided, mis-guided and sent along a path of self destruction. All we have to do now is figure out the culprit or aliment and drown them with a high dosage of optimism and possibly someone singing “Tomorrow” from “Annie” a few times in the clubhouse. I pick Rays rookie Matt Moore, he can’t seem to do anything wrong right now.

It is just one stubbed toe, but it is also a missed opportunity by losing 5-1 tonight to a Blue Jays team the Rays have manhandled most of the season. It was the perfect time to thrust a huge H-bomb of stress and pressure upon those pesky Red Sox in their series against the high flying, playoff bound Pinstripes. Instead, it is another example of putting the wrong foot forward and stepping straight into that spiraling rabbit hole.

You want to rush past the Security Guards, push past the Clubhouse Assistants and shake a few Rays by the shoulders and make them come out of this nightmare dream sequence. It is almost like someone threw a copy of the bad independent screenplay built on despair and personal instability upon the Visitor’s dugout in Boston, and everyone read it on the slow train to NYC.

There has to be a connection. There has to be a dark reason, a motive unseen that has thrust this Rays franchise deep into playing like those pre-2000 D-Rays once again when the prize is just beyond the grasp. That brass ring is just out of their reach and with each passing spin of the Merry-go-Round seems to inch further and further away with each circle.

Pressure is rising. Building up a nasty head of steam and insecurity with each and every miss-step or missed opportunity. Something has to be done. Someone needs to somehow right this ship before it hits the shoals of Tampa Bay and the season becomes a “what if” decaying fossil upon the rocks.

It is still fixable, the Merry-go-Round is still functioning and tomorrow really is another day. But the winning has to start tomorrow or the trapdoor will open below Tropicana Field and suck the life out of a any post season dreams. It is not a classic “do or die” moment, but a win will erase a little of that cloud, open up a stream of sunshine, take the blues away just like a magician and his fabled rabbit trick.

The end is too near and the prize is too vivid for it to all disappear into thin air with another loss. A win during a Rays Saturday Night Concert Series event used to be a “sure thing”, a president for renewed faith, vitality and exuberance for that last trip around the Merry-go-Round. A loss and the ring will quickly go from solid brass to useless plastic.

A loss and the crowd might not be able to rebound and enjoy Miranda Lambert with gusto. But a win, a win can make Sunday brighter, the Starbucks taste better and reopen that door towards the playoffs with a firm and confident Rays step forward.

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