Results tagged ‘ AL Wild Card race ’
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 don’t think any of us saw these three completely different ladies stroll into Tropicana Field this Sunday. Each of them had different agendas and reasons for being among the 21,008 screaming members of the Rays Republic. By the end of the game though, each knew they were in the right place and firmly gave their commitments to helping this Rays team succeed.
One was there striving to help this young squad that was counted out in early April harness their desire and expectations heading into the Rays final 4 games. She had wanted to give this team a trust and reliance that the fulfillment of their goal was well within their grasp. Her presence has adorned the Trop for a long time this season, but today she made an “ official” appearance.
The second came today to remind this team that the course of human life is never pre-printed or ordained, that spirit as well as courage can sometimes change the sands of time. That she wanted to give a blessing of cause and will to this team as they venture into the final stages of 2011. That she might not be able to give them total control or deed them to success, but she knew the path and was willing to guide them there with no hesitation and no payment in return.
Third lady came today to remind this team that something can be predestined, can be decided way before their time, but that the will of man can change the course, can re-direct the energy and that fortune both good and bad doesn’t always fall on the lucky or cursed. That sometimes the ones who bond together, who all believe the same path of movement can achieve things beyond their dreams, even changing their end result.
What all three saw today was a team before them who had a chemistry about them that was unshakable by feats of other common men. A spirit that rivaled any other other force seen upon this Earth whose ebb and flow moved in unison between both the players and the assembled fans.
They saw an explosion of emotion, a combustion of suppressed energy and a visual display of unified exuberance all around them as the Rays moved towards their 5-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. Each gathered their thoughts, sights and recollections throughout the contest speaking with zeal and emotion taking in everything and forgetting nothing.
After the game ended I approached these 3 ladies who looked emotionally exhausted, but full of fire and energy. I asked if they had been here before and they told me they had attended games in 2008 and 2010, but this was their first journey here as a group this season. I commended them on coming on a day that had so much great game action and excitement throughout the contest.
As they turned to walk away I asked their names. The first one introduced herself as Hope. I went to extend my hand to shake hers and she went on to say, “ And these are my dear friend’s Destiny and Fate”. I stumbled back for a moment at this revelation and hope left me with this final comment, “Don’t worry. We like this team. I have a feeling you will see a lot of us over the next month or so”. Fate just shot me a grin and yelled back to me, “You can count on it!”
I quickly shot back the words: “I truly hope so ladies. The Rays Republic can always use 3 great ladies like you behind these guys!”
To most people the odd premise of the Meatloaf song, “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad” could be adapted into the stark reality and finalization of the next final weeks of the 2009 baseball season. Right now, this song can give the Tampa Bay Rays a musical punctuation mark to what must be done for rest of the season to realize their dream of taking this team into the postseason. And it is a good thing to envision and a positive thing to take two out of three games from your opponents, but what happens if you have only two games (Seattle) or a 4-game series ( Detroit/Baltimore/ Yankees) against an opponent? Do you then have to adjust to winning both of the two games, or three out of four games in that four game series?
Everyone seems to be starting to quoting those cliches right now of “Crunch Time” and “Must Win Situations” when chatting about the Rays chances. And to me it is all so funny because I have been voicing those concerns ever since April. I actually think that you set up your post season chances in the first three months of the season. Silly losses and unfocused moments rob you of wins that could be valuable right now. But in those early months of the season, people throw around phrases like the gospel according to ESPN that ”It is early” or “Not to worry a 7-game winning streak can fix all of this”.
And in those early months you can be that naive about the ending of the season. Because there was so much baseball to be played, to even thinking of having to buckle down and win at least 2 out of 3 of the rest of your games to get into a spot to claim a Wild Card berth seemed like odd vision in the early months. Funny, they could even go this route and still come up short of your goal. And to me that is the reality right now.
We need help to get to the post season. We truly do. It is not like this team is not competitive enough or strong enough to take on all comers to get there on their own, but they need help to step up the ladder and take that Wild Card berth. We have exactly 39 games left to our season. And we do have a huge important series lingering against team like Baltimore (8), Detroit (7), New York Yankees (7), Boston (6)and Toronto (6) that will shape the Rays dreams and aspirations for the postseason.
But maybe the remaining teams hidden on that schedule will be the deciding factors in this quest for the playoffs. There is one division in baseball that has handled not only the Rays, but the entire AL East this series in their series. The A L West again might hold the trump cards. The Rays are currently a combined 31-25 (.554) against the above group this season with all of their seasonal series games against Detroit still on the books. 25 of those 39 games are against team that are sporting a .500 record of above this season.
And 27 of those 39 contests are against our American League East foes. The Rays currently have a 27-18 (.600) record against their division in 2009. But not lost on the Rays is the fact that half of their final 32 games are played against the Red Sox, Yankees and Rangers, who all currently have great spot to enter the 2009 post season.
Those divisional games are important, and could be the fulcrum to balance the Rays towards a eventual Wild Card, but for some reason I am worried about a small set of 5 games more than the divisional tilts. The odd 2-game series against the Seattle Mariners and the 3-game series against the Rangers in late September in the hot box located in Arlington, Texas might be the last grasp at a chance to secure their goals. Those 5 games, not the divisional one could prove to be the teams downfall. And you know that this team has been simply miserable against the A L West division in 2009.
But I am not panicking or even about to spout defeatist venom yet. Sure this 7-game road trip envisioned by Rays Manager Joe Maddon to be the “Ring of Fire” could actually be the hot box they need right now to get into mental and emotional shape to grind out these last 39 games. But for their goals to still be on track, they need to take at least 4 or 5 of the seven games on the slate.
And there is nothing that Detroit would like better than to pop down the Rays because they could end up being an opponent in the playoffs. The Tigers would love to send the Rays back home with their barbs between their fins and have to regroup and reformulate a plan to get them to their goals. Right now there are a few teams sitting there waiting for their chance at us again knowing that a victory by them can end this Rays drama in 2009.
Now the Rays front office is already secure in the fact of offering our 2009 Postseason Ticket packet prices and options to us in the mail the last few days. In it I saw that the package in 2009 for my seat will cost me $ 1080. That is a bit higher than last season, but you have to admit, we have expected more out of this team in 2009. And this Rays squad has the talent and the abilities to thrust themselves right up into that Wild Card mess and make it interesting all the way to their last game on October 3rd against the Yankees at home.
And believe me, I do not want to be watching football during the weekends in October. I would rather be sitting in my seat at Tropicana Field seeing these same Rays fighting for a chance to redeem themselves on the World Series stage again. But in the Rays post season packet is the message that any money or tickets not used this postseason will be adjusted and placed in our accounts for our 2010 Season Ticket purchase.
And I have faith in their chances and abilities to again celebrate and enjoy their moments with the fans in securing a second romp into the postseason dance. I will send in my money hoping and praying for a chance to again sit there and maybe catch two more foul balls during the American League Divisional Series. I hope to be sitting in the Trop for a pivotal game in the ALCS, and might even have a chance to see another first pitch at a World Series game placed in the dome. If not, I know my money will be there for me to enjoy another year where promise and hope will reign heavy again in April, May and June.