Results tagged ‘ 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.

Hope,Fate and Destiny Attend a Rays Game

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!

It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over

I think the Tampa Bay Rays have the right idea right now. This series against the Boston Red Sox is the first set of playoff atmosphere and caliber games that the Rays will have to solidly win and show their might for them to secure a second straight visit to the October promise land. The energy and electricity in the air right now is evident, the Rays are beginning to find their offensive rhythm at a time when a powerful message needs to be delivered.

The team has to go into these next three contests against Boston with the same drive, determination and zeal to hand the Red Sox a “L” on their home turf within the eye sight of the Red Sox Nation. You got to hand it to the young Rays who again found their offensive firepower and stepping over their hitting mess left in piles upon the turf in Baltimore. The Rays power explosion last night definitely showed the Boston and Red Sox Nation, that this series is not going to be a cakewalk, and at the conclusion of this 4- battle mini war, one team will clearly have an emotional edge going into the final 10-odd games.

You still have to be mindful that last night’s convincing victory was not fought against the top tier of Red Sox pitching, and the middle games of this 4-game campaign will have extreme pitching challenges where the Rays will have to out-think and out play Boston’s top two. Rays Manager Joe Maddon always says “pitching sets the tone”, well in this case the Rays want to make Boston a bit tone deaf and knock them on their heels.

That is the way this series will be won. The team that makes the opposition pitch deep every inning, use up their momentum and energy will find the crack and exploit their adversary first. The Rays dominated in that category last night, tonight it is time to again duplicate the feat.

If the Rays truly want to thrust out their chests in victory, it will come against two of the Red Sox best, and with the full Red Sox arsenal again healthy and ready to face Rays starters James Shields and Jeff Niemann over the next two days. That is really how you want this series to play out, with each team going back and forth with momentum until one cracks the dike and the flood waters spill out into Boston harbor.

This is how you want the American League Wild Card to be decided, with the best on the hill for the front runners and the team chasing them finding ways to decipher and dictate a defeat over the course of the next two games. Considering the Rays could not take advantage earlier this week when Boston stubbed their toes to make up critical 2 games worth of ground bringing this Wild Card dash within a single contest. That would have amped up the intensity level, but I have a feeling that each team already feel those tingles in their bones.

 If the first game was an indication, this Red Sox/Rays series has all the trapping and emotional feel of a full fledged Major League Baseball playoff series. It truly feels to me more like a 4-game series to decide who gets to head into the final 10 days with a chance to make the current A L East leaders a bit nervous, possibly even shaving a few games off their current lead. At the least it could help delay and prevent any champagne corks from exploding until the Yankees and Rays end the season in Tropicana Field.

Think of the deep hole both these teams faced after the first two weeks of the 2011season. Both were fighting and clawing for a chance to get out of the A L East cellar fighting and have amazingly got their seasons on track and ascended back to the top tiers of the American League East. Most teams would have considered just that journey upwards out of the cellar a seasonal success, but both these teams have a bitter taste in their mouths and need that sweet nectar of champagne to wash the troubles away for good.

If the Rays battle and take the next two, it sends a clear message that this team has its engine purring and ready for that final run with 7 matches against the AL East leading New York Yankees. This definitely feels like the first round set of series game leading up to a AL East showdown on the horizon for the Rays and Yankees, but Boston is standing in the road defiant to let the Rays pass without a fight.

Emotions are flowing into overdrive on both sides as one begins to show a sense of panic, and the other is starting to settle into a familiar seasonal groove of fighting to the last bit of energy, prevailing sometimes with the last swing.

If the Rays dispatch Beckett and Lester over the next two games, it will demoralize more than just the Red Sox players. It will send panic and emotional pleas throughout Red Sox Nation. So get ready, strap in and prepare for a fight because the Red Sox will not go down without a fight, and the Rays seem ready to counter one…Now that type of scenario feels just like a post season series to me.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 272 other followers