First Things First: Why does the National Media not understand how good Joe Maddon is as a Major League Manager?? He’s like a Manageinus!
Don’t look now Tampa Bay Rays fans, but Tampa is on fire. After Saturday night’s 8-0 shutout gem by Jeremy Hellickson – the Rays have now won 4 in a row and 9 of their last 11 overall. Tampa is now only 8 games back of the AL East Division leading New York Yankees and 7 1/2 back of the Wildcard leading Boston Red Sox. Yes, I know it sounds like a lot – but the last 2 weeks have been very encouraging.
I said the part of the season that the Rays would look back on and regret is when they played 20 consecutive games versus the Oakland A’s, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Kansas City Royals & the Seattle Mariners. During that 20 game stretch against the poorest of poor American League teams (besides the 3 game set vs. the Blue Jays), Tampa went 11-9. They really needed to take card of business in those games and go a minimum of 15-5…and if they do – Tampa is looking at being 4 games back instead of 8 at this point.
But hey – at least we have a shot? It’s very minimal…but at least it’s a shot! It was over 2 weeks ago. But they are back from the dead…and this team is pitching lights out. The Rays even went to Fenway Park earlier this week and took 2 out of 3 versus the Boston Red Sox. And they didn’t just take the series…they dominated and do what they do best. They pitched and played solid defense. Rays Starting Pitcher James Shields was the hard luck loser in the opening game of the series versus the Red Sox…he threw 1 bad pitch (Jacoby Ellsbury hasn’t missed a bad pitch all season) and Ells took Shields deep for a 3 run shot and a 3-1 loss in which Shields only allowed 3 hits. The Rays lack of offense continues to be the achilles heel not just for this season, but for seasons now. Jeff Niemann won the 2nd game of the series 6-2 over Boston and Jeff also only allowed 3 hits. And then David Price won the finale in style…a 4-0 shutout victory over the all powerful Red Sox…yep – you guessed it – Price only allowed 3 hits as well. 9 hits allowed in 3 games versus Boston in that cracker jack park known as Fenway Park.
The Rays have to have the toughest schedule in baseball in the last month of the season, but ironically – it is a good thing for them. Besides playing reigning American League Champion Texas Rangers 6 times…Tampa still plays the Boston Red Sox 7 times (3 at Home & 4 Away) and the New York Yankees 6 times (3 Home & 3 Away). Do you think this Rays team will have some confidence heading to Fenway for a 4 game series Sept. 15-18th…I’m going to say YES!!
But I am curious what one of the best managers in baseball is going to do down the stretch. There was talk a couple weeks ago on trying to limit the innings pitched by Jeremy Hellickson and possibly even David Price. So with the Rays jumping back into the playoff race…does that change everything?? The Rays have always seemed like a team more worried about the future than the now. If the Rays continue to chip away at the Division/Wildcard leads – will that get top pitching prospect in all of baseball, Matt Moore, the call up he has more than earned? Will Moore be the 2008 Price?? I don’t know – but I am definitely going to be rooting this $41 Million dollar team on against the $200 Million Dollar + Yankees and the $160 Million Dollar + Red Sox!