Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon set a goal for his team on June 9. While they were holding a 24-40 record at that time, his objective for his players was to be .500 at the season’s century mark. Needing to go 26-10 was no easy task for any team let alone arguably the worst in baseball.
Over two months have passed since Maddon’s comment and Maddon could be the one laughing after all. Prior to today’s game, the Rays are currently 61-61 and only 5.5 games behind the second wild card position. Even after trading David Price for younger talent just before the MLB trade deadline, the Rays have crawled back into playoff contention.
With 40 games left in the season, the Rays are not counting themselves out of playoff contention. In today’s game against the New York Yankees, a win could put the Rays above .500 for the first time since April 13th, when they were 7-6. No one expected the Rays to return to a .500 record team, and yet, very few believe they have a chance to make the playoffs. I believe that they have finally found confidence in each other, and on their current streak, they seem likely to make a run for the second wild card position.
With 13 series remaining this season, only three are against teams outside of the AL East. Tampa Bay will have the opportunity to control their destiny for the remainder of the season. Although the Rays lost today’s game against the Yankees, they are competing in every game. The Rays are well on their way to making this race even tougher for the teams competing for the last playoff spot. Joe Maddon will recall his June 9 comments if his team makes the playoffs, and that still is a possibility.