Tampa Bay could muster only three hits, and the five runs they managed to score weren’t enough to beat the Red Sox last night. The season is well into the 11th hour, and it doesn’t look like Game 162 will see the Rays vaulting into the playoffs.
This year, there is no club above the Rays that is tumbling into oblivion. The Yankees and Orioles seem to be in a serious contest with each other for first place in the A.L. East, rather than battling for a wild card spot. Oakland is 6.5 games ahead of the Rays in the post-season race, Baltimore is six full games ahead of the good guys, and Los Angeles is three games in front of the Rays. Detroit is a half-game ahead of Tampa Bay, and they won’t give ground easily, as they are still in the hunt for the A.L. Central. This adds up to the simple reality that Tampa Bay will be heading home when the regular season is over.
Along the way, the Rays have simply not played solid baseball. The offense has struggled for the better part of the year, and the defense struggled greatly until the All-Star break. While improving since then, the “D” still hasn’t been up to typical Tampa Bay standards. Mix in a bad inning here or there from the pitching staff, along with several games the past couple of weeks in which starters couldn’t get past five innings, and that is the arithmetic for disaster.
Tonight, the Rays will take on Boston, and throw rookie Chris Archer, who is looking for his first big league victory. He has been on the wrong end of luck, putting up a 3.22 E.R.A. along with striking out twenty-eight in 22.1 innings while allowing only eight free passes. The big right-hander has a miniscule WHIP of 0.99 along with a batting average against of .188.
- Don’t expect the Rays to throw in the towel just because the next two weeks aren’t exactly promising. The organization is well run, and proud of how they play the game. I’ll be following them until all is said and done.
- Archer shows there is depth in the minors for the Rays. He’s a quality arm with scary stuff, and has shown guts in tough situations.
- Tampa Bay has a the second-most errors in the major leagues, and is ranked 26th in the bigs in OPS, with only one A.L. club, Seattle, behind them. The Rays have an OPS of .695, with the MLB average sitting at .724. And that includes National League clubs that regularly bat pitchers. With numbers like that, it’s a tribute to Joe Maddon and the club that they are not only above .500, but still a force in the toughest division in baseball.
- I’ll finish off with some good news. David Price has been nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award. He’s a class act, and truly respected in the Tampa Bay area. Tim Wakefield, a kid from my home town, won the award some time ago, and believe me, it’s a big deal. Any time you can be mentioned in the same breath with Roberto Clemente you are doing something right.