In order that we don't bring the Gods of Baseball down on our heads with their jinxes, I want to make this clear: it's far from a guaranteed thing that the Rays will tie Boston and end up in a one-game playoff. There are still two games to go, so the Rays really need to win both those games in order to make the playoffs. C'mon, Baltimore...these last few days are going to extremely wild.
But, on the chance that the Rays and Red Sox do end in a tie, what then? Who should the throw as their starting pitcher? Odds are the decision will hinge upon what happens these next few days -- heck, I'm not even sure Boston has a starting pitcher for tomorrow's game yet -- but I'm curious who people would like to see get the nod.
Here are your options:
James Shields, 2 days rest: Shields has been the Rays' best pitcher this season, but he did just throw well over 100 pitches in last night's game.
Jeff Niemann, 4 days rest: Niemann last started on Saturday, so he'd be on a full 5-days rest for the Thursday start. However, Niemann looked like garbage on Saturday, lasting only one inning before Maddon pulled him, and he's thrown a mere six innings over the last two weeks. He's certainly well rested, but how effective would he be?
Wade Davis, 3 days rest: David put together a very strong performance on Sunday, lasting eight innings while striking out six and only allowing two runs. He's been up-and-down all season, though, and he allowed five runs in his second-to-last start (against the Yanks). Then again, he did pitch a complete game against the Sox earlier this month, striking out eight and holding them to just two runs.
Alex Torres, 4 days rest: He filled in superbly for Niemann on Saturday, pitching five shutout innings and essentially saving the Rays' season. He's relatively untested, though, and he struggled with his command all season in the minors (5 BB/9).
Matt Moore, 6 days rest: We all saw what Moore is capable of last Thursday against the Yankees, striking out 11 batters in only five innings. He's already legit ace, the Sox have never faced him before, and the Rays would be silly not to use him in some capacity down the stretch.
This situation could all change within the next couple days, as Moore might get used out of the bullpen or the Rays may not need to worry as much about the one-game playoff if they go up one game tonight. But for the sake of discussion, who do you want to see on the mound on Thursday, if we actually manage to get that far?