The Rays Tank: AL Playoff Race Updates

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 09: (Image was created using a fish eye lens) Manny Machado #13 of the Baltimore Orioles warms up prior to the start of the Orioles game against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 9, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Over the weekend, there were a number of bumps and changes in the outlook for the AL East and the AL Wild Card spots. Before Mr. Neg's Monday Morning recap talk about the Rays, let's run through this briefly:

The Yankees and Orioles faced off in a four-game set this weekend, and the Orioles made quite the go of it. They took the two of the first three from the Yankees, and then fell apart yesterday as their pitching imploded for the night. That was the final time those teams will meet this year -- in the regular season, at least -- and it leaves the Yankees one game up over the Orioles in the AL East division race.

In said series, there were at least two developments that could influence the race over the final few weeks. Nick Markakis was hit on the hand by a pitch during Saturday night's game, breaking his thumb and putting him on the sidelines for around six weeks. Meanwhile, Mark Teixeira made his triumphant return from a calf injury...only to then re-aggravate it diving into first base on the final play of the game.

Teix was definitely safe, but as I saw one O's fan remark, it's still nothing compared to the Jeffrey Maier call.

I know I've wanted to rage against the Rays considering how delicately they've used Evan Longoria at times since his return, but this play is a good reminder as to why they're so cautious. If Longoria re-injured himself at this point of the season, the Rays would be all but done.

As it stands, the Rays are a mere one game behind the Orioles for the second Wild Card spot, and they face off this week in a three-game series. The Rays will then go on to face the Yankees in a three-game set, so this could be one of the most important weeks of the season.

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