Is it too late to buy in to the Rays as post-season contenders? Winners of 5 in a row and 10 out of their last 12? This week the Rays traveled to Fenway Park and took 2 out of 3 from the Red Sox and returned home to take 3 in a row from the Seattle Mariners to finish the week at 5-1. They are a season high 13 games over .500 with a record of 69-56 and trail the Boston Red Sox by 7.5 games for the wild card and the New York Yankees by 8 games for the division. Coolstandings.com gives the Rays a 0.4% chance at winning the AL East and a 4.4% chance at winning the wild card and entering today's action Baseball Prospectus gives them a 1.3% chance at making the postseason.
The Rays will continue their chase of the post-season as they host the Detroit Tigers for a four game series starting Monday evening. The pitching matchups against the Tigers will be Jeff Niemann vs Justin Verlander (Monday), David Price vs Brad Penny (Tuesday), Wade Davis vs Max Scherzer (Wednesday), and Doug Fister vs Jeremy Hellickson (Thursday). After the Detroit series the Rays will head to Toronto for a weekend series against the Blue Jays. The pitching matchups will be James Shields vs Henderson Alvarez (Friday), Jeff Niemann vs Luis Perez (Saturday), and David Price vs Brandon Morrow (Sunday). The Red Sox will travel to Texas for a four game series before returning home to host the Oakland Athletics over the weekend. The Yankees will host the Athletics for three games beginning Tuesday evening before travelling to Baltimore for a weekend series.
Question of the Day?
The Rays have the fourth best record in the American League behind the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rangers yet according to the mathematical modeling performed at coolstandings.com and baseballprospectus.com, the Rays have less than a 5% chance at appearing in the post-season. The question for debate is will Major League Baseball expand the post-season by adding an additional wild card? If so, will the wild card playoff round be a 1-game winner advances or best of 3 series?
More After the Jump
Tuesday Afternoon: James Shields gives up 1 run in a complete game 3-1 loss to the Red Sox.
Shileds made one mistake, a three run homer to Jacoby Ellsbury.
When asked more he could of done Tuesday, Shields replied, "Not give up any runs."
"I didn't make my pitches, and that's what it came down to," Shields said. "I don't have any control about what [the offense does]. I only have control about what I do out there. There's nothing else I can do. I've got my job to do, and that's to pitch. ... I'm also a perfectionist. I feel like I should have won that game 1-0." - mlb.com
Tuesday evening: Jeff Niemann allows 2 runs while striking out 10 in a complete game 6-2 victory over the Red Sox to get a split of the day-night doubleheader. The victory moved the Rays to within 9 games of the Red Sox with 41 games to play.
Joe Maddon was very happy with how the Rays responded after a tough game 1 loss:
"I love the fact that our team loses a very difficult game in the first game and comes back and plays much better in the nightcap," Maddon said. "That's who we are. That's what I appreciate about our players. We're never out of it. Nobody believes we're out of this thing; everybody believes we're in this thing right now. I really appreciate that about our group." -- mlb.com
Wednesday: David Price throws 8 scoreless innings and Kyle Farnsworth works the ninth as the Rays capture the series with a 4-0 victory.
Joe Maddon about playing in Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium:
"And I love that about our guys. We're not intimidated by either place. We enjoy the moment at both places, and that's what I'm saying, man. If we get these pitchers to stay hot like this and we put the offense together ... it's been done before." - mlb.com
Friday: The Rays battled back to score 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning off Seattle ACE Felix Hernandez to win the opening game of the 3 game series 3-2 (VIDEO LINK HERE). With one out and nobody on in the bottom of the eighth, Joe Maddon called on Sam Fuld to pinch hit for Sean Rodriguez and Fuld responded by delivering a single. Johnny Damon then beat out an infield single to put runners on first and second for Evan Longoria. Longoria hit a single to score Fuld and Ben Zobrist followed with a bloop single to score Damon and give the Rays a 3-2 lead. Kyle Farnsworth worked the ninth for his 22nd save. The victory gave the 2011 Rays their 4th straight victory over a former Cy Young Award winner (Colon, Sabathia twice, and Hernandez) and improved their record against former Cy Young Award winners to 22-9 since 2009.
The key play was Johnny Damon's hustle to beat out the infield hit:
"That's the one thing you can control in this game and that's hustling," Damon said. "That's why I've done it ever since I was a kid and, you know, it paid off. There's been plenty of those this year where you know you're off by a half a step. But right there I showed my track wheels that I had back in the day." -- mlb.com
And B.J. Upton had this to say about Damon's speed:
"You know what, Johnny's fast, man," B.J. Upton said. "I think a lot of people think he's lost speed. But if he's lost speed, I would have liked to have seen him when he really had it, because he can still get down the line." -- mlb.com
Sam Fuld on Johnny Damon's hustle and how about Fuld's toothless grin?
Saturday: Jeremy Hellickson followed his peers and tossed 8 scoreless innings and along wtih Joel Peralta's one scoreless inning went on to coast to an 8-0 victory (Video Link) over the Seattle Mariners. The Rays were able to pick up a full game in the standings on both the Yankees and the Red Sox for the first time since May 12th. Evan Longoria hit his 20th home run on the season, joining only Eddie Matthews as 3rd baseman to have three 20+ home run seasons in each of their first three seasons. About creeping up in the standings, Joe Maddon has asked his team to go "Butch Cassidy" on those guys:
"We need more of those days, especially right now," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Again, we want to be 'who are those guys?' Let's go Butch Cassidy on those guys. Just keep sneaking up from behind. Our guys are playing really well." -- mlb.com
Before Saturday's game Joe Maddon explains why he is going to allow the players to start arriving later to the ballpark.
Sunday: James Shields did not have his best stuff and Johnny Damon bails out manager Joe Maddon after a questionable decision to bring Shields out for the eighth inning by hitting a walk off home run (VIDEO LINK HERE) to give the Rays an 8-7 victory.
Over the last 7 games coming into Sunday's contest, Rays starting pitchers had pitched 52.1 of 61 innings and compiled an ERA of 1.89. Unfortunately, James Shields wasn't his normal self on Sunday and got beat up by an anemic Seattle offense giving up 7 runs in 7.1 innings pitched. The Rays battled back to take a 7-5 lead after 7 innings and Joe Maddon wanted to try and squeeze one more inning out of Shields. Shields gave up a single to Casper Wells to lead off the eighth, retired Adam Kennedy on a fly out to left, but then surrendered a 2-run homer to Willy Mo Pena to tie the score at 7-7. The Rays threatened in the bottom of the eighth and had the bases loaded with two outs when Dan Cortes uncorked a wild pitch back to the screen that took a friendly Seattle bounce off the backstop to Josh Bard who barely threw Joyce out at home. Kyle Farnsworth held Seattle scoreless in the top of the ninth setting up a walk off home run by Johnny Damon in the bottom of the ninth on the very first pitch by Dan Cortes.
"It was pretty crazy," Cortes said. "The very first pitch, he just looked like he was ready to hack. You can't do anything about it. You just tip your cap to him and just move on." - mlb.com
Johnny Damon had this to say about how "far" he hit the ball"
"The first pitch I was going to look to jerk something," Damon said. "But after that I was going to think about bunting and getting on base to set the table for [Evan Longoria]. You can't really think [home run], you just want to hit the ball hard and fortunately I hit it far enough."- mlb.com
The post game interview with Johnny Damon:
Hello Rays fans,
It's been a while since i did this piece, what with MrNegative1 and I on vacations and then the ASB before, it's been a month since we interacted in this manner.
The Rays have refused to die, and seem to be following the mantra of waiting for the fat lady to sing.
This week saw some great SP except for today's game. Basically, imo as the SP goes so will the Rays.
Jeff Niemann at this point appears to be our most dominant SP. Who'd thunk it?
It's also great to see Evan Longoria doing what Rays fans expect, carrying the offense. And how can the lead off heroics of Desmond Jennings be over looked? He also has more pop than I'd anticipated.
This will be a tough series ahead starting tonight with Justin Verlander going for the Tigers against Nioemann. Hopefully we put up the same 6 runs against him we did last time, but it results in a win.