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Monday Morning Wrap Up: Rays Heading Toward Another Game 162 Classic?

The past week was full of ups and downs for Rays fans, but mostly good news.

J. Meric - Getty Images

After losing back to back games to the Boston Red Sox to open the week the Rays playoff hopes appeared to be in serious peril but the Rays responded to roll off 5 straight victories breathing new life in their playoff hopes. The week included a dramatic come from behind victory in a game the Rays were down 4-1 entering the 9th inning against the Red Sox which ended with B.J. Upton delivering a 3-run walk off homer. We were also treated to a rare bit of sustained offense by the Rays bats. How rare? The 43 runs they scored in Wednesday through Saturday's games set a team franchise record for runs scored in a 4 game period. Additionally, the Rays scored double digit runs in 3 out of 4 of those home games something that had only been done 1 time the previous 173 home games.

The Rays enter tonight's action with a record of 83-70 and trail the New York Yankees by 5.5 games in the AL East and the Oakland Athletics by 3.5 games for the final wild card spot.. Although the Rays have an off day today there will be plenty of scoreboard watching as the Baltimore Orioles, who the Rays trail by 4.5 games, have a doubleheader versus the Toronto Blue Jays (traditional doubleheaderwith the first game at 4:05 EST) and the Oakland A's open a key 4 game series in Arlington against the Rangers with first pitch at 8:05 EST,

Quotes of the week:

Joe Maddon said it best after Wednesday's 13-5 victory over the Red Sox:

"You've got to believe it. If we didn't learn anything from last year you have to keep playing until you're mathematically eliminated. In the meantime, believe that you can -- and I do." -

B.J. Upton on is walk-off 3-run homer:

The win "says a lot," Upton said. "We could definitely cash it in, but we're not. We're going to finish this thing strong. You never know what's going to happen." -

Upcoming Rays Schedule:

The Rays have an off day on Monday before heading to Fenway Park to take on the Boston Red Sox for two games before heading to Chicago to take on the White Sox is a 4 game series.

Contenders Schedules: All eyes will on Texas

Of course, the Rays need to continue winning games but the Texas Rangerswill be our biggest ally as the Rays head toward a 3rd consecutive postseason spot. The Rangers will look to lock up the AL West with a 7 game homestand that pits them against the Oakland Athletics for 4 games and the Los Angeles Angels for 3 games. The Rangers will end their season with three games in Oakland versus the A's. The rest of the contenders remaining schedules are as follows:

The Baltimore Orioles will be at home as they try to secure a wild card spot and continue to chase the Yankees for the AL East crown. They have a doubleheader against the Blue Jays on Monday to kick off a 4-game series before the Boston Red Soxcome in for a weekend series. Final Three Games: Road - Tampa Bay Rays

The New York Yankees will travel to Minnesota to take on the Twins for 3 games before heading to Toronto to take on the Blue Jays for a 4 game weekend series. Final Three Games: Home - Boston Red Sox

The Chicago White Sox will host the hapless Cleveland Indians for 3 games before the Rays come to town for a 4 game weekend series. Final Three Games: Road - Cleveland Indians

The Detroit Tigers will host the Kansas City Royals for 4 games before travelling to Minnesota to take on the Twins for a weekend series. Final Three Games: Road - Kansas City Royals

The Oakland Athletics will travel to Arlington to take on the Rangers for 4 games before returning home to take on the Seattle Mariners for a weekend series. Final Three Games: Home - Texas Rangers

The Los AngelesAngels will host the Seattle Mariners for 3 before heading to Arlington to take on the Rangers for a weekend series. Final Three Games: Road - Seattle Mariners

Injury Update:

Sam Fuld (strained hamstring) began running sprints at 55%-60% speed in the outfield and took batting practice on Saturday he will continue his running on Sunday, take Monday off, and resume testing the hamstring on Tuesday. He believes he will be able to return by the end of the regular season -

Quick Thoughts:

At one time I was uncertain whether or not the Rays would extend B.J. Upton a qualifiyingoffer but with his hot August andSeptember I have no doubt that the Rays will extend him the offer. More draft picks!

Jose Molina has played in 16 straight games and is approaching the 100 game mark. At one time this season I was certain the Rays would not pick up his option but seeing how Joe Maddon relies on him and how he'd be an ideal backup in 2013 for only 1.8 million I don't see the Rays declining the option.

Is Luke Scott starting to have plate appearances that we had hoped to see when we signed him this past offseason? Is he playing his way back into that $6M option?

How good has James Shields been since July 31st? He has a 7-2 record with an ERA of 2.04. He has held the opposition to a .169/.204/.287 an OPS of .492. He has made 10 starts and logged 75 innings and held the opposiotn to a .196 BABIP.

Monday, September 17th: Red Sox 5 Rays 2

Alex Cobb had a no-hitter going through 5 innings before allowing a 2-run homer to Jacoby Ellsburyin the 6th inning to put the Red Sox up 2-1. The Rays offense was held in check by Aaron Cook and a trio of relievers in scoring only 2 runs on 6 hits.

Joe Maddon on the Rays hitting woes:

"The big thing is it looks [like a lack of intensity]," Maddon said. "But when you're not hitting, it always gives that appearance that you don't care, that there's not intensity. That's not true. We're just not hitting, we're not hitting the ball hard. We're not making hard contact.

"But this has been ongoing with us the past week and this entire season where we've had a really hard time with consistent hard contact. It's just not there." -

Tuesday, September 18th: Red Sox 7 Rays 5

Jeremy Hellickson was gave up 3R/ER in only 4 innings and the Rays bullpen allowed the Red Sox to put another 4 runs on the board as the Red Sox handed the Rays their 4th straight loss. Bill Chastain of said it best about what the loss meant for the Rays and their fans:

Grab the rosary beads and the rabbit's foot your favorite uncle gave you, because the Rays have set themselves up for an ending that will require trumping last year's Game No. 162 on the probability scale in order to make the playoffs. -

Joe Maddon on the Rays offense:

"Offensively, we scored five runs on three hits," Maddon said. "We did take advantage of some of their wildness early on, but again, we have to be better in all facets of the game."

Wednesday, September 19th: Rays 13 Red Sox 3

Chris Archer worked the first 5 innings and left with a 5-3 lead. The Rays offense put up 7 runs in the 6th inning to allow Archer to relax and watch as the Rays bullpen secured his first major league victory. The victory revived hope that a dramatic finish may still be possible.

Joe Maddon on the final few weeks of the season:

"You've got to believe it. If we didn't learn anything from last year you have to keep playing until you're mathematically eliminated. In the meantime, believe that you can -- and I do." -

Chris Archer on his first major league victory:

"It feels pretty good," Archer said. "This is a classic example of if you keep the team in the game for as long as you can, they'll put it out for you. I think it was big all around tonight. It's hard not to be selfish, but as a team, it's awesome that we got the win, and for it to be my first one, that's pretty amazing, too. -

Thursday, September 20th: Rays 7 Red Sox 4

The Rays gave both Jason Collette and Jonah Keri the best birthday gift they could as they came back andpulled off one of those victories that a team will point back to as a turning point if the team goes on a dramatic run to earn a playoff birth. The Rays entered the ninth inning trailing the Red Sox 4-1 in what appeared to be yet another nail in the coffin.

The inning opened with innocent singles by Matt Joyceand Jeff Keppinger then Luke Scott rolled over a ball to advance the runners to second and third. Carlos Pena followed with a single scoring Joyce to cut the Red Sox lead to 4-2. Joe Maddon pinch ranch Rich Thompson for Carlos Pena and pinch hit Stephen Vogt for Jose Lobaton. Bothmoves were successful as Thompson stole second and Vogt drew a walk to load the bases. Maddon went to his bench again to pinch run Elliot Johnson for Stephen Vogt. DesmondJennings lined a single to center to score both Keppinger and Thompson to tie the game at 4-4 and chase Andrew Bailey from the game. Bobby Valentine brought in Vincent Padilla to face B.J. Upton and Upton drove a 2-1 fastball out of the park for a game winning walk off 3-run homer.

B.J. Upton on the importance of the victory:

The win "says a lot," Upton said. "We could definitely cash it in, but we're not. We're going to finish this thing strong. You never know what's going to happen." -

Friday, September 21st: Rays 12 Blue Jays 1

James Shields was absolutely dominating and the Rays offense continued to rock and roll scoring 12 runs on 16 hits en route to ta 12 to 1 victory to mark the Rays 3rd victory in a row.

Evan Longoria on the victory:

"At least we were able to take the momentum from [Thursday] night's game and bring it into tonight's game," Longoria said. "It was pretty promising today. I saw a lot of spark and life that we haven't seen in the dugout as of late." -

James Shields on the Rays setting the AL Record for strikeouts by a pitching staff:

"As a pitching staff this year, we've been the best I've ever seen in this organization," Shields said. "This is my 12th season with the Rays in the organization, and this is the best pitching staff I've ever been a part of. It's exciting to watch.

"After I struck out that first guy, I looked in the dugout and tipped my cap to everybody in the dugout. It was a special moment for us. After the game, we kind of all got together and hugged it out, so it was pretty cool." -

Saturday, September 22nd: Rays 11 Blue Jays 5

The Rays were powered by 4 home runs in defeating the Blue Jays 11-5 and extending their sin streak to 4. Joe Maddonmanaged with a sense of urgency usually reserved for playoff games as he removed an ineffective Matt Moore after just 2.2 innings.

Joe Maddon on the Rays improved offense:

"The at-bats have been so good, it's not just about the hits," Maddon said. "Laying off borderline pitches that are balls, getting into better counts, forcing the pitcher over the plate -- it's very simple stuff. Over the last four days, we've been doing that really, really well." -

Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow about the Rays hitters (echoing Maddon):

"I think they just had a really good approach at the plate tonight," Morrow said. "I can't remember a pitch out of the zone that they swung at, and I think they only swung at four off-speed pitches total, so that was a good approach that they really zoned in on the fastball." -

Sunday, September 23rd: Rays 3 Blue Jays 0

Jeremy Hellickson and a quintet of relievers led the Rays to a 3-0 victory and sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays to keep the teams playoff hopes alive. J.P. Howell made the play of the game with a defensive gem. The Blue Jays had a man at 3rd and 2-out trailing 1-0. J.P. Howell had entered the game to face Colby Rasmuswho sent a flair over Howell's shoulder. Jeff Keppinger would be unable to get to the ball and nail Rasmus but luckily Howell had raced back, fielded the ball, and with his momentum heading into right field left his feet and threw a strike to 1b Carlos Pena to nail Rasmus and prevent the run from scoring.

J.P. Howell on the defensive gem:

"I got a little lucky, got to it so quick and just got rid of it," said Howell, who flipped the ball to first baseman Carlos Pena. "It's just one of those reaction plays. I wrestle with my dog a lot, and it's good -- it gets me that angle to throw it." -