Injuries have certainly contributed to the position they're in. Losing key players like Colby Rasmus — who has since left the team — and Kevin Kiermaier (right hip) in the middle of the season was brutal.
Take underperformance at the back end of your line up, throw in some bad cluster luck, and the bullpen struggling throughout the majority of June and July, and you can see why this team is currently 9.5 games behind the 1st place Red Sox and four games out of the second wild card spot.
At this point, a postseason appearance seems unlikely. They would have to play at an 83-win pace the rest of the season just to reach the .500 mark. And in order to get to 85 wins and start thinking of that coveted 2nd wild card they'd have to play at a 108 win pace.
So, yeah, there's a better chance Bartolo Colon wins World Series MVP than the Rays sneaking into the playoffs.
So you're saying there's a chance?
What if? What would it take for the Rays to make the postseason for the first time since 2013?
Now that there are two Wild Card slots, any team currently hovering around the .500 mark has a shot.
For argument's sake, let’s set a surmountable goal to set this team up for postseason contention throughout September, which at most is something like a two-win gap from the playoff leaders by September 7 — which if the Rays beat Chicago tonight, is to say three games above .500. In that case, the Rays would need to go 5-1 in their next six while the Twins go 2-4 to put them two games behind and to give them a fighting chance.
The Rays are fortunate there will be plenty of opportunities to battle it out against their playoff competition. With seven games against Baltimore (three at home, four away) six games against New York (three at home, three away), and three games against Minnesota (at home), the Rays have plenty of opportunities to make up ground against their main competitors.
While they didn't just acquire slugger Justin Upton (Angels) or have a cupcake schedule the rest of the way (Twins), they can take solace in knowing they truly control their own destiny.
Here's what the next month needs to look like:
This team is still talented when they are fully healthy. Plus, it's sports. Anything is possible. So what would it look like for the Rays to play .667 baseball, other than the simple breakdown of winning at least two games in every series the rest of the way?
To layout the most realistic case of the Rays winning 85 games, here's what would need to transpire over the final month.
- Sweep the White Sox in Chicago
- Take 2 out of 3 vs. Minnesota at home
- Take one out of the remaining two three-game series' vs. Boston (3H, 3A)
- Take 4 of the remaining 6 vs. NYY (3H, 3A)
- Split with CHC at homee
- Take 5 of the remaining 7 vs. BAL (3H, 4A)
That would give the Rays an 18-9 record in the final 27 games of the season to give them an 85-78 record and set themselves up for a chance at a one-game playoff.
This is all unlikely, sure.
But the Rays are always the league's Cinderella. Some seasons, they make it to the Ball; more recently, they don't even get to that old, damp castle.
Regardless, the Rays are playing meaningful games in September. That alone is a success. Unfortunately, that doesn't sell a fanbase. What sells is playoff baseball. Can the Rays accomplish that feat and pull off another miracle? We’ll just have to wait and see.