First off, I would like to thank the fine players of the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays. They have managed back to back wins against the mighty New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox respectively. It’s the first time that both teams have lost two games in a row at the same time in well over a month. It has allowed the Rays to pick up some ground in the AL playoff race even while sitting at home enjoying their next to last off day of the season.
Now, they welcome the Boston Red Sox to town for a three game series that has a playoff feel for both sides. The Red Sox come off a 7-4 loss Thursday to the Jays, after giving up five runs in the eighth inning on Wednesday and losing 11-10. Their psyche seems to be a little shaken after the Josh Beckett injury and he will not be in the rotation when Boston travels to Tampa this weekend.
The Rays have six games left against the Red Sox and anything short of a sweep only adds to the mountain they’re trying to climb to get back in the playoff chase. The Rays have Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson and James Shields taking the mound. Other than having David Price in that group, that is pretty much the starters you would want to have in there.
Tampa has been able to score some runs against Boston, averaging nearly five a game, though their total is inflated by a 16 run output in a game back in April. In game one they face John Lackey, on who they have scored eight runs in 12 1/3 innings. They haven’t faced Kyle Weiland, Boston’s starter on Saturday and have had little success against Jon Lester, the starter for Sunday.
So, that’s what we’ve got, a team that has to win and a team that is desperate to get back to winning. The Sox have lost six of their last eight and find themselves two and a half games behind the Yankees. Sure, they want to protect their wildcard spot, but they also want to get back in front of their biggest rival. For the Rays, a sweep is the only option. Win three, and you’re right in the thick of the playoff race. Anything less leaves the Rays in a near impossible spot as the number of games left continues to dwindle.