It can be interesting how quickly perceptions can change, particularly in sports. Just four days ago, as the Rays were in the midst of a four game series against the Toronto Blue Jays, they sat 4.5 games out of first place, and 1.5 games out of the Wild Card. Having lost six of their last seven games, the Rays appeared to be reeling.
Four days later, the Rays have won four consecutive games, taking the last two from Toronto and the first two of their set with the New York Yankees. The Yankees, meanwhile, have seen their ten game cushion in the AL East be whittled all the way down, and are now tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the division lead. Should the Rays finish off the sweep tonight, they will find themselves only a half game out of the playoffs.
The Rays could have easily pushed the panic button multiple times this season. Injuries to Evan Longoria, Jeff Keppinger, and Luke Scott decimated the offense. James Shields had been unable to replicate his success from 2011. Even though David Price had taken the next step in his development and has turned into a truly dominant pitcher, it appeared as though the Rays had too many problems to overcome. Yet, the Rays hung around .500, remaining on the fringes of the playoffs, and resisted the urge to part with key components of the roster.
Presently, the Rays are considered to have a 65.1% chance of making the playoffs, either by winning the division or taking one of the two Wild Card slots. The Yankees, despite their recent slump, are still considered to have a 79.4% chance at the playoffs. However, if any team was in need of a panic button, it may be New York. Suddenly, the Yankees roster, aside from Derek Jeter, appears to have aged. Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson have been doing their best impressions of Rob Deer. Robinson Cano has been injured, and the Yankees pitching staff suddenly cannot get crucial outs.
Since 1995, the New York Yankees and/or the Boston Red Sox have made the playoffs each year. Boston has not been a threat practically all season, and the Yankees are fading fast. Should the Rays continue their September surge, that streak may come to an end this season.