Momentum. That was the word being thrown around this past offseason as the Rays were looking to carry the productiveness of last September into the start of the 2012 season. The Rays’ tapped into that momentum on Opening Day, April 6, winning the game in the ninth inning with a RBI single hit by Carlos Pena. They kept up the pace through much of the first half of the season. As the second half of the season began, the Rays flip-flopped between first and second place in the AL East division standings throughout July. August was a fairly productive month, but it was obvious the Rays had lost the momentum they worked so hard to maintain during the offseason. Now, the Rays have found that momentum and then some by scoring a total of 46 runs in their last five games. Prior to their first win of their five game winning streak that started Wednesday, September 19th, it took the Rays twelve games to score 46 runs.
How do they do it? How do they slide into an abyss of disappointment and losses, only to bounce back with a hot streak? It’s simple: they’re the Rays. Any Rays fan knows this team does nothing in a conventional or predictable manner. But then again, that’s what makes September baseball the most nerve-wracking yet electrifying month of the entire season, no matter what team you cheer for. However, the Rays’ track record for performances in September puts them at the top of the list for teams that keeping the month interesting.
With exactly eight games left in the season and the Rays three games back in the AL Wild Card standings, there is just enough time for them to pull off another seemingly impossible September comeback. Although the Rays’ outscored Toronto by a total of 26 runs in their last series, you fans know those high scoring games are rare. The Rays seem to find themselves in close scoring games. This season the Rays have played in 42 games that were decided by one run, winning only 19 of them. They have also played 12 games that went into extra innings, only to win five of those. The odds for pulling out any nail-biting wins to clinch an AL Wild Card slot like last year are not stacked in the Rays favor.
The Rays face the Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, and Baltimore Orioles during their last three series of the season. Tampa Bay has beat Boston three times by one run but beat Baltimore only once in the same situation. They have lost to Boston once and four times to Baltimore in one-run games. They have also lost to Baltimore twice in extra innings in 2012 without winning a single time.
The next eight days will keep us all on our toes as we watch the Rays either rally for a postseason appearance or fade into the offseason before it officially begins. Last season’s final night, September 28, had fans witness the Rays winning with Evan Longoria’s walk-off home run in the twelfth inning and the Red Sox losing after Baltimore’s Robert Andino hit a walk-off single to left field. Thanks to Andino, Boston was out of the playoffs and the Rays lived to see October. As Baltimore and Tampa Bay face each other for the final series of this season, there will be exhilarating games coming down to the final out. This season, the Rays have had trouble winning one-run and extra-inning games. But when games like that inevitably surface during the Rays-Orioles season to close out the year, let’s hope that it will be the Rays who find a way to channel last season’s magic and come away with the dramatic wins.