The Rays are confident for Sunday’s game. They are sending ace David Price to the mound against the Chicago White Sox and are confident that he can give them another outstanding start to cap off a Cy Young-worthy season and lead them to victory. But it doesn’t matter. The Rays can win this game and then sweep the Orioles to end the season. But even then, they won’t make the postseason unless the Red Sox beat the Orioles today.
The Rays are putting their faith in the Red Sox’ Zach Stewart. Between Triple-A and the big leagues this season, the 25 year old Stewart has gone 4-8 with a 5.36 ERA, including 7.91 in the big leagues, in 13 starts, 17 relief appearances, and 92.1 IP. He has posted a 5.9 K/9 and a 1.8 BB/9, but his HR/9 is a horrific 1.8 including an unbelievably bad 3.3 in 19 big league appearances with the White Sox and Red Sox. Sunday will also be his first big league appearance since August 29th, a game in which he allowed 9 runs in just 3 innings. The odds are long. It’s a losing proposition no matter how you look at it. But it’s one game. Anything can happen in one game. On September 5, 2011, Zach Stewart one-hit the Minnesota Twins, coming up just an 8th inning double short of a perfect game while striking out 9. It was one of just 2 games in his entire 32-appearance big league career where he has struck out at least 5 batters in a game- the other was a 1.2 inning relief appearance on 8/17/11 where he shockingly recorded all five of his outs via the strikeout. The Rays need Zach Stewart to find himself for one day. They need the Red Sox bullpen to hold the Orioles down from another comeback for one day. They need the Red Sox offense to step up against Joe Saunders and the Orioles’ vaunted bullpen for one day!
One game. How unlikely can it be? The Orioles have had a season where everything has gone right. They’re 28-9 in one-run games, 16-2 in extra innings. For one game, why can’t something improbable finally go against them? The Rays are hoping that can finally happen. The Rays believe that you never know what can happen in any one baseball game. But it’s not just the Rays trying to defy the odds anymore. They need help. They’re depending on a team who they consider their rival 99% of the time to come up big for them this one time. Can the Red Sox pull it off and keep the Rays’ hopes alive?