It has almost become an annual tradition at this point. Once the calender flips to the middle of September, the Rays go on a run. This was especially true in the previous two seasons, when the Rays erased a nine game deficit to the Boston Red Sox in 2011 to reach the playoffs and went 12-2 down the stretch last season as they fell just short.
This season, the Rays have continued to build upon their recent history of September success. Even though they have only gone 15-11 during the month, they had won seven in a row before last night and appear to be riding a wave of momentum into the playoffs. In that time frame, the Rays have ranked in the top five in OPS, runs and total bases on offense, while the pitching staff has posted a 2.22 ERA with a batting average against of .207.
The way they have been able to build this streak has also been impressive, as they essentially eliminated the Baltimore Orioles before they ended the Yankees postseason hopes. Meanwhile, a number of players that had struggled recently have started playing at the level that the Rays have come to expect. Joel Peralta, despite appearing virtually every day, has allowed only one baserunner in the past 4.1 innings. Alex Cobb has been dominant in his two starts, striking out sixteen in his 15.1 innings. Offensively, James Loney and Evan Longoria have caught fire, but not nearly as much as Desmond Jennings. If Jennings can continue to hit at the level he had been before being injured, he could provide a major spark in the postseason. Delmon Young has hit two home runs, and may be that unheralded player who ends up making a difference in a playoff series.
The Rays may be peaking at the right time. If that is truly the case, it may wind up being a fun postseason.