Must Win? Absolutely.

By Unknown author

Sometimes players and fans throw around the term “must-win” way too casually. I’m here to tell you that there is nothing casual about thinking that way for today’s game in Boston. The Rays are once again four games back of Boston in the AL wildcard and the best they can do is leave Fenway with a two game deficit after Sunday.

Tampa will be sending Jeff Niemann to the mound, who, despite his injury problems earlier this year, has pitched very well this summer. He started the year losing four of his first five starts before a stint on the disabled list in May and June. Since returning, Niemann is 9-3 and at one point won seven straight decisions. Some more numbers to give Rays’ fans hope are that Jeff has an ERA just over one against the Red Sox this year, and pitched a complete game for a 6-2 win in his last start at Fenway.

The Rays will be facing Red Sox left hander Jon Lester. They were able to chase Lester out early in Tampa on Sunday, touching him up for eight hits and four runs in just four innings. When the two teams faced each other in Boston earlier in the month though, Lester was solid. He went seven and held the Rays to one run on three hits.

It should be another good one in Fenway Saturday afternoon. This series has all the feelings of a playoff battle. The Rays offense has been better against Boston than it has against most opponents this year and has scored 12 runs through two games in the series so far. Evan Longoria has gone 4-8 in the first two games with a homer in each and six RBI. Longoria provided the power and Desmond Jennings provided the speed Friday night. He finally broke out of his funk with a three hit game and had two stolen bases, scoring twice as well.

This is one the Rays have to have. Pitching, defense and the offense all have to be sharp. The Red Sox were under the gun coming into Friday, but after the getting the win, can breathe a little bit for the weekend. Now the pressure is squarely on the Rays. Can they play as loose as Johnny Damon says they feel? They’ll have to if they hope to keep this a race going into the final week and a half of the season.

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