Joe Maddon has been telling his team they can get back into the pennant race if they just win every series. The players have been saying the same thing to newspaper reporters and TV commentators. But would the Tampa Bay Rays, in fact, be able to win the division if they win every series?
The Rays have 65 games left in the season, starting tonight against the Minnesota Twins. I looked at every series, and looked at what would happen if the Rays won two games of every three game series, three games of every four game series, and both games of every two game series. If the Rays can do that they will go 45-20 for the rest of the season, ending the year with 89 wins and 73 losses, and a .549 winning percentage. 89 wins would probably win the AL East. The Orioles currently lead the division with a .548 winning percentage.
The Rays are playing much better, winning 13 of their last 18 games, notching the best record in the AL East and the second-best record in baseball since June 25th. However, they are running out of time, and have a lot of ground to make up. Even if the Rays start playing like the 90-win team (.556 winning percentage) that we expected them to be for their final 65 games, they would finish with just 80 wins. Even a 96-win pace would only mean 83 victories. For the Rays, the question is going to be whether they can counteract their nearly unfathomable struggles earlier in the season with an extended stretch of success that is just as impressive. If there is a time to pull that off, however, it is this season. The Rays are clicking on all cylinders and have a chance to continue doing so, especially if they retain David Price and Ben Zobrist. Combine that with less than stout competition for once in the AL East, and the Rays cannot be counted out yet.
A 45-20 record would mean a .692 winning percentage for the Rays over the rest of the season. That’s a very difficult standard that they have set for themselves, yet it is not impossible. If they can pull it off, the 2014 Tampa Bay Rays will be remembered as a historic “miracle'”team.