Rays Still Hopeful They Can Reach the Postseason

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 08: Kevin Kiermaier (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 08: Kevin Kiermaier (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images) /

If only the Rays had won two of three from the Yankees and the Red Sox instead of losing three heading into Sunday’s game, they would be right smack in the middle of the Wild Card race.

The once shinning light at the end of the tunnel with clear vision towards the postseason have slowly moved into darkness. With 12 games remaining, each loss represents another knockout punch and though the Rays continue to hang on, they remain confident that they can reach the postseason.

Regardless of their 3-2 win over the Red Sox on Sunday, the Rays (73-77) remain 5.5 games back of the Minnesota Twins current holders of the second AL Wild Card. The hurdle for the Rays getting that second Wild Card will be to leapfrog the six teams in front of them, including the Baltimore Orioles who are currently tied with the Rays for third place in the AL East and in the Wild Card standings.

If only the Rays had won two of three from the Yankees and the Red Sox instead of losing three heading into Sunday’s game, they would have passed Texas, Kansas City and Seattle and would be right in the thick of it at 2.5 games back of the Twins. Instead, the Rays are looking up at Texas, Kansas City, Seattle, Los Angeles, and of course Minnesota in the Wild Card standings.

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The Rays and Baltimore have seven games remaining, with the Rays heading to Baltimore for four games following their brief two-game home stand against the Chicago Cubs and will then conclude the season with a three-game series at home Sept. 29-Oct. 1. However, the Rays will sandwich the two Baltimore series with three games against the Yankees in New York.

Regardless of the outcome and possibly not reaching the postseason, the Rays continue to go out and play hard each game. The unfortunate issues have been not being able to hit with success at the same time as their pitching.

Prior to their game on Sunday, the bullpen lead the majors in innings pitched (over nine games) by averaging more than 5.1 innings per game while pitching to a 2.02 ERA which had included 27 scoreless innings that ended on Friday night.

Additionally, since acquiring Dan Jennings, Sergio Romo and Steve Cishek at the trade deadline the bullpen leads the majors with a 2.46 ERA while holding opposing batters to a .205 average. Prior to the deadline, the bullpen had a 4.41 ERA while opposing batters hit .248.

Meanwhile, Alex Colome continues to reach deeper into the record books as he earned save number 45, three off the record books of Fernando Rodney’s 48 set in 2012. Currently he leads the majors and has a great chance of becoming the first Rays closer to lead the majors in that category. Greg Holland of Colorado leads the National League with 40 while Roberto Osuna of the Blue Jays with 36 is behind Colome in the AL.

On the offensive side, Jesus Sucre’s sixth inning home run on Sunday against Boston was the eventual game winner for the Rays. Since the All-Star break, Sucre has hit two home runs and both have been against the Red Sox. With the four-bagger, it set a new career high in home runs and RBIs in a season.

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Kevin Kiermaier is “The Outlaw” but he is “The Dominator” leading off.  Since returning from the DL on August 18, he has hit in the lead-off spot in 27 games hitting .322/.358/.565 (37-for-123) with seven home runs, 17 RBIs, 21 runs scored, five doubles, one triple and four stolen bases.

As well, he has set a new career in home runs (14) and is three RBI shy of tying his career high in RBIs (40) set in 2015.

While Kiermaier has excelled in his lead-off roll, he continues to impress with his defensive game that came into clear view during the Rays 15-inning marathon Friday night against the Red Sox.

From a diving catch in the ninth inning to throwing out a runner in the 14th inning to hitting a game-tying home run in the bottom of the 14th, Kiermaier almost single handedly gave the Rays a win.

With a needed day off on Monday, the Rays will now shift their focus to the return of their former manager Joe Maddon and his Chicago Cubs for a two-game series set for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Next: Durham Offers the Rays Plenty of Reinforcements

Chris Archer (9-10, 4.06) will open the series for the Rays with the Cubs starting Mike Montgomery (4-5, 4.62). In Wednesday’s match-up, the Rays will send Blake Snell (3-6, 4.25) who will face Jon Lester (11-7, 4.30).