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How the Tampa Bay Rays Changed the 2018 Playoff Picture in a Weekend

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ST PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 23: Kevin Kiermaier #39 of the Tampa Bay Rays is congratluated after hitting into a walk off force attempt throwing error by Ryan O'Hearn #66 of the Kansas City Royals in the ninth inning during a game at Tropicana Field on August 23, 2018 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 23: Kevin Kiermaier #39 of the Tampa Bay Rays is congratluated after hitting into a walk off force attempt throwing error by Ryan O'Hearn #66 of the Kansas City Royals in the ninth inning during a game at Tropicana Field on August 23, 2018 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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The mighty Boston Red Sox came to town this weekend to take on the juggernaut Tampa Bay Rays.  They leave swept and showing the rest of baseball that they can be beaten.

When you come into another team’s park and leave losing three straight while being outscored 24-5, you show a weakness.  The Tampa Bay Rays got the best of the Boston Red Sox this weekend.  They did it with solid pitching using Blake Snell and a supporting cast of many.  They did it with hitting, despite having their hottest hitter in Mallex Smith admitted to the hospital during the series opener.  And, they did it against the team with, by far, the best record in baseball.

All of the sudden, the Boston Globe is printing headlines like The AL East Appears To Be a Race Again. The New York Yankees now find themselves just six games back in the AL East.  And, other divisional leaders like the Cleveland Indians, had a chance to see that Boston can be vulnerable.

No, the Tampa Bay Rays have not moved themselves into that race.  But, they are drawing the attention of just about everybody.  And rightfully so after winning eight in a row overall, including four against these Red Sox.  The Tampa Bay Rays twitter feed couldn’t have recapped the weekend any better.

So what’s next for the Tampa Bay Rays?

After an off day today, the Rays take on the NL East Division leading Atlanta Braves for two at Atlanta’s Suntrust Park.  Then, after another off day Thursday, it’s on to Cleveland to play the Indians in a three game weekend series.  Winning eight in a row certainly helps a team facing a stretch of five games against two division leaders.

And, with the calendar flipping over to September at the end of the week, the big question is what the roster will look like in a week.  First, it doesn’t seem that the Rays will be players in the August 31 trade deadline.  Sergio Romo doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.  I can’t see the Rays moving Carlos Gomez at this point, even if he is taking a lesser role in the lineup.  And, at this point, I’d say the same for CJ Cron.  So, subtractions from this roster seems unlikely.

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But, what about additions?  On September 1, the Rays can expand their rosters.  But, with just about every Rays minor league team battling in the playoffs of their own, how much movement will they want to make?  After pitching yesterday in Clearwater for the Charlotte Stone Crabs, Vidal Nuno appears to be working himself back to the Rays.  That would have no impact on the minor league teams and would give the Rays yet another arm to work into their daily routine.

For me, the biggest question will be the expected arrival of outfielder Austin Meadows.  Clearly, he would play a big role in the success of the Durham Bulls in the playoffs. But, the Bulls just got Joe McCarthy back after missing over two months due to injury.

Ultimately, I wouldn’t expect a lot of roster additions on September 1.  Maybe an Adam Moore as a third catcher.  Probably Jake Faria just to get him back to where they want him to be as they close out the 2018 season.  The Rays will most likely not squeeze into the playoff picture.  But, the run that they are on now sure does make things interesting for the rest of the way.

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