Baseball made its official debut in Japan Wednesday, but for all of us waiting patiently back in the states we are only a week out. Tampa Bay Rays baseball will return to Tropicana field in a matter of 7 days and as we continue our Rays-centric countdown, let’s take a look at 7 teams in the American League the Rays will have to beat up on.
#1: AL East: Toronto Blue Jays
Last season the Jays finished 35 games out of first place in the AL East and 17 behind the Tampa Bay Rays for a fourth place finish. PECOTA projects the Blue Birds to finish 2019 with a record of 75-87, ten games behind the Rays. The Rays and Jays will meet 19 times this season, providing plenty of opportunities to pick up much needed division wins.
#2: AL East: Baltimore Orioles
A team that many project to be the worst in the sport this coming season, the Tampa Bay Rays get the benefit of playing the Baltimore Orioles 19 times. PECOTA projects the O’s to finish 58-104, 27 games behind the Rays. As long as the Rays avoid playing down to the level of the O’s, they should be able to boost their record substantially over the course of the season series.
#3: AL Central: Kansas City Royals
Like the Orioles, the Kansas City Royals will battle it out for the worst record in baseball this season. PECOTA projects the Royals to finish 72-90 and is kinder to the 2015 World Series Champions than most. The Rays will get 7 opportunities to beat up on the Royals.
#4: AL Central: Detroit Tigers
You should begin to see a theme here, the American League isn’t expected top be too competitive and the Detroit Tigers are projected to be one of the least competitive teams. PECOTA projects the Tigers to finish a depressing 65-97. The Rays will face the Tigers 6 times in 2019, hopefully they can turn that into 6 wins.
#5: AL Central: Chicago White Sox
If you haven’t picked up on it yet, the American League Central is among the worst divisions in the sport, if not the worst. Perhaps the most promising team unexpected to contend is the Chicago White Sox. With a strong farm system led by Eloy Jimenez, the Sox should be competitive again soon, just not in 2019. PECOTA projects them to finish a sub par 70-92 and the Rays get a chance to capitalize on their inexperience 6 times.
#6: AL West: Seattle Mariners
Moving out of the Central and into the West, the Mariners had a busy offseason shipping away a ton of talent in an effort to expedite a return to the playoffs. PECOTA projects them to go 72-90 in 2019, providing the Rays with 6 more opportunities to pick up some easy wins.
#7: AL West: Texas Rangers
The final team out of the American League that should pose no threat to the Rays is the Texas Rangers. PECOTA projects them to finish 70-92 and last in the West. The Rays will face the Rangers 6 times.
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The Tampa Bay Rays will face these teams nearly 70 times in 2019 making up nearly half of their schedule. If they can capitalize on a majority of these games they will put themselves in a good position when it comes to standings.
Let me rephrase that, the Rays HAVE to capitalize on a majority of these games if they want to make it to October!