As if winning 96 games, defying all expectations, shutting down the Red Sox, and winning the AL Wild Card wasn’t enough to warrant some respect, the Tampa Bay Rays are playing against 2017’s World Series winners. So why are they being ignored in the posteason schedule?
As I write this, the press are already on site at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, interview coaches and players ahead of Monday’s early ALDS game three start. The Tampa Bay Rays will face off against the Houston Astros, and this time they have home field advantage in this do-or-die match.
The Astros are ahead in the series, 2-0, following two incredible outings from aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. The Astros pair are likely finalists for the 2019 Cy Young award, and it sure showed over the weekend, as they kept the Rays nearly scoreless. And Rays pitchers put on a show of their own, with Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell, both fresh off the injured list, proving why they are some of the best out there. Pitching Ninja on Twitter was in his glory making pitch gifs from this series.
Why is it then, when this is practically a crash course in the best pitching in baseball, with a team heavily favored to go to the World Series, that they are being relegated to the afternoon baseball spot for the second time in the Division Series?
The difficulty of the Division Series, uniquely, is that it must accommodate eight teams, and even with spacing the games out between National and American Leagues, there is the necessity of overlapping days is not something that can be avoided, if travel is to be factored in. As a result someone needs to play those dreaded 1pm EST games, falling in the middle of most peoples’ work days, or the school schedule, making them relatively unwatchable if you can’t pull up the feed at your office desk.
Naturally, two teams need to bite the bullet and be the ones to play in that unfortunate time slot.
Why, though, does it need to be the Rays twice?
On Friday’s ALDS game one, the Astros and Rays were the unlucky ones to get the 1pm slot. Justin Verlander was taking the mound for the Astros. How was that not worthy of prime time viewing? Perhaps those responsible for scheduling believed the Yankees and Twins would draw a bigger audience, which is all well and fine. But why do it again on Monday?
It’s a must-win match for the Rays that will see Charlie Morton take on Zack Greinke. Talk about an incredible pitching duel. The Astros had the best record in the American League in the 2019 season. Why on earth is this match not worthy of an evening start time?
Beyond that, a 1pm start makes it almost impossible for Rays fans — especially those in Tampa proper — to make the trip to St. Petersburg for a mid-afternoon game. Visiting reporters are surely already preparing their snide commentary about low attendance counts and empty seats (though it’s worth noting plenty of fans have had no problem snapping up tickets for the game, so it seems like many have planned to skip work or school for this historic match).
On a four-game day, one team needs to take the afternoon spot, no one is disputing that, but all four of these games are must-win for one team or another. The Rays and Astros deserved better than being given the afternoon spot twice in the same series.
It’s also worth noting that if the Rays win today’s game and force a game four, it is also scheduled for the afternoon, with a 4pm EST start time.
You can watch the Rays host the Astros this afternoon at 1pm EST from Tropicana Field. The game will be broadcast on MLBN and MLBN-INT, with radio broadcasts on WGES and WDAE for Rays fans, La Ranchera 850 AM and KBME for Astros fans. Astros lead the series 2-0.