Year in and year out, the AL East is undeniably one of the toughest in baseball. This year looks to be no different, as the Baltimore Orioles lead the division with a 55-45 record, while both the Blue Jays and Yankees find themselves just three games back. But the team that everyone may want to keep an eye on could be the Tampa Bay Rays. Winners of their last seven in a row, and eight of their last 10, the Rays find themselves just seven games out of first place as they attempt to crawl back into the playoff picture for the second year in a row.
On Wednesday the Rays went up against the St. Louis Cardinals, who are in their own fight in the NL Central playoff hunt. After notching a 7-2 win on Tuesday night, the Rays followed it up with another win in game two of their series, this time with a final score of 3-0. Before the third game in this series, as well as throughout the rest of the MLB season, be sure to check back with sportspicks.com handicappers for insight into odds, picks, and more.
The starting pitcher on Wednesday evening was Alex Cobb. Cobb gave up no runs on just five hits during seven innings of work. The outing marks the seventh time on the season that Cobb hasn’t given up an earned run while pitching more than seven innings.
Cobb wasn’t just doing things with his arm, but he also got the Rays on the board in the top of the second with a double that would score Yunel Escobar. And while Escobar would be ejected two innings later, the Rays were able to keep things going on the offensive side of things.
In the seventh, Desmond Jennings would score after Evan Longoria hit a sac fly into center, and Jennings would score again in the ninth after Brandon Guyer singled to left.
The Rays have been hot lately and they are on the verge of becoming sizzling if they can win a few more games. They’ve won 25 of their last 36 total, and they’ve notched at 13-4 record in the month of July. Before their current streak, they had the worst record in the majors. But since June 29th, they’ve stormed ahead of 11 other teams and find themselves making a push for the playoffs.
Statistically the Rays are an average team in terms of runs and batting average. Their 403 runs on the year is 18th overall in the majors and their .253 team batting average is 14th. However, their .327 on base percentage ranks 7th overall. But as they demonstrated on Wednesday, it’s the arms on this team that are getting things done. The Rays have a .240 BAA, good enough for 7th best in the league, 3.71 ERA, 12th in the league, and 1.25 WHIP, 11th overall.
The irony in the Rays recent success is that it’s making it difficult to determine what to do with their ace, David Price. Just a few weeks ago, Price was considered one of the hottest commodities on the trade market. However, Price – who leads the Rays in wins (10), ERA (3.06), strikeouts (173), and innings pitched (155.2) – is now an influential part in this playoff run.
The Rays still have a lot of ground to make up. Seven games back isn’t insurmountable, but it’ll certainly take a lot of things going their way if they want to pass the three teams ahead of them in the AL East, while also keeping the Boston Red Sox behind them. But if they stumble, keep an eye out to see if Price could be a key part of a trade that tries to bolster the future lineup of this squad.
The Rays currently have 80/1 odds to win the 2014 World Series, but that number keeps getting better as they keep winning.