Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tampa Bay is for Real

Many people have been strongly questioning whether Tampa Bay would be able to sustain their success long enough to make it into the playoffs and be a true contender. When Tampa ran into a steamrolling Toronto club and lost the bulk of their AL East lead, doubters took that to be a sure sign of Tampa's imminent collapse.

Their next test was to come in to Boston, in the middle of a grueling road trip, and take on their closest AL East threat head to head. Three games later, the Rays stand victorious claiming victory in two of those three games in two tightly fought contests. I think we now have our answer, Tampa Bay is for real, and they will be a serious threat to any playoff contender.

Carlos PenaNow, are you a bit on edge after last night's 4-2 loss in extra innings, and dropping 2 of three at home to the Rays? Don't be. Yes, it was depressing to lose two games in a row to a team we could have overtaken. No question there. But, what are we looking for? We are looking for a playoff spot, and a chance to enjoy some exciting baseball in October, with a shot at a possible World Series appearance. That is still well within the Red Sox' grasp. Remember the Rational Sox Fan formula? 94 wins puts you in the playoffs. The Red Sox have 17 games remaining and are currently 85-60. They need to go 9-8 to hit 94 wins. Yes, Toronto will be a tough opponent, but the Sox do not need to win every remaining game. They only need to win 9 more.

Andy Sonnanstine
Can the Sox take the Division from the Rays? Yes, certainly. They are well within reach, and sliced 3 games off that lead so far in September. Will they take the Division? Well, that's why we watch the games, to find out what will happen. They certainly have a tight grip on the Wild Card, although they are still a couple of weeks away from clinching. But, the Twins don't seem like they are poised to go on a tremendous winning streak, nor do the Sox look like they are poised to go into a nose dive. I would not be surprised at seeing the current standings hold fast.

What about the Blue Jays? Yes, they are on a serious winning streak, but you remember what happens to streaks in baseball? They end. Toronto is due to hit a speed bump soon, hopefully that speed bump will be losing two of 3 to Boston in this upcoming series. But, does Toronto really have a shot at a playoff spot? Mathematically, yes, but logically, no. They do have the pitching needed to succeed in the playoffs, but I think their winning streak is too little too late. They are playing loose right now, because they have nothing to lose. If they miss the playoffs, that is what is expected. The wins are not "must wins". They are "spoiler wins". Their wins are just thorns in the side of playoff hopefuls. But, as their chances at a playoff spot creep closer, the pressure will also increase, and the tension will build up, and they won't be playing so loose anymore. The wave will have past, and they will have come close, but not quite made it.

On the other hand, if they do go full steam ahead and force their way into a playoff spot, we will have the joy of watching history in the making. But, don't hold your breath.

Not too much to say about last night's game. A well fought battle between two good teams. A bullpen is like a rubber band. If you stretch it far enough, it will eventually break. The Red Sox rubber band broke first. I would guess the Rays' rubber band only had one more inning left in them. Mike Timlin gave up the winning runs in the 14th inning. The Sox only had David Aardsma (just back in the pen from an injury), Devern Hansack (just called up from the minors), David Pauley, and Chris Smith left. Timlin was as good an option (without the benefit of hindsight) as any of the others.

By the way, I have no issues with JD Drew not getting out there last night. Drew went through a full rigorous workout to test the back, and it was a success. Hours later, it started tightening up again. It is a bulging disc. Yes, he could have sucked it up and gone in to bat, but if his back was stiff, his swing would not be normal, or smooth. Watching him strike out or pop out because he could not swing cleanly and confidently would be no help. If you are all ranting about Drew, just take a deep breath. You are simply frustrated that they lost after you promised everyone in your office the win was guaranteed, and now you need to take it out on someone. There's no need. Take a breath, grab a coffee, and have fun on the playoff run roller coaster!

(Photos Courtesy of ESPN)


Suldog said...

They sure are. They came into the pressure cooker and won 2 out of 3, the last one an edge-of-your-seat nailbiter. They're tough.

Rooster said...

They are tough. And they got beat up by Toronto, who we are about to play. Uh oh!

The Sox will have to prove they are for real between playing Toronto and heading to Tampa for a 3 game series. So, we we for real?

Suldog said...


I don't usually leave comments just to boost my own stuff, but I posted something about a Red Sox player of yesteryear that I think you might find interesting.