This gem comes from @alliekranick on Twitter and I loved it because it fits the Rays’ situation perfectly.
Being back in 1st is like fitting into an old pair of jeans. It feels so good & comfortable but you have to be careful so it stays that way.
The Rays actually won on a Friday night last night against the hapless Mariners and got help from the Red Sox and Tigers to allow the Rays to once again own the best record in the American League East as well as the entire American League. The best record in the majors belongs to those dastardly Phillies who have now won 11 straight games and look like a juggernaut heading into the playoffs with that three-headed monster at the top of their starting staff.
Last night’s win was nice for a few reasons. One – Jeff Niemann did not get completely bombed and the Rays won a game for the first time with him pitching since he came off the disabled list. That said, seven hits and three earned runs against one of the worst offensive teams of our lifetime is nothing to write home about. In the end, I still don’t see how Niemann starts a game in the post-season the way everyone looks now. Second, the offensive generated five runs without Evan Longoria in the lineup who could miss up to six games with a strained left quad muscle. Lastly, the team got it done without the long ball. They hit four doubles, walked six times, swiped two bases, and the number five guy in the lineup drove in a run with a safety squeeze.
The bullpen threw 3.1 innings of scoreless baseball and Rafael Soriano set the club record for saves in a single season with his 44th save which broke Roberto Hernandez’s record of 43 saves in the 1999 season. Both Benoit and Soriano appeared last night after doing little more than warming up in the series against the Yankees which leaves them well-rested for this final stretch run. The Rays’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot is just three games but more importantly, they are back on top in the AL East. Coolstandings.com now shows the Rays with an 80% chance of winning the division while Baseball Prospectus gives the Rays a 77% chance of winning the division. The Rays have the easiest strength of schedule between themselves, the Yankees, and the Twins.
If the Rays can be careful and keep things the way they are, they can have home field advantage throughout the American League playoffs as they own both tiebreakers against the Yankees and the Twins as a result of winning the season series against both teams. Even without Longoria, the Mariners are a team the Rays should sweep – especially since Felix Hernandez will do nothing but sit on the bench this weekend. However, that all depends on which Matt Garza shows up tonight. The one that was dominant for eight starts in a row this summer or the one that has been lit up like the Griswold house at Christmas over his last three starts.
Interesting factoid from last night: Of the 20 batters that appeared in the game last night, just two of them had a batting average above .259 on the season (Ichiro .316, Crawford .306). We know the Rays struggle to hit for average but are still very productive offensively. How bad are the Mariners? This bad.