BOSTON, Mass. – The blocking was real. Seventeen games in 17 days, without a day off at a time in the season where win or go home was starting to become an option.
The last of that 17-game streak came on Sunday, when the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Boston Red Sox 12-4. They flew to Miami after the game and got a well-deserved day off before playing the Marlins on Tuesday and Wednesday.
And they won it.
The Rays went 12-5 during that stretch, winning the first four series before dropping two of three in Boston. They scored eight runs in a loss on Friday and another 12 on Sunday. The bats have woken up these past three weeks – they scored seven runs or more in eight games – and the pitching continues to be very good.
When you break the season down into chunks, this was easy to do because it’s their last stretch of 17 or more games this season. There were 11 winnable home games — Baltimore, Kansas City and the Los Angeles Angels were the opponents — and the usual tough American League East road trips to New York and Boston.
They went 3-3 on the road, which is always pretty good, and went 9-2 at home. They started this stretch 12 games behind the Yankees in the AL East, and now that lead is down to 7.5 games. They also started this streak on the brink of the playoff picture, but are now in first place in the wild card standings,
They have made a move.
They hold the top spot in the wild card race right now, which is extremely important because it means they would host a best-of-three first-round series. They are a half game ahead of the Seattle Mariners and 1.5 games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays, who hold the fifth and sixth spots.
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The Rays are three games back of the Baltimore Orioles, who are the outside team to watch right now. And Tampa Bay is 4.5 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins and 7.5 games ahead of the Chicago White Sox, two teams that have slipped.
There’s still a lot of work to be done, but what this 12-5 stretch has done is allow the Rays to control their own destiny again, to get people to follow them.
In the Rays locker room, there is very little talk about the wild-card race. They still want to catch the Yankees and win the AL East, a title that belonged to Tampa Bay in 2020 and 2021.
That streak is far from over, as the Rays still have six games left with the Bronx Bombers, who are just 8-16 in August and that includes a five-game hitting streak earlier this week. The games begin Friday in St. Petersburg with a three-game series this weekend. They also play in New York next weekend, September 9-11.
It will be interesting to see where the Rays stand when we wake up on Monday in two weeks.
The September schedule is very tough, but the Rays seem ready for the challenge. They are getting healthier, with the return of Harold Ramirez and Manuel Margot already paying massive dividends. Also, the pulp is getting firmer, which is great. The big wild card is the return of Wander Franco, possibly sometime this week. A healthy Franco throughout September is also a big deal.
Six games remain against the Houston Astros, the top team in the American League, and three more against the Cleveland Guardians, who lead the AL Central. That’s tough, and it’s also tough against AL East rivals, with six against the Yankees, nine against the Blue Jays and six against Boston, including the final three games of the season at Fenway Park from Oct. 3-5.
The Rays are 70-57 heading into the much-needed day off. Only the Astros and Yankees have more AL wins.
So, this we know. There are five weeks left in the season and it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun.
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- BEAM SCHEDULE: Here is the complete 2022 Tampa Bay Rays schedule, with all the results and stats. games so far, and dates, times and locations for the remaining five weeks of the season. CLICK HERE