Tonight at home the Tampa Bay Rays start their most important homestand of the 2013 season. They begin with a four game showdown with the Texas Rangers and end it this weekend with a three game series against the Baltimore Orioles. How the Rays play over this next will likely decide if they will be playing posi-season baseball in October.
As of this morning the Rays and the Rangers are tied for first place in the battle for American League Wild Card spot. The pack of teams on their heals are quite impressive. Cleveland is just a half game back, followed by Baltimore at 2.5 back, the Yankees at 3 games off the pace and a pesky Kansas City team just 3.5 back.
Tonight it is a tale of tow pitchers, who as of late are simply not pitching up to their expectations. That said either is capable of throwing a no-hitter if their have their good stuff. Let’s start with the Rangers, Matt Garza, 3-4, 4.46 ERA,the former member of the Rays pitching staff, is win-less in his last four starts and has lost three consecutive decisions. Garza went just four innings against the Pirates on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Rays will counter with Alex Cobb, 8-3, 3.08 ERA, who after throwing his only complete game of the season on Aug. 31, Cobb has not made it through the seventh inning in either of his last two outings. On Wednesday against the Red Sox, he gave up three runs on seven hits and walked three in 5 2/3 innings.
Tonight and for at least this week the Rays need to play great baseball. They need to take both of these series at home or making the post season could fall out of their control and that would be very bad for what has been, for most of the season, a playoff caliber team.