Last night the Tampa Bay Rays took the first of many giant steps to assure themselves a spot in the 2013 American League Playoffs. They opened a seven game homestand with a strong 6-2 win over the Texas Rangers and in so doing they now sit the No.1 American League Wild Card playoff spot.
That would of course assure them of the single game playoff would take place at home at Tropicana Field.
Tonight the same two teams face-off at Tropicana Field with the Rays sending Jeremy Hellickson (11-8, 5.04 ERA), to the mound to face the Rangers, Alexi Ogando, (6-4, 3.23 ERA), who has been used as of late out of the bull pen as a spot starter.
The Rays are in a position to do serious damage to the teams trailing them during their final homestand of the 2013 season – but it requires winning. A sweep or a series win would most likely eliminate the Rangers from the AL Wild Card chase.
While the Rays focus on the Rangers those teams chasing them are locked in some intense battles of their own.
A quick look at the schedule shows that Cleveland is now a half game back of Texas in the race for the final playoff spot but they are playing in Kansas City, where this morning the Royals, sit just 2.5 games out of joining the party.
For the Rays a split a Kansas City sweep would be nice.
The Orioles who will visit the Trop this weekend are 2 games back in the race and they open a three game series tonight in Boston against the Red Sox. Baltimore has lost four out their last five road series and they have not been very successful in Boston this season.
Hard for the Rays and their fans to cheer for Boston but a sweep of the O’s would put huge pressure on Baltimore as they head into town this weekend.
So then we have the Yankees who today stand 2.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot and they will starting a three game series on the road against the Blue Jays so they are in good shape to make up some ground. After the trip to Toronto, the Bombers head home for a three game weekend inter-league set with the San Francisco Giants.
This is one of those deals were you hope that a team like the Jays and or the Giants wants to play the role of a spoiler.
Now if the Rays can take both the Rangers and the Orioles series closing out the home portion of the 2013 regular season then the top Wild Card spot and a post-season berth will be nearly a lock. By the way for those looking ahead the Rays will finish the season on the road against the Yankees and the Blue Jays.
At this point the Rays control their own destiny and at this point in the season that is all that you can ask.