Blog Entry

Do the Rays have a chance? Sure they do

Posted on: September 15, 2011 10:36 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2011 12:25 am
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BOSTON -- Do they have a chance?

Yeah, they have a chance.

Do they have a good chance?

Ask again tomorrow.

The Rays looked great Thursday night in winning the opener of their four-game must-win series in Boston, holding the Red Sox to six hits in a 9-2 rout. Boston's lead in the American League wild-card race, which was nine games on the morning of Sept. 3, is now down to three games just 13 days later.

With 13 games remaining in the season -- including three more games this weekend -- of course the Rays have a chance.

And if they beat Josh Beckett on Friday night -- and especially if Beckett doesn't look fully recovered from the ankle injury that cost him a start last week -- then you might say the Rays have a good chance in their improbable run at a playoff spot.

A run, by the way, that they don't consider that improbable.

"I think this is what we expected from the first day of spring training, to be in this race," Rays designated hitter Johnny Damon said Thursday afternoon.

They believe they can win, and they believe they can beat the Red Sox head-to-head, at Fenway Park.

They should. The Rays have won 18 of their last 29 games at Fenway, dating back to 2008 and including the American League Championship Series that year.

This season, the Rays have beaten the Red Sox 10 times in 15 games, and they've now won six in a row.

"Against us, their pitchers have a plan, and they follow through on it," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "They're a hard team to play."

The Red Sox are something of a mess right now. Their lineup is beat up, to the point where Francona said Thursday night that third baseman Kevin Youkilis (hip and sports hernia) won't play Friday.

The starting rotation is worse. The Red Sox had to start rookie Kyle Weiland on Thursday, and he didn't make it out of the third inning. They'll start struggling Tim Wakefield in the final game of the series Sunday.

Compare that to the Rays, who are able to run a solid starter out there every night. Thursday, it was Jeremy Hellickson, a 13-game winner who may well be the American League rookie of the year. Friday, against Beckett, it will be James Shields, who leads the majors with 11 complete games and gave up one run in 8 1/3 innings against the Red Sox last weekend in Florida.

But that's what the Rays are, and that's how they've managed to get this far, after losing Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and their entire bullpen off last year's division winners. They pitch, they play defense, and sometimes, they hit enough.


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Comments

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