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Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Fennelly: Now it gets wild for Rays

Monday, fresh from the Pacific Twilight Zone, the Rays enjoyed their last off day of the 2012 regular season. Or maybe they didn't.

What happened here?

Tonight, the runaway Red Sox are in town. Remember when these were three games that were going to help decide the AL East? Remember when this was going to be the series?

Well, the division is decided.

Just two and a half weeks ago, the Rays and Boston were even. The Rays had run the Sox down. Only Boston kept running.

The Rays lost 11 of 15. It was staggering. Now there is no division flag to chase.

There are certainly no signs of the club that Bobby Valentine drove to the grave in 2012.

And these are not the gagging Red Sox of 2011.

For old time's sake: On this night two years ago, Evan Longoria singled home Desmond Jennings in the 11th as the Rays beat the Red Sox in the middle of a three-game sweep at the Trop that pulled the lads to within three and half of Boston in the wild-card chase. Onward to 162.

Boston's lead right now is seven and a half.

Reality check right there.

Here's the Rays' only hope: Onward to 163.

Yes, the dreaded wild-card game, one day, one shot.

Moreover, it looks like the even more dreaded second wild card, the deuce, the road team. I don't think the A's and Rangers will come back.

Monday morning, the Rays led Baltimore and Cleveland by two games for the two hole.

And they have no one to blame but themselves.

While Boston was sweeping the White Sox, putting up 20 runs on the Tigers in one night and, like, 142 on the Yankees in four days, the Rays went south out west.

And that's how there are five teams still in the race for that second card.

The Rays let everyone back in it.

Why, even the Yankees and Royals think they're in contention — and they are.

There are 20 games left and the Rays' schedule is treacherous: three with Boston, four at the Trop with both Texas and Baltimore and the last week on the road, beginning with the Yankees.

All along, I've thought 90 wins is the magic number — 90, or 91, gets that second wild card.

Ninety once seemed a lock for the Rays.

Now, at 78 wins, it means real work, going 12-8, or 13-7, maybe even 14-6. ... All to just get in.

How appealing does a one-day trip to Oakland or Texas seem?

More appealing than no trip at all, I suppose.

The Rays still have the best rotation of the five teams chasing the second card.

I still like their chances of squeaking in.

The Orioles have a tough schedule, too. They'd have to go 14-6 to win 90 games.

Terry Francona's Indians seem poised for a late run. True, Justin Masterson is out and the Cleveland pen is shaky, but the Indians finish with 10 games against the Astros, White Sox and Twins, who are a combined 96 games under .500.

Nightmare Rays scenario: Scott Kazmir shutout clinches for Cleveland.

The Yankees only have six of their last 19 games at home, injuries galore — and A-Rod. They'd need to go 14-5 to win 90. Not likely. The same goes for the plucky Royals, who'd need to go 15-4 for 90.

The Red Sox? It's their division this year. They've overcome injuries and a Rays charge. Everyone assumed they'd fold. Turns out their new pieces (Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli, our main man Jonny Gomes and all together now: Koji Uehara) were pretty good pieces. And there's my manager of the year, John Farrell.

Back to Joe Maddon and his Rays.

It's 163 or bust.

Bust isn't out of the picture yet.

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