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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Through it all, Rays still have chance

TORONTO — It comes down to today, Game 162. Unless the Rays and Rangers both win or both lose today, then it comes down to Game 163 on Monday.

Or, if the Indians, Rays and Rangers finish in a three-way tie, then the Rays are off to Cleveland on Monday for the first of what could be two tiebreaker games and the first of what could be five games this week in five cities and two countries, provided the Rays survive three elimination games and head to Boston for the American League division series.

Matt Moore faces the Blue Jays this afternoon at Rogers Centre with a chance to keep this season alive.

This up-and-down season needs another up, or the Rays could miss the postseason for the second straight season despite winning 90 games.

How did it get to this?

The Rays played like the best team in baseball at times and the worst team in baseball at times. They managed to do both during this final week when they rolled off seven straight wins against the Orioles and Yankees, then tripped over the 87-loss Blue Jays, who are playing without their two best hitters.

Here is a look back at some of the major points from Game 1 to Game 161:

Where would they be without ...

Didn’t expect much from left-hander Alex Torres, not after what he showed during his previous stints with the team. But to his credit, Torres figured out a few things while playing winter ball, and he is now one of the more dependable arms in the bullpen. Maybe the most dependable.

He allowed one run in his first 34ß innings and went from being a long man to someone manager Joe Maddon will trust in high-leverage situations.

He made his bones in Detroit in early June when he entered the game in the third inning with the bases loaded, no outs and got Torii Hunter to hit into a force play, then struck out Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder to stop the Tigers’ rally.

Put first baseman James Loney on this list, too. Did anyone expect him to be hitting .300 during the final weekend of the season? His ability to put the ball in play helps the offense “swarm” during those times it actually swarmed.

Could have used more from ...

Aside from a 13-game hitting streak in July when he hit four home runs and drove in 10 runs, Luke Scott didn’t really give the Rays much this season.

Matt Joyce entered Saturday’s game with five hits in September. He continued his career pattern of second-half struggles.

Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson struggled for the first time in his career and couldn’t seem to figure things out. Or hold on to leads. You expected a little more than 1-7 in his final 10 starts.

How about this guy

Outfielder David DeJesus brought some energy to the club when he found himself on a winning team this late in the season for the first time in his career.

A pair of extra-inning hits helped the Rays pull out the marathon wins against the Rangers and Orioles during the last homestand.

West Toast

The Rays went 0-5 during the early-August road trip against the Diamondbacks and Dodgers, then returned to the West Coast at the end of the month and won just three of 10 games against the A’s, Angels and Mariners.

The Rays had little trouble winning at Yankee Stadium but couldn’t handle the three-hour time difference out west.

A call for arms

David Price got off to a poor start, then missed 44 games with a left triceps strain. Alex Cobb got off to a good start, then missed two months with a concussion. Moore was chugging along until he was sidelined for a month with left elbow soreness.

As a result, the Rays couldn’t move Roberto Hernandez out of the rotation. Yes, Hernandez ate innings. He also lost 13 games.

The other guys

The Red Sox righted things in a hurry and won the AL East going away.

The Indians and Rangers feasted on the weak teams in their respective divisions over the final two weeks.

The bullpen imploded early in the season. The offense disappeared for stretches. They were the best team in the majors with runners in scoring position, then the worst. Forget hitting with the bases loaded.

But a win today or some help from the Angels and the season continues for at least one more game.

Maybe more.

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Twitter: @RMooneyTBO

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