The Tampa Bay Rays (72-53) will head home from Baltimore to face off against the New York Yankees (67-59) for a three-game series this weekend. Tampa Bay is coming off back-to-back winning series vs the Toronto Blue Jays (57-70) last weekend and taking two of three against the Baltimore Orioles (68-58) this week. These were big wins even though they dropped the final game on Wednesday night and fell back out of first place.
The Yankees have struggled due to injuries this year but this is the last time fans will get to see Alex Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera. New York is on nice little run now going 8-2 in their last ten games. The Rays coming off that record breaking July and are just (8-9) in August and now have 37 games in 38 days to finish the season. Tampa Bay is one game back of the Boston Red Sox (75-54) for first place in the American League East.
On Wednesday, Jeremy Hellickson and the Rays were looking for the sweep in Baltimore as they had taken first place due to the Red Sox loss late on Tuesday night and a Rays win on Tuesday. Tampa Bay but could not pull off the victory though only collecting seven hits. Hellickson struggled once again on the mound. He only gave up four runs but could not make it to the fifth inning. It was a 4-2 ball game heading into the ninth inning when the Rays had a hit and a walk to start the inning. Matt Joyce has been hot lately did not get the start for some reason but had an opportunity to pinch hit but failed to bring the runners in. Kelly Johnson was then caught stealing second base to end the game and Tampa Bay fell 4-2. This ended their three-game win streak. Fans are not sure why Johnson was being so aggressive, as he would have tied the ball game up with a double by Jose Lobaton at the plate. Yunel Escobar dropped his nine-game hitting streak on Wednesday as well. The Rays fell one game back of the Red Sox because they had won earlier on Wednesday.
By the end of the night on Tuesday the Rays were back in first place in the division due to this victory and Red Sox loss but they couldn't stay there long as they lost on Wednesday. The Rays took the win in Baltimore 7-4 on Tuesday but it wasn't easy by any means. The Rays’ offense exploded in the ninth inning with four runs to break the close 3-2 game. It took a big double by Matt Joyce and followed by a single from Wil Myers to extend the lead. Rodney had to come in and save the game though as it was 7-2 with three outs to go and the Rays' bullpen allowed two more runs to reach the plate and make things interesting as the bullpen is known for this. Tampa Bay punished the ball collecting 15 hits on Tuesday night.
On Monday the Rays won 4-3 due to great pitching once again by David Price. The Rays racked up ten hits and it was just enough for Tampa Bay to sneak by. Evan Longoria hit his 25th homer of the year for the fourth consecutive year and seems to be heating up at just the right time as September is nearing.
Tampa took the final game of the series on Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays winning 2-1 in walkoff fashion. Jose Lobaton delivered his second walkoff hit of the homestand. This time instead of a triple it was solo home run in the 10th inning which allowed the Rays to take the series.
Joe Maddon always like to switch up the lineup due to match ups but many fans think he should stick with Evan Longoria and Wil Myers in the three and four hole. A more consistent approach is how the Rays got to where they are now and many fans think he should get back to it. This is the best Rays' offense fans have ever seen and he needs to use these bats like James Loney and Kelly Johnson on a daily basis. The infield defense has been fantastic lately. The Rays have been able to get out of jams when they need to with key double plays and spectacular defensive plays by Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar and Longoria. Great pitching, defense and offense could make for a deadly playoff run if they can keep it together.
Tropicana Field will be packed this weekend when the Yankees come in town. Tampa Bay is outstanding at home at (41-24) at the Trop. This is the last time the Yankees will play here for the rest of the season so expect it to be a battle all weekend. Hopefully Tampa Bay can keep it going and take another series as this is the formula for success and key to postseason play. Chris Archer, David Price and Alex Cobb get to take the hill this weekend. This is going to be a long stretch here to finish the season in September so hopefully the Rays have enough left in the tank.