MLB Playoff Race: Rays, Red Sox in Huge Series

John Lackey

John Lackey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox are in the midst of a huge four-game series at Fenway Park this weekend with the A. L. East lead on the line. If the Rays can take three of four in the series, they will leave in first place, a spot the Red Sox have occupied nearly all season long. Tampa Bay coming into the series had won 20 of their last 24 games to make up 5.5 games in the standings and leap from fifth in the division to second. The Rays and Red Sox have already played 14 times now this season with Boston winning 10 times. So if the Rays can win the last two of the series, not only do they leave with the lead, but they also have no more games at Fenway and only three left with the Sawx.

Not only would they take the A.L. East lead, but they would also be 6-1 in their 10-game-post-All-Star-Break road trip. Looking at the schedule, that road trip looked daunting with three at the Toronto Blue Jays, four at the Sox, and three at the New York Yankees. But Tampa Bay needs only two more wins in their next five games to have a winning trip.


The Baltimore Orioles are hanging tight in the race as well, trailing the Sox by only 3.5 and the rays by 2 going into Wednesday’s games. Baltimore has won eight of ten even after losing on Tuesday night to the Kansas City Royals, 3-2. The Yankees are by no means out of contention at only seven games back either. They can gain some ground at home this weekend when the Rays come to visit.

The only question we all should have with the MLB schedule makers is why have the Rays and Red Sox play 16 times before the end of July? The purpose of the unbalanced schedule instituted a few years back was to get more division games, hopefully in September where it could set up important series between teams fighting for a division. The teams are playing a lot of head to head games, which is fine, but why 16 times in the first 104 and only 3 in the last 58? The Orioles and Rays play only four times in September, but they will also play three times in August.  The O’s and Sox meet six times in September and three more in August.

So this Rays and Red Sox series gets all that much larger with the fact that the Rays will not be back. David Price will get the Wednesday start for the Rays, and he has pitched much like the A. L. Cy Young Award winner he was a year ago since coming back from the disabled list from a triceps injury he sustained while pitching against… the Red Sox. Felix Doubront will oppose him with a 7-3 record for the Sox. This game should have a playoff vibe tonight.

Jeremy Hellickson will start on Thursday for Tampa Bay against John Lackey. The Rays and Lackey had some bad blood the last time he pitched against them when he threw at Matt Joyce. Watch for some fireworks in that game as well.