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For the Rays, It Could Be a Week to Remember.
For the Rays, It Could be a Week to Remember.
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For the Rays, It Could Be a Week to Remember.
by Asher B. Chancey,
June 30, 2008

I wrote yesterday that the season truly begins now for the AL Central, as June 29th marked the day that the Detroit Tigers woke up and found themselves back at the .500 mark for the first time all season.

If the season begins this week for the AL Central, history itself may begin this week for the AL East, where there is a significant possibility that the week could end with the Tampa Bay Rays owning as much as a six-and-a-half game lead in the division, a position reserved during the last ten years for the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. We could be witnessing history, or even the birth of a real live, honest-to-God Major League Baseball franchise.

The week starts with the New York Yankees at home playing host to the Texas Rangers, while the Rays will be in Tampa hosting the Red Sox. The Rays find themselves beginning the week with a narrow half-game lead over the Sox and looking to extend it at home. The Rays have two factors working to their advantage – the home team has won every game between the Sox and Rays this season, with two sweeps for Boston and one for Tampa, and the Rays pitching staff is set for the Sox, while the Sox staff is not. The Rays will send Jamie Shields, Matt Garza, and Scott Kazmir to the mound to face off against Justin Masterson, Tim Wakefield, and Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Rays are currently second in the AL in fewest runs allowed per game at home, while the Sox score over a run less on the road than they do at home.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are now six games over .500 and five-and-a-half games back of the Rays and will face off against one of the most notorious home/road splitting teams in baseball in the Rangers. The Rangers currently lead the league in runs scored per game on the road, which is a plus, but are the second worst team in the league in runs allowed per game. Meanwhile, the Yankees split about even at home and on the road, with 22 wins at home and away. So we’ll play it safe and assume the Yankees take two out of three from the Rangers.

It is entirely likely that the Rays current half-game lead over the Red Sox could be three-and-a-half by Wednesday night, their lead over the Yankees could be six games, and the Red Sox could be ahead of the Yankees by only two-and-a-half games, which is where things get interesting, as the Red Sox then go to New York for a four game set while the Rays stay home and host a three game set against the Royals, a team that has won seven of its last ten, but has won 13 of its 37 games against the National League.

Remember all that curse talk that once plagued the Red Sox but supposedly ended in 2004? Remember that nasty little Yankees-Red Sox feud that supposedly became moot when the Red Sox won their second World Series in four years last year while the Yankees seemed to be fading? Remember the great Boston teams of the past who would find a way to let the Yankees get into their heads? What do you think it is going to be like for the Red Sox to get swept by the Rays, and then go to Yankee Stadium with the Rays beginning to fade into the horizon ahead of them and the Yankees quickly approaching from behind? Could we see the Red Sox lose three of four from New York, or even go 0-for-7 for the week while the Rays win all six of their games?

It is entirely possible that at the end of this week, the Tampa Bay Rays could be on top of the American League East division by six games ahead of the New York Yankees and seven games ahead of the Boston Red Sox, which would truly be a historical development. Do I think it will happen? Well, I have enough faith in Terry Francona and his players to think that they could avoid a total meltdown this week. If I were betting on how the week would go, I would play it safe and assume that the Rays will take two of three from both the Red Sox and the Royals, while the Yankees would take two of three from the Rangers and then split with the Red Sox.

But the mere fact that there is a possibility that Tampa’s lead in the AL East (that phrase alone being cause for excitement) could be five games or more at the close of the week may be historical unto itself. And it could be the start of something big!

Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at