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MLB Playoff Race: How the Tampa Bay Rays Will Lock Up Wild Card Spot

The Tampa Bay Rays are within arm's reach of the Wild Card spot.
The Tampa Bay Rays are within arm's reach of the Wild Card spot.Greg Fiume/Getty Images
Andrew BurtonCorrespondent IIISeptember 12, 2012

As it sits right now, the Tampa Bay Rays are two games back in the Wild Card race. But have no fear, Rays' fans; Tampa Bay will lock up a spot.

The Rays have six series remaining: three games against the Yankees, six against the Red Sox, three against the Blue Jays, four games against the White Sox and three games against the Orioles

The series against New York will be interesting as the Rays will call starting pitchers David Price (17-5), James Shields (14-8) and Matt Moore (10-10) to the mound. With the Yankees not being 100 percent healthy and enduring tough games in Boston, the Rays should be able to capitalize and win the series, if not sweep.

Meanwhile, another contender in the Wild Card, the Oakland Athletics, have a more difficult series approaching in the near future which will benefit the Rays' playoff hopes. The A's will meet the Texas Rangers and then the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, both really good ball clubs playing great ball right now.

Luckily for the Rays, they have what it takes to surpass the A's. 

Manager Joe Maddon captured the American League pennant in 2008, and Tampa has made it to the postseason in three of the last four years. That's an amazing accomplishment, especially given the Rays' payroll in comparison to the powerhouse of the AL East—the Yankees. 

Also worth a mention is the slugging of B.J. Upton. The center fielder hit .400 this past week. He hit a double, five home runs, six RBI, seven runs and three stolen bases, as per Adam Berry of MLB.com. That's excellent hitting, and it couldn't have come at a better time. 

Thrown into the mix is Evan Longoria's performance and leadership. While he claims he's "not the savior," it's clear that Longo is a key player in the Rays plans, and he gives them a really good shot at advancing in the Wild Card standings.

The third baseman is playing solid defense and his bat is greatly appreciated in the offense. Longoria is hitting .281 with two home runs and six RBI in the month of September. He is certainly a key figure if the Rays plan on playing past the first week of October. 

The final factor in Tampa's key to claiming the Wild Card is their phenomenal pitching. The team has the best team ERA at a stunning 3.22. The team has a rather young rotation with an average age of 26, but they also have postseason experience and that is what will win them a spot past October. 

Pitching wins games for ball clubs and hitting is a plus.

Tampa Bay is lucky enough to possess both.

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