The Tampa Bay Rays have a tough road ahead.
After 162 games, the Rays finished the season tied with the Texas Rangers for the second Wild Card spot in the American League. A tiebreaker Game 163 was required to answer the question of whether the Rays would even make the postseason in 2013.
Monday night the Rays answered the question by defeating the Rangers 5-2.
The road will only get tougher for the team that has not been home since September 23.
If the Rays make it past the Cleveland Indians in the Wild Card Game they will travel to Boston to face the Red Sox on Friday. Game 1 of the ALDS would be the team’s fourth road game in four cities in a span of six days.
Here are the four biggest questions facing the Rays, other than did the players pack enough laundry for the road trip that keeps going.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
The first order of business for the Tampa Bay Rays will be to trim the expanded rosters down to form the postseason roster.They are not blessed with a lot of depth, which makes most of the picks easy. The most difficult choices come in the bullpen where the team has a lot of arms to choose from.
Here is a look at a projected postseason roster for the Rays.
Desmond Jennings, LF
Wil Myers, CF
Ben Zobrist, 2B
Evan Longoria, 3B
Delmon Young, DH
Matt Joyce, LF
James Loney, 1B
Yunel Escobar, SS
Jose Molina, C
Jose Lobaton, David DeJesus, Luke Scott, Sam Fuld, Sean Rodriguez, Kelly Johnson
Fernando Rodney, Joel Peralta, Jake McGee, Jamey Wright, Chris Archer, Alex Torres
The Tampa Bay Rays will need Evan Longoria and Wil Myers to be on top of their games.
Longoria, led the team in doubles (39), runs (91), home runs (32) and RBI (88).
Myers, has led the team with a .294 batting average since the All-Star break. He also has 19 doubles and 10 home runs in that time span.
The rookie phenom has been particularly clutch in the ninth inning with a .444 batting average this year.
If the duo can lead the offensive charge, the team should be a favorite to advance to the World Series.
Desmond Jennings, and his legs, are very critical for the Rays. The outfielder is coming back from a hamstring injury. He made his first start Monday for Game 163 since the injury on September 22.
Offensively Jennings finished the season with a .252/.334/.414 line.
He is the only real base running threat the Rays have. His 20 stolen bases and nine triples both lead the team.
Aside from his offense, his legs will be just as crucial in the field. If Jennings is not able to play the Rays will likely have to start Sam Fuld in the outfield.
While Fuld would make a good defensive replacement, the team would be sacrificing a lot of offense in the process. Fuld has a .199/.267/.270 line for the season.
A few months ago it was not certain if Alex Cobb would pitch another game for the Tampa Bay Rays this season. Now, he is getting ready for his postseason debut as the starter of the Wild Card Game.
He finished the season with a 2.76 ERA and 134 strikeouts in 22 starts. None of those starts, though, was a single game elimination scenario.
The stakes and the stage are both much larger than anything the 25-year-old pitcher has faced so far in his career.
If Cobb can lead the Rays past the Indians, they will be in great position to go deep in the postseason. A rotation of David Price, Matt Moore, and Alex Cobb will be hard for most other teams to match.