Tampa Bay Rays: Controllers of Their Own Destiny

Sean HeyboerContributor ISeptember 1, 2009

ST PETERSBURG, FL - OCTOBER 18:  Carl Crawford #13, B.J. Upton #2 and Gabe Gross #26 of the Tampa Bay Rays stand in the outfield against the Boston Red Sox in game six of the American League Championship Series during the 2008 MLB playoffs on October 18, 2008 at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Let's do some math, shall we.

The Tampa Bay Rays are currently five games behind the Boston Red Sox for the Wild Card lead. Today, the Rays open up a three-game series against said Red Sox. Now, let's assume the Rays sweep, winning all three. That would make them, hmm...let's see now...five minus three is, well, carry the seven and round up the remainder...

Two. Two games behind.

If the Rays can pull off a sweep of the Red Sox, they will have put themselves right back in the driver's seat for another playoff berth. If, on the other hand, they are themselves swept, then the hurdle becomes much larger. The series beginning today is crucial.

You see, the Rays are controlling their own destiny right now. Win a few tough games, and they're in the playoffs. Lose a few, and well, you can guess were this is going.

Joe Maddon has been tinkering with the lineup lately, and yesterday it peaked in huge fashion. Does the bowler have a few more tricks up his sleeve?

I personally like Ben Zobrist hitting third. He gives them versatility as a switch hitter, and he has been unbelievably consistent. It takes pressure off of Evan Longoria, too. This lineup seems to be clicking.

A lot of people, including myself, took the shipping off of Scott Kazmir as a white flag. Not so apparently. This team is determined to find a way back to the postseason. They have to figure out how their new fifth starter will fare first. How will Andy Sonnanstine replace Scott Kazmir? Can he duplicate Kaz's stellar numbers against the Sox? Many questions will be answered starting tomorrow.

Remember last year's motto of 9=8? As of right now it should read 5=8. That magical postseason number is five. It's what separates the Rays from the Sox. It's the leap that needs to be made to continue into October. Five games equals eight teams in the playoffs. That's easy math.