Tampa Bay Rays May Take Cinderella All the Way
This season of unprecedented baseball rolls on as the Rays find themselves in the unfamiliar territory of the playoffs. Will this year of firsts for the Rays include an American League title or even a World Series ring?
Neither possibility is out of the question. Their fate lies with their strong pitching staff, and the power of playing at home at Tropicana Field, where they hold a Major League best 57-24 record.
The only American League teams with winning records against Tampa Bay (the Yankees and the Indians) won't be joining the playoff hunt. Moreover, the Rays have demonstrated their knack for taking series after series from even the strongest A.L. opponents.
Following skipper Joe Maddon's Meatloaf policy (as in two out of three ain't bad), the Rays have wrested away fourteen series while only losing three and splitting two.
The next ingredient the Rays with need for playoff success will be continued solid pitching. After giving the bullpen a complete overhaul during the off season, the Rays now have the ability to hold on to tight games.
Even with closer Troy Percival on and off of the disabled list, the 'pen has held opponents in check through closer by committee.
Not to be outdone, the starting notation has also stepped up their game. Even with ace Scott Kazmir having a less than stellar year, all five starters boast at least 10 wins.
To boost optimism even higher, blue chip prospect David Price has proved to have some serious Major League potential after two impressive relief appearances and a five-and-one-third inning start in which he only allowed one earned run while striking out three.
Finally, the magic of the Trop might be the final component for ultimate glory. With the American League's win in this year's All-Star Game, if the Rays can overcome their AL rivals, they will have home field advantage in the World Series.
The magic of the cowbells at The Trop might be enough to rally the Rays to a championship even in seven games.
The biggest possible stumbling block for the Rays is their lack of hitting with men in scoring position. Overall, the Rays have not been a high scoring team. Therefore, getting hits with men on, especially with less than two outs, becomes a critical need for Tampa Bay.
Offensive producers like Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria will have to perform when the opportunity presents itself or the Rays might find themselves falling short of their story book ending.
All in all though, Cinderella may just win it all this year.
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