Desmond Jennings Keeping Tampa Bay Rays in the Hunt with Yankees and Red Sox

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Desmond Jennings Keeping Tampa Bay Rays  in the Hunt with Yankees and Red Sox
OAKLAND, CA - JULY 28: Desmond Jennings #8 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with Sean Rodriguez #1 after scoring on a Johnny Damon #22 single in the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics at Coliseum on July 28, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Desmond Jennings has been the spark keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in the postseason fight with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. The team’s playoff chances were on life support until the rookie outfielder injected new life into the club.

Since joining the team on July 23rd, he is ninth in the AL in OPS (1.013) and tied for fifth in extra-base hits with 14. He also has nine stolen bases which ranks him second in the AL behind Coco Crisp of the Oakland A’s.

His five home runs are only one shy of Evan Longoria’s club lead (pertaining to the time following Jennings' arrival).

Jennings has received praise from teammates, as they have likened his work ethic to that of former Rays' outfielder Carl Crawford.

He is a phenomenal athlete and former three-sport star that turned down the opportunity to play football at the University of Alabama in pursuit of a career in baseball. So far that decision is working out well.

Rays manager Joe Maddon has also noticed Jennings ability beyond his natural athletic ability.

“A lot of times to me a guy’s going to reveal his baseball acumen by what he does on the bases as a base runner and he is really sharp on the bases,” Maddon said prior to Friday night’s game against the Mariners.

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“You’ve seen it on him scoring from third; you’ve seen it on turning a single into a triple.”

Not to be Captain Obvious here, but scoring runs is very important to the Rays' hopes. They are 47-15 when they score first and 43-7 when they score five or more runs (Actually, they have only lost 17 games in which they held a lead at some point.)

The Rays are currently averaging 0.6 runs per game more with Desmond Jennings on the roster.

And in order for their playoff dreams to have the potential to become reality, they will need the current offensive explosion to continue.

Jamal Wilburg is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained first hand.

You can follow him on Twitter @JWilburg

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