2011 AL Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays Will Capitalize on Boston Red Sox Meltdown

Andrew KulhaSenior Analyst IIISeptember 28, 2011

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 27:  B.J. Upton #2 and Evan Longoria #3 of the Tampa Bay Rays congratulate Matt Joyce #20 after his three run home run against the New York Yankees during the game at Tropicana Field on September 27, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

The New York Yankees aren't going to do any favors for the Boston Red Sox, so losing to a win-hungry Tampa Bay Rays team probably didn't bother them to much.

The Rays find themselves tied for the AL Wild Card spot with the reeling Red Sox, and ironically enough they used a win over the Yankees to do so. They beat the Yankees 5-3 to keep themselves firmly in the running for the playoffs.

The very fact that we can even talk about the Rays in this position is improbable, and it goes a long way towards showing you what kind of team they have. That being said, a lot of their recent success has to be contributed to the absolute choke job that the Red Sox have put on during the chase.

The Rays have come back from nine games down in the standings since September 4. They have grinded out wins and are on the cusp of doing the improbable in 2011.

It's a simple equation though: they are getting hot at the right time while Boston has been anything but. Seth Livingstone of the Tuscon Citizen reports more on the Rays' hot streak:

“We don’t feel like we have anything to lose. We’ve had a great run,” (Ben) Zobrist said. “We’re hoping to cap it with a playoff berth.”

Joyce’s three-run homer off former teammate Rafael Soriano (2-3) was the All-Star’s first in more than three weeks and it wiped out a 3-2 deficit in the seventh. Zobrist hit a two-run drive off Bartolo Colon in the second, and the Rays kept the score close by turning the third triple play in franchise history after falling behind in the sixth.

“Everybody’s thirsty for offense, and we’d like to score more,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “But we’re built around pitching and defense.”

Jake McGee (4-2) pitched one scoreless inning to get the win. With a crowd of 22,820 standing and cheering, Kyle Farnsworth got the final three outs for his 25th save in 31 chances. The victory was the fourth in a row for Tampa Bay, which trailed the Red Sox by nine games before battling back into the wild-card race.

“Catching Boston was a big thing, but we still haven’t accomplished what we set out to do from the beginning of spring training,” Rays designated hitter Johnny Damon said.

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 26: Carl Crawford #13 of the Boston Red Sox (L) and teammates Jacoby Ellsbury #2 (C) and Josh Reddick #16 (R) leave the dugout after losing to the Baltimore Orioles 6-3 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 26, 2011 in Balt
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Rays are an opportunistic team right now, and they just need to capitalize on a few more big moments in order to get themselves to the playoffs.

Just like in any great comeback there is always the other side, so let's not forget about Boston and all they've contributed to the Rays' success.

The Red Sox can still pull it out, but they have to be a completely different team moving forward. The Rays are too good right now, and they will capitalize on any mistake Boston makes.

In a Wild Card race every game matters, but so does every pitch.The Rays are ready to continue their run up the rankings and secure a spot in the wild card.

I'm not sure the Red Sox are ready for them. 

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