Evan Longoria Celebrates his homerun that sent the Rays to the Playoffs
This is the Tampa Bay Rays second season in a row in the playoffs, and third time in four years. However, the team did it in dramatic fashion this season.
Following a Boston Red Sox collapse, the Rays captured the Wild Card. Just minutes after the Orioles beat the Red Sox, Evan Longoria capped a 7-0 comeback with a walk-off home run in extra innings, to give the Rays an 8-7 win over the Yankees, and lead his team to the postseason.
The Rays have been incredibly hot in September, going 17-10 during that month.
The surging Rays look to come into the postseason really hot, despite not having a playoff-esque lineup.
The Rays rely on their running game, timely hits, and especially their pitching.
James Shields, the ace of the Rays this season
Most likely, yes, it should be able to. Pitching is arguably the most important aspect of the Rays game, especially their starters.
Going into the postseason, Joe Maddon's starter's will most likely be James Shields, David Price, Matt Moore, and Jeremy Hellickson. If needed, Jeff Niemann may start a game.
James Shields has replaced David Price as the ace of the staff, and went 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA this season. He fanned a career high 225, had a WHIP of 1.04, and had 11 complete games.
If Shields, Price, and two rookies, Moore and Hellickson, can stay sharp, they may be able to carry the Rays a long way.
Matt Moore, who only made one prior start in his career, was the pitcher Joe Maddon turned to for the first game versus the Texas Rangers. Moore blanked the Rangers over seven innings, only allowing two hits.
As I said, if the Rays pitchers stay sharp, they can carry the team deep into the postseason.
Sometimes, if a player can come up big in a clutch situation, or can bring a positive state of mind into the game, the player can feed off of it.
This could be the case for Longoria. After hitting a three-run homer against the Yankees to bring the Rays within one, and hitting the game winning home run, Longoria must be feeling really good. Considering that he is one of the main reasons the Rays got into the playoffs this year.
Evan Longoria is the main powerhouse and big player in the Rays offense, and they'll look for him to lead the team. Maybe Longoria can carry over his late season success into the postseason, and spark the Rays offense.
The Rays are not primarily known for their offense. The Rays lineup is said to "have no business in the postseason."
If their pitching is strong, and if the offense can liven up for the occasion, the Rays can be force to be reckoned with.
Besides Longoria, the Rays only other big players are Ben Zobrist, Johnny Damon, and B.J. Upton.
Those three guys are going to need to produce to help out Longoria, and give the pitching a cushion.
If the Rays can put up about five to eight runs a game, they should be in very good shape.
I can't say enough about Joe Maddon. He's one of the smartest managers out there, and I'm sure he'll win Manager of the Year award.
It's amazing that he led a team that lost Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, Matt Garza, Rafael Soriano, Dan Wheeler, Randy Choate, and Grant Balfour into the postseason.
This guy seems to make all the right decisions. For example, sending up Dan Johnson as the Rays last chance against the Yankees. Johnson, a sub-.200 hitter, hit a home run to right field to tie the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
Sure, call it luck, but how did he know to trust Johnson with the Rays season possibly on the line?
Joe Maddon is definitely one of the smartest managers in the league, and I'm sure he'll be able to carry it over into the playoffs, where it matters most.
As I mentioned earlier, the Rays are streaking right now. They're coming off a 17-10 September. Sometimes, when a week or a month end, a team or player will cool off. The Rays will need to not fall victim to that in the postseason.
If they can remain hot, they should be able to beat the Rangers in a best of five series.
Not much else to say, the Rays need to keep winning like they have been recently.
Desmond Jennings is a solid rookie outfielder for the Rays, finishing the season with a .259 average, 10 homers, and 20 stolen bases.
However, his average definitely could've been much higher. Desmond finished the season with only three hits in his past 40 at bats.
Desmond, one of the Rays possible leadoff hitters, needs to elevate his game, as he's a pretty vital part of the Tampa Bay offense.
If Jennings can get back to how he was earlier in the season, the Rays will have a speedy runner on the bases for the likes of Longoria, Zobrist, and Upton.