BOSTON, Mass. — The routine was real. Seventeen games in 17 days, without a break at a point in the season when winning or going home was becoming an option.
The last of that 17-game streak came on Sunday, when the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Boston Red Sox 12-4. They flew to Miami after the game and got a well-deserved day off before playing the Marlins on Tuesday and Wednesday.
And they have earned it.
The Rays went 12-5 during that stretch, winning the first four series before losing two of three in Boston. They scored eight runs in a loss on Friday and 12 more on Sunday. The bats have woken up in the last three weeks — they’ve scored seven runs or more in eight games — and the pitching is still very good.
When you break the season down into parts, this one was easy to do because it’s his last long streak of 17 games or more this season. There were 11 winnable home games (Baltimore, Kansas City and the Los Angeles Angels were the opponents) and the usual hard road trips from the AL East to New York and Boston.
They split away games 3-3, which is always enough, and finished 9-2 at home. They started this streak 12 games behind the Yankees in the AL East, and now that lead has shrunk to 7.5 games. They also began this streak teetering on the brink of the playoff picture, but are now in first place in the wild card standings.
They have made a move.
They are now in first place in the wild card race, which is very important because that means they would host a best-of-three series in the first round. They are a half game ahead of the Seattle Mariners and 1.5 games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays, who are ranked fifth and sixth.
Scroll to Continue
The Rays have a three-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles, who are the team on the outside looking in right now. And Tampa Bay is 4.5 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins and 7.5 games ahead of the Chicago White Sox, two teams that have been slipping.
There’s still a tremendous amount of work to do, but what this 12-5 streak has done is allow the Rays to control their own destiny again, make people come after them.
In the Rays’ locker room, there is very little talk about the wild-card race. They still want to catch the Yankees and win the American League East, a title that belonged to Tampa Bay in 2020 and 2021.
That run isn’t over yet, because the Rays still have six games left with the Bronx Bombers, who are 8-16 in August and that includes a five-game winning streak earlier this week. The matchups begin on Friday in St. Petersburg with a three-game series this weekend. They also play in New York the following weekend, September 9-11.
It will be interesting to see where the Rays are when we wake up Monday in two weeks.
The September schedule is very tough, but the Rays appear to be up for the challenge. They are getting healthier, with the return of Harold Ramírez and Manuel Margot already paying massive dividends. The bullpen is also getting stronger, which is great. The big wild card is also the return of shortstop Wander Franco, likely sometime this week. A healthy Franco throughout September is also a big deal,
There are still six games left against the Houston Astros, the best team in the American League, and three more against the Cleveland Guardians, who lead the AL Central. That is hard. It’s also tough to keep playing those American League East rivals, with six against the Yankees, nine against the Blue Jays and six against Boston, including the final three games of the season at Fenway Park from Oct. 3-5.
The Rays are 70-57 heading into the much-needed bye day. Only the Astros and Yankees have more wins in the AL.
So this we know. The season is five weeks away, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.