Rays hot, Red Sox not; leading into weekend series

Just twelve short days ago the Boston Red Sox appeared to have a lock on the AL Wild Card spot, leading their division foe the Tampa Bay Rays by a seemingly insurmountable nine games already into the final month of the season.

Had things continued to play out as planned, the Red Sox would likely be focusing more on next weekend’s match-up with the division leading Yankees than their current one against the Rays.

Instead, the Rays have gone on a hot streak while the Red Sox have slumped, cutting the Wild Card lead to four games with two weeks left in the season. Starting today, the Red Sox and Rays open a four game set in Boston that could go a long way in determining which of the two AL East squads will be heading to the playoffs.

Obviously a sweep is unlikely for either team, but in doing so each could drastically alter the playoff picture. The Red Sox have a chance to essentially put the Rays away (they would be eight games back with 10 left to play) while the Rays have a chance to tie the Red Sox for the Wild Card lead and prevent them from gaining any momentum.

Aside from this weekend’s series, the Yankees will have a lot to do with who the Wild Card winner is, playing a combined 10 games against the Rays (7) and Red Sox (3). However, one of their series with the Rays is the final set of the season and the Yankees may be looking to rest some players with an eye toward the postseason.

The Rays look to have an edge in the pitching matchups this series. Boston will have to use Kyle Weiland (he of three MLB starts), Josh Beckett (who hasn’t pitched since September 5th), Jon Lester and Tim Wakefield (he of a 5.13 ERA) in the series.

The Rays will counter with Jeremy Hellickson (a ROY candidate), James Shields (who has a 2.87 ERA in four starts vs. Boston this year), Jeff Neimann and David Price.

On paper, the only matchup that really favors the Red Sox is Lester vs. Neimann while the Rays should have a great advantage in both the first and fourth games.

The series kicks off at 7:10 tonight on MLB Network and should be the first of many exciting games between two rivals fighting for a playoff spot.

Used with permission of the author.

Brett is the editor and a contributor for www.BravesFTW.com. He has covered MLB and the Braves for numerous websites and is a regular contributor to Sports Climax. Follow Brett on Twitter.

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