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    Thursday, August 7, 2008

    Will the Red Sox Catch The Rays?

    At times, it feels like the Boston Red Sox will never catch the Tampa Bay Rays in the hunt for first place in the AL East. To some degree, it doesn’t really matter, as long as the Red Sox keep their spot atop the chase for the wild card with a two game lead over the Minnesota Twins through the end of the season. But, wouldn’t it be nice for them to finish the season as the AL East champs and to see the New York Yankees miss the playoffs?

    I might be the only one that turns on my TV every morning after a Red Sox win, wishing and hoping that the Rays somehow dropped a game the night before so we could pick up a game. I will even sit in front of ESPN praying for an off night for the Rays so we can pick up ½ a game, anything to make the race for first place, actually seem like a race. Somehow though, it always seems that when we win, they win and when we lose, they lose (although sometimes they win and that’s even worse.)

    Will this struggle to pick up a couple of games on the Rays ever end? I think it will and here is why. The Rays have 49 games left to play, 30 of which take place away from the Trop. The Rays road record this season is a pitiful 23-28 (almost as bad as the Red Sox) and with just 19 games left on the schedule at Tropicana Field where they are 45-17, it’s a tough road to travel for the Rays.

    The Red Sox on the other hand have a pretty even road v. home schedule for the rest of the season. They play 25 games at Fenway Park and 22 games on the road. The Sox record virtually mirrors that of the Rays as they are 40-16 at the Fens and 26-33 on the road.

    So the schedule certainly favors the Red Sox, but wait, there is one more kink in the plan to get the Sox to the top, head to head play. The two teams have six games left against each other, three in Tampa and three in Boston, so that pretty much evens the playing field.

    Scheduling aside, what the season will come down to is experience and the Boston Red Sox clearly have the edge when it comes to veteran leadership and September baseball experience. However, let us not forget that in 2007, during their World Series run, two of the biggest
    contributors to the Red Sox success were two rookies, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. Could this be the year that Evan Longoria puts his stamp on the MLB?

    Will the Red Sox catch the Rays? The answer is, a tentative yes. The Red Sox bats have returned and their pitching will come around. Eventually the young arms on the Rays pitching staff will wear out and they will slowly fade into contention for the wild card and lose in the first round of the playoffs. And then, there are the Yankees who are playing for third place, trying to fight off a deadly Baltimore team.

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