Go figure, or try to figure, AL wild card chase
Rays fans, here are some important Tropicana Field tips:
Think about bringing your own food.
Think about bringing six sets of eyes.
This might be a moot point if the Rays never hit again, but the art of scoreboard watching has become a mind-numbing brain buster in baseball’s Land of The Second Wild Card. Leave it to the muddled, mutt-filled American League, home of the 103-team playoff chase, where it’s impossible to be out of it even if you try. It’s profoundly confusing.
“It will weed itself out,” Rays slugger Logan Morrison said.
I see nothing but weeds at the moment.
There is no pulling way.
There is no falling away.
If you’re a Rays fan, you probably don’t know what or how to think. Who do you pull for on the scoreboard? Who do you root against?
It’s not Watson and Crick and the double helix, but it’s complicated.
By the way, Watson and Crick were the wild cards that season.
The Rays fell to 58-56 Tuesday night, hanging another shutout on the board with a 2-0 loss to the Red Sox. But they somehow remain tied for the second wild card with the Royals and Mariners, two and a half games behind the No. 1 wild card Yankees. Make it six and a half behind AL-East leader Boston. That division deal is over. But there are also six teams within five games of the Rays for the second wild card: Baltimore, Minnesota, Los Angeles, Texas and Toronto.
I think there are three teams from last season that are still in it this season.
The Rays are in it, despite being shut out in three of the last four games since they returned to the Trop. Red Sox lefty and Cy Young favorite Chris Sale (eight innings, two hits, 13 strikeouts) and closer Craig Kimbrell laid the Rays to rest Monday. But the Yankees also lost Tuesday. So did the Royals.
That is the mad genius of the creation of the second wild card in 2012. In 2013, the Rays became the second wild card, playing their way into it by winning a tiebreaker against Texas, then beating Cleveland in the one-game wild card game.
Frankly, it was much less confusing in 2011, when all it took was a raging Rays comeback against the Yankees, an Evan Longoria home run for the Rays ages in in Game 162 – and an accompanying Red Sox collapse in Baltimore – to get the Rays in as the only wild card. Ah, simpler days.
The National League has no such logjam this season, Barring remarkable charges or collapses, Arizona and Colorado will be the wild cards. The American League is a Rorschach.
And all of this just so you can be in a one-game playoff.
How do Rays fans play scoreboard until then? Take Tuesday. They must have pulled for the now 53-59 Blue Jays over the now 59-52 Yankees, and for the Cardinals over the now 57-55 Royals and for the Brewers over the now 55-56 Twins and Oakland over the now 58-56 Mariners. But what about the now 56-57 Orioles at the now 56-58 Angels? Either way, someone was going to gain on the Rays. And does your head hurt yet?
Yes, Rays players look at the scoreboard, at what everyone else is doing, though even they can’t decode what it means.
“It’s a lot more fun than not playing scoreboard, because then then you’re out of it,” Morrison said.
You can’t say the Rays aren’t in this. And you can’t say it doesn’t matter. Try telling Morrison is in his eighth big-league season. He has never been in a playoff game.
“With the Mariners in (2104), we were in it until the very last day,” he said. “We were playing scoreboard then. We got eliminated in the fifth inning of Game 162, when the A’s won. If they would have lost, we would have played a 163 against the Royals.”
The race is on. And on. Confusion – and inclusion – reign. We’ll get to strength of all the remaining team schedules and the possible tiebreakers on Thursday. We should be done by Saturday. We are all over it.
The Brewers are in the National, not American, right?