Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Rays may have advantage over New York Yankees in playoff race

Yankees manager Joe Girardi argues with umpire Tony Randazzo after his fourth-inning ejection during another loss.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Yankees manager Joe Girardi argues with umpire Tony Randazzo after his fourth-inning ejection during another loss.

Now the Yankees, led by super-cool captain Derek Jeter, will try to convince everyone that they are not in panic mode after dropping the first two games of a series against the Rays and coughing up what was once a 10-game lead in the American League East. It's hard, of course, to suggest that a team that has made the postseason 15 of the past 16 years doesn't have the stomach for this pennant-chasing business.

If anything, you wonder if the Yankees are a little too relaxed, a little too laid back. Maybe a little panic, a little urgency, might do them some good. Maybe they need to be a little more like the Rays.

So here we are. Nearly a month left. A big series in New York next week. The surprising Orioles right in the mix. And the possibility that neither the Rays nor Yankees will make the playoffs. But as the two get together tonight for the final time at Tropicana Field this regular season, I like the Rays' chances a tad better than the Yankees' based on what we've seen the past two nights. Here are some reasons why:

The Rays are treating these games like big games

And you get the feeling that the Yankees are not. There's something to be said for not getting too high or too low (a trait that has always served Joe Maddon's Rays well), but there also is something to be said for embracing the moment.

"I love the energy of these games," Maddon said after the Rays' 5-2 victory Tuesday. "Our players really thrive on the energy."

The Rays came into this series not afraid to admit that it was a big series, that it was more than just three games in a 162-game marathon.

"We know what's at stake," first baseman Carlos Peña said.

The Rays might be the better team

At the moment, that is. The Yankees were really good for one month this season. That was June when they went 20-7. Since then, they are a .500 team (29-29), and just 19-25 since July 19. The Rays, meantime, are 22-11 since July 31. Last year, the Rays needed the Red Sox to have an epic collapse to reach the playoffs. The Rays don't need any collapses this season.

The Rays' pitching is just too good

Line up the Yankees and Rays position by position and, arguably, other than a healthy Evan Longoria over Alex Rodriguez, there probably isn't one Rays player you would take over a Yankees regular. But that hardly matters when you can pitch like Tampa Bay. History suggests that the Rays' pitching not only will get Tampa Bay to the postseason but get it into the World Series.

The last five American League teams to finish a season with an ERA as low as the Rays have (3.26 going into Tuesday's game) all advanced to the World Series. Pitching makes up for a lot of weaknesses.

"We are who we are," Maddon said. "We have to play a complete game. We have to play our matchups. We have to platoon when necessary. We have to play with energy. We have to do the little things right all the time."

The Rays are used to this stuff

You know, for as often as the Yankees have been in the postseason, it's surprising how few big September games the Yankees have played in recent seasons. Last year, they won the AL East by six games. That was also the margin for winning the wild card in both 2010 and 2007. They won the division by eight games in 2009 and 10 games in 2006. Heck, in 2010, they were so in control that they LET the Rays win the division. Remember that?

Where are the white-knuckle rides and nail-biting finishes?

And now, the Yankees are in surreal territory: They have never — repeat, NEVER — missed the postseason after having a 10-game lead.

Meantime, it seems like the Rays are always playing those end-of-the-plank games, none more so than Game 162 last year.

"I'd like to believe what we learned last year was to never quit," Maddon said. "We were given up for dead. I kind of like that our guys are not affected by the moment."

Ben Zobrist already is planning on the season coming down the last day.

"It doesn't matter what happened yesterday," Zobrist said. "It only matters what happens today. Every game, each day, matters."

The way things are going, the last game will matter to the Rays … and not the Yankees.

tom jones' two cents

Tampa Bay Rays may have advantage over New York Yankees in playoff race 09/04/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 11:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays journal: Erasmo Ramirez ready to start a day after closing game

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — RHP Erasmo Ramirez was on the mound to finish Sunday's 15-inning marathon win over the Twins and will start tonight's game against the Rangers.

    The Rays’ Erasmo Ramirez throws 12 pitches in the 15th inning against the Twins to earn the save then says after the game that he’s ready to make his scheduled start against the Rangers: “My arm feels good.”
  2. Rays exhausted but happy after 15-inning win over Twins (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Before the Rays eventually won Sunday's 6½-hour, 15-inning marathon against the Twins 8-6, they did plenty to lose it. And we need to get that out of the way first.

    The Rays’ Evan Longoria enjoys a laugh after scoring, barely, to tie it in the ninth on Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out single.
  3. Tom Jones' Two Cents: ABC's Indy 500 coverage is stellar again

    TV and Radio

    Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Takuma Sato left, celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 as Helio Castroneves is a little late passing him. ABC’s coverage of the race is stellar throughout, with plenty of extras but no fake drama.
  4. Takuma Sato surprise winner of wreck-filled Indy 500

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Takuma Sato, a journeyman driver, became the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday when he held off three-time champion Helio Castroneves in a 230-mph wheel-rubbing duel to the finish.

    Scott Dixon’s car goes over the top of Jay Howard, soaring so high that Helio Castroneves drove under it while it was airborne. Stunningly, there were no serious injuries.
  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Sunday's Rays-Twins game

    The Heater

    The Rays won because they got two innings of good relief from each of the two pitchers who contributed to them losing Saturday's game, Danny Farquhar (who again struck out Miguel Sano) and Tommy Hunter, who both posted zeroes.