"Pro Wrestling," NES 2014 MLB Playoffs Expert Picks: World Series Results Rajon Rondo (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports) Celtics, Rondo impress in Season Opener Ed Szczepanski/USA TODAY SPORTS Celtics Receive No Love from Vegas Former Red Sox Jake Peavy got the hook just one out into the second inning as the Royals scored seven times en route to a 10-0 win and a decisive Game 7. (NY Times) Former Red Sox Peavy Shelled as Royals Force Game 7 in World Series

Race to the MLB Playoffs: Week 2

It’s quickly becoming a two-horse race for the AL East crown, with the Rays holding a 4.5 game lead over the Red Sox. The Yankees fell further back and are now 10.5 games back at 67-60. They are also 6 games behind the Sox and Twins for the Wild Card lead.

A new playoff odds system was developed by Coolstandings.com, and can be seen with the overall MLB standings at ESPN.com. They have calculated that the Rays have 70.8% chance of winning the AL East and a 91% chance of making the playoffs by winning the East or Wild Card. According to the statistics, the Red Sox have a 27.9% chance of winning the division, a 43.7% chance of winning the Wild Card, and a 71.6% overall chance of making the postseason. As for the Yankees…well let’s just say they have a 3.9% overall chance of making the playoffs.

Are the Sox better without Manny Ramirez?

Winners of six of their last ten games, the Red Sox actually lost ground on the red-hot Rays. But, they are playing better, thanks to huge contributions from Kevin Youkilis. Youk is 6-19 (.316) in his last week of play, including 2 HRs and 5 RBI. He’s been even better since switching to the cleanup spot.

In 20 games as the cleanup hitter (most of the time after Manny Ramirez was traded), Youkilis is batting .333 with 5 HR, 18 RBI, 7 doubles, and 8 walks. He’s been excellent in protecting David Ortiz as Papi’s numbers slowly rise.

Perhaps the most important stat since Manny was traded is their record: 12-6.

How do the Rays keep winning?

How do they do it? Well, they can thank their starting pitching for that one. Despite losing Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford to injury, the Rays have gone 7-3 in their last ten games to build a 4.5 game lead in the AL East.

Since beating Texas 7-0 last Friday, the Rays’ pitching staff  (4-2 in that stretch) has allowed only 18 runs (3 per game). They have been so effective all year at going deep into games. One through five, their starting rotation is very solid, led by the Big 3 of Scott Kazmir (9-6, 3.21 ERA), James Shields (11-7, 3.68), and Matt Garza (10-7, 3.71 ERA).

But…don’t forget No. 5 starter Andy Sonnanstine, who leads TB with a 13-6 record and also has a decent 4.36 ERA.

Should I remove the Yankees from this discussion?

My, have they fallen on hard times lately. In their last 10 games, they’re 4-6 (which isn’t bad, but if you’re trying to catch up, it’s terrible) and are now 10.5 games behind the Rays. In Thursday’s game, they really looked like a defeated team, falling to the Blue Jays 14-3.

Eventually, I will be removing the Yanks if the Jays keep playing this well. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the Yankees could finish this season in fourth place, as the Jays are only one game behind the Yankees and 11.5 overall back in the division race. With many divisional games coming up for all AL East teams, things could get interesting quickly.

Wild Card Chase

As far as the Wild Card goes, the Red Sox and Twins are tied and lead the Yankees by 6 games and Toronto by 7 games. This also looks to be a two-horse race the rest of the way, and my money’s on the Red Sox to take at least the Wild Card.

The Twins are a nice story and have played extremely well considering their talent level, but will a rotation that features Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, and Glen Perkins be able to compete with the Red Sox and AL Central-leading White Sox for the rest of the season?

How will the season end for the TB Rays?

  • Win the AL East, then lose (40%, 6 Votes)
  • Win in the World Series (13%, 2 Votes)
  • Win in the ALCS, then lose (13%, 2 Votes)
  • Win in the ALDS, then lose (13%, 2 Votes)
  • Win the Wild Card, then lose (13%, 2 Votes)
  • Miss the Playoffs, then golf (8%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 15

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About KC Downey - @kc_downey

KC is the "head coach" of the Sports of Boston, LLC blog network. Follow him on Twitter: @kc_downey

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