|Connelly’s Top Ten: Dog Pound to Get Pounded||Red Sox Sign Reliever Edward Mujica||Daniel Bard Non-Tendered by Theo Epstein, Cubs||State of the Celtics: Atlantic Division in Sights|
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.
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 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.
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.
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?
Total Voters: 15