Last but certainly not least
A list of AL contenders wouldn’t be complete without talking about the Tampa Bay Rays, right? I look forward to the day that they’re at the bottom of the AL East, but I’m not sure it’s coming any time soon. They always seem to find a way, and despite dealing with injuries to star players pretty much for the entire season the Rays still find themselves in the top Wild Card spot with a record of 72-57, which puts them 2.0 games ahead of the Blue Jays.
I can resolve myself to the fact that the Rays are going to find a way into the postseason pretty much no matter what, but I’m really, really hoping that the Blue Jays don’t play them in the first round and make their home at the Trop. Playing on the road against the Rays has been a nightmare for the Blue Jays for many years, and it’s definitely something to be avoided, even if there’s not much of a supportive fanbase for a consistently competitive team.
More important than the butts in the seats or the stadium they’re in is the fact that the Rays are starting to get healthier, and they’re more dangerous as a result. Pete Fairbanks is back in the bullpen picture after missing most of the year, and Nick Anderson isn’t too far behind. They’re still missing some key pieces like Shan McClanahan, Wander Franco, and Brandon Lowe, but each has a chance to be healthy and factor into the postseason equation.
As far as the rest of the regular season goes, the two teams still have nine games to play against each other. The Blue Jays will host five games in four days from Sept 12-15, and Tampa will return the favour at the Trop with four more from Sept 22-25. Just like with the head to head matchups with the Orioles, the Jays have a chance to determine their own destiny, and they’re going to have to find a way to come out on top against a tough opponent.
For the Blue Jays, it’s one of those things where if they want to be the best, they’re going to have to beat the best, and that includes the pesky Tampa Bay Rays. Whether it’s a battle for a Wild Card spot at all, or even just for position and home field advantage, the Jays have their work cut out for them. Hopefully this talented young team is up to the task.