The Tampa Bay Rays got off to a hot start this year winning their first 13 straight games and finishing April with a 23-6 record, and then they wrapped up May with a 40-18 and held a solid lead in the American League East. Since then, the Rays have gone 29-29, have lost first place in the East to the Baltimore Orioles, who lead the division by two games, and now reports have come out that they have lost their ace Shane McClanahan for the rest of the season. McClanahan was an American League Cy Young candidate and even maybe the favorite going 11-2 in 21 starts with a 3.29 ERA, a 3.93 FIP, a 1.18 WHIP, a 3.2 BB/9, and a 9.5 K/9; when he started, the Rays were 15-6. The Rays currently hold a six-game lead over the first team out of the playoff spot with 46 games remaining in the season. Hence, the question becomes, does the Rays losing McClanahan for the season open the door for the Rays to miss the playoffs and for teams like the Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees, or Boston Red Sox to make it into the postseason?
The Case for the Seattle Mariners
The Mariners have been one of the hottest teams in baseball and currently sit two games out of the final playoff spot, which the Toronto Blue Jays hold, and they trail the Rays by six games. The Mariners have won seven straight games and 12 of their last 15; they also have won six consecutive series and are 16-8 since the All-Star Break. The Mariners have four games against the Rays coming up in September, and at worst, the Mariners need to split the series to claim the tiebreaker over the Rays; by then, they could be closing in on Tampa Bay in the playoff race. The Mariners series the rest of August may go a long way in getting them into a playoff spot as they have a series with the Baltimore Orioles this weekend before they start a road trip heading to Kansas City, Houston, and Chicago before ending the month back at home against two teams in last place in their division in the Royals and A’s.
The Case for the New York Yankees
The Yankees have been struggling as of late, having gone 4-5 in their first nine games in August, and since the All-Star Break, they are 10-14; they currently trail the Toronto Blue Jays by 5.5 games for the final playoff spot and trail the Rays by 9.5 games. The Yankees still have three games against the Rays coming up at the end of this month; this season, they are 4-6 against the Rays, and in that series, they need a sweep to claim the tiebreakers over Tampa Bay. The Yankees’ upcoming schedule may play against them as they face the Miami Marlins this weekend, then have a rough road next week with three against the Atlanta Braves and then three against the Boston Red Sox, but they will have a chance to make things interesting in that Red Sox series and then after Boston leaves town the lowly Washington Nationals come to town.
The Case for the Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox were on fire in July, going 15-8, and it saw them get right back into the playoff race. However, August has been a different story for them as they have gone 3-5 in their first eight games this month and have also gone 4-8 over their last 12 games; they currently trail the Toronto Blue Jays by five games and are nine games behind the Rays in the American League Wild Card chase. The Red Sox can’t win the season series over the Rays as they have gone 1-7 against them this season, but they have five games left against them, with three in Tampa Bay to begin September and then two at Boston at the end of September. Although the Red Sox can’t take the season series if they can take three or four of those games against the Rays, they will be looking at a chance at a playoff spot. The Red Sox are currently in a stretch against some bad teams as they face the Kansas City Royals now, the Detroit Tigers this weekend, the Washington Nationals next week, and then the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium next weekend. The Red Sox could make some ground up with that schedule; they are already 2-1 against the Royals in that current series, so if they can win seven to eight games by the end of next weekend, they could be right back in the race with some tough series coming up against the Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, and then the Astros again.
The chance of catching the Rays may be too tough to do this late in the season, and they may be saved by the hot start they got off to begin the season, but it is possible, and losing McClanahan is a significant loss to the Rays rotation that has struggled since May. The team that could make things interesting is the Mariners, as they have had success against the Rays this year, but if the Red Sox can get back on track and play like they did in July, they could sneak into the playoffs, and you know you can never count out the Yankees with that power lineup. No lead is ever safe, and the postseason is all about who gets hot at the right time; if one of these three finds a way to get in and push the Rays out without McClanahan, that team could make a deep run.