The Tampa Bay Rays are one of two American League East clubs nipping at the heels of the New York Yankees. A look at the remainder of the Tampa Bay schedule gives Yankees rooters concern, but there is also some hope. While the Rays play a couple of franchises that they have had their way with in 2012, there are a couple of teams slated that may give them some problems.
Starting on Aug. 30, Tampa Bay plays a four-game series versus a team they have throttled all season. I expect nothing much to change in that regard when the Rays play the Toronto Blue Jays, a club that has lost nine of its 11 contests against the Rays this campaign. Tampa pitching should keep the Blue Jays batters in check. The Rays have outscored Toronto by a 64-36 count so far.
Tampa Bay's recent set with the Texas Rangers is not the last time they will battle with this top team; the Rays take on the Rangers in Florida during a three-game weekend series beginning Sept. 7. I know that this series is going to be problematic for the Rays, since it follows a vital three-game battle against the Yankees. This home stand, in my opinion, will allow the Rays to know if they are capable of winning the division or if they should lower their sights and concentrate on getting one of the two wild card spots.
If a majority of the six games with the Yanks and Rangers go Tampa Bay's way, the next road trip will be equally as important to the team. It involves a journey to Baltimore to play the Orioles, a club also in the division/wild-card hunt. Series like this can only help the Yankees, as at least one of the teams will either fall behind in the chase or fail to gain ground if the Yankees falter. I doubt either team will sweep the other, as they have split 12 games in 2012 so far; Baltimore has scored 10 more runs than Tampa Bay has managed in these tilts. Three games in Maryland are followed by three more in the Bronx. This is the last time the two clubs meet in the regular season.
Tampa Bay still has six games left with the Boston Red Sox. I think this works in the Yankees' favor, because Boston has come out the victor in seven of 12 2012 meetings. Tampa Bay hosts Boston for four games starting Monday, Sept. 17. Boston returns the favor for two games in Fenway Park on Sept. 25 and 26. In between, Tampa Bay has three more home games against Toronto.
What I think is an ace-in-the-hole for New York is the fact that Tampa Bay must still play the Chicago White Sox four more times, beginning on Sept. 27. This is a good thing, I feel, because Chicago swept the Rays in Tampa at the end of May, plus the Sox are certain to be in a dogfight of their own for a playoff spot. Tampa Bay heads back home for three games with Baltimore to end the regular season, another series that most likely will be helpful to the New York playoff cause.
I have been a fan of the New York Yankees since the middle of the 1960s.