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Tampa Bay Rays are heading straight to the playoffs, despite Blake Snell injury

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The Tampa Bay Rays have somehow held on to a place in the American League playoff picture. Since June, the American League has been completely taken over by the Yankees, who turned an eight-game deficit into an equally big lead of their own. That made the St. Petersburg-based franchise look like a club that “supposedly” can’t maintain the same level over the course of the whole season. But that’s not correct at all.

The Rays remaining in the wildcard hunt might be one of the stories of the season so far. Just look at who they are between in the wildcard standings – teams like the Indians, the Athletics and the Rangers. Two of those teams are among the hottest in all of baseball.

But Tampa Bay has been able to remain alive and arguably as good as both Cleveland and Oakland. And their sweep of the Red Sox not only showed all their potential both offensively and pitching-wise. Boston had been in a great form, having scored the most runs in the league since the All-Star break, and was shortening the gap, and even was tied for the second wildcard after taking three of four against the Yankees at Fenway.

The news of Blake Snell’s injury which will keep him sidelined until September unfortunately made the headlines instead as the loss of last year’s AL Cy Young winner could prove to be a huge blow to a team without a traditional rotation. But you bet the Rays will keep on winning without him.

Because the Rays now have another AL Cy Young candidate in former Astros starter Charlie Morton, who is second in the American League in Earned Run Average with 2.78. He has won about half of his 23 starts and is in top 10 in opponent average and strikeouts. And even more interesting is when he doesn’t start.


As I already said, the Rays don’t really have a rotation. Since starters Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell won’t be available, the official depth chart lists only two pitchers as starters – Morton and two-way phenomenon Brendan McKay. That same chart doesn’t have McKay anywhere on the field so the Rays might keep him pitcher-only – an expected decision considering the lack of starting pitching.

However, also look out for Yonny Chirinos who might be listed in the bullpen but has started 17 of 23 appearances and is the only qualified pitcher except Morton.

What’s made the difference has been that their bullpen games have been more effective than every other team. If anyone can be considered that game-changer in the bullpen it may be Ryan Yarbrough, who, alongside now-former Ray Ryne Stanek, almost combined for the first-ever combined perfect game against the Orioles three weeks ago.

And with the help of unconventional pitching usage, the Rays have the lowest team ERA in the AL. And the next step was the acquisitions of Eric Sogard from the Blue Jays and Jesus Aguilar from the Brewers, who have both hit over .300 since joining the club. Sogard even capped his fast start to life in Florida with a two-homer game against the Marlins on Saturday.

There’s every reason to believe that the Rays will make the playoffs despite stiff competition. Not only has Tampa won six in a row, but both the Brewers and the A’s who used bullpen games a lot last year made the playoffs in 2018. But behind the support of the ace Charlie Morton, this staff looks poised for success even in October. Let alone the fact that the team might get Snell back for the closing acts of its playoff battle, and might be available in October if the Rays get there.


The Rays’ current playoff odds are 75.2%. They have not lost more than five straight games – a streak that ended on July 20th. Meanwhile, they’ve won six games in a row on two different occasions.

Despite gradually losing ground in the wildcard race, the Rays have been considerably consistent the whole season. Until the end of August they have an easy schedule which they are obligated to use to solidify their place in the ALWC, before series against the Astros and a head-to-head showdown with playoff rival Cleveland Indians which will show if the Rays are capable on the offensive side against two of the most dominant rotations in Major League Baseball.

In September the Rays will also face the likes of the Dodgers, the Yankees and the Red Sox. Their schedule isn’t anything they can’t go through and if they continue being consistent as they’ve already been this year, not only are they ready for postseason baseball but should be engaged in long playoff series. Although losing pitchers like Stanek and Kolarek isn’t going to help your case in October, Blake Snell in 2018 form might be able to make up for it.

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