I love seeing CC Sabathia hand the ball to Mariano Rivera, and winning a 1 run game on the road.
Are the Tampa Bay Rays merely the most unlucky great offense in baseball history, or does the fact that the Rays completed their third hitless game in 12 months reveal some underlying weakness?
Ben Zobrist, Evan Longori, Carlos Pena, B.J. Upton and Jason Bartlett have all been in the lineup for all three historic days. Carl Crawford played in the other two, but only pinch ran last night, was caught steal and was then replaced on defense.
My gut is to say that this is just phenomenal bad luck. This Rays team has the second best average run differential in all of baseball, and while they're only .1 of a run per game behind the Yankees, they're a wopping .3 runs per game ahead of third place Texas. It's such a large gap, that to close the gap, Texas would have to win their next 3 games 5-0 while the Rays lose 3 straight by a score of 0-5.
And even though many of those starters are having tough years by their standards, this is still a Grade A lineup.
So I can't help wondering if the Rays are a little weak mentally. In close games, do they try too hard to swing for the fences? And then I can't help wondering if there's a way for the Yankees to exploit that tendency?
I asked this after Dallas Braden's perfecto against the Rays, and I'll ask again now: at the time of Buehrle's perfect game, there was talk of it being the toughest perfect game ever thrown considering the strength of the opposing lineup; given the way things have gone for the Rays since, do we need to re-evaluate that assessment?
By the way, the Rays in a 1-4, 2-7, 4-10 rut. Which is all just another way of saying, they haven't won consecutive games in more than 2 weeks.
Thankfully for the Rays, the Red Sox are doing all they can to keep this a 3 team race, squandering a 3-0 first inning lead to one of the worst offensive clubs in the league (the Giants). The Red Sox loaded the bases in the 9th as part of a 2 out rally, but they couldn't get that tying run across the plate.
I'm fine with a 3 team race, so long as it's the Yankees in front, and the other two battling for the Wild Card spot.
Speaking of 3 team races, the AL Central doesn't get the hype of the AL East, but the Twins, Tigers and ChiSox are all seperated by 1 game in the loss column. I've bet against Ron Gardenhire before, and I've always been burned. I pick the Twins to take the Central.