More ground made up in the race for the second American League wild-card spot? Check.
Living life on the edge? Check.
Catch your breath. The Tampa Bay Rays’ winning streak is over at nine games, after a 3-2 defeat to the Boston Red Sox on Sunday at Tropicana Field. Loss No. 54 was inevitable, of course, but there was plenty to draw from in the Rays’ rally during recent weeks that made them visualize postseason possibilities once more.
We’ve heard the "September in July" chatter, and truth be told, manager Joe Maddon enjoys the challenge. It’s easy to tell. This is a chase for history, an attempt to complete a true from-the-grave-to-the-heavens tale. He has even invented a new month to capture the urgency, since the current 12 don’t do the sprint justice.
"It’s Octember already," he said Sunday. "You can’t wait until September. We’re going with a new month. It’s called Octember. And you have to play the rest of this season like there’s no mulligans, every game counts."
Certainly each one does, and with the non-waiver trade deadline falling at 4 p.m. Thursday, the mantra takes on true meaning. Perhaps futures for players like left-hander David Price and utility man Ben Zobrist hang in the balance with the results of the next three games against the Milwaukee Brewers at Tropicana Field. Perhaps the renewed confidence that the Rays can keep pace with contenders like the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays for the AL’s second wild-card spot does as well.
No matter the reality, the upcoming series against the National League Central leaders will hold intrigue like the others before it since the Rays began a revival.
Back from the dead? Not yet. But the Rays will try to continue their rise, their renaissance.
Here’s a look at the upcoming Rays-Brewers series …
SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS
Carlos Gomez (Brewers): He hit .321 (9 for 28) with one home run and four RBI in seven games from July 21-27. He had four games with two hits each in the span. He has hit .303 with 15 home runs and 53 RBI this season.
Ben Zobrist (Rays): He hit .333 (6 for 18) with one home run and two RBI in five games from July 22-27. He produced a three-game hitting streak from July 25-27, which included going 4 for 4 with one RBI in a victory over the Red Sox on July 25. He has hit .268 with eight home runs and 29 RBI this season.
Aramis Ramirez (Brewers): He hit .083 (2 for 24) with three strikeouts in seven games from July 21-27. He was held without a hit in four consecutive games from July 24-27. He has hit .271 with 12 home runs and 47 RBI this season.
Jose Molina (Rays): He hit .182 (2 for 11) with seven strikeouts in four games from July 22-26. He went hitless twice in the span. He has hit .195 with eight RBI this season.
7: Number of times Price has produced 10-strikeout games with zero walks over the past three seasons, the most recent occurring in the Rays’ 6-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Friday at Tropicana Field. He’s tied with Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee for the most in the category.
0: Career scoreless starts for right-hander Jeremy Hellickson against the Red Sox (excluding the postseason), before he allowed no runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings during the Rays’ 3-0 victory over the Red Sox on Saturday at Tropicana Field. He threw 96 pitches in the outing, surpassing the 84 he tossed in his season debut against the Kansas City Royals on July 8.
7: Number of series, out of their last eight, that the Rays have won, the latest coming after taking two of three games against the Red Sox. The lone series defeat in the span, which began June 27, was losing two of three games against the Royals from July 7-9.
"It definitely felt good. He’s a tough out, always." — Price, when talking about striking out David Ortiz in the Rays’ victory Friday. Price struck out 10 and allowed three runs and eight hits in eight innings.
"It was really nice to get a win, but at the end of the day, it’s a team win. Right now that’s what we’re after. We went through a lot in the first two months, and we’re trying to erase all those losses and turn them into wins." — Reliever Grant Balfour, after the Rays’ victory Saturday. He improved to 1-3 with a 5.17 ERA in 40 appearances this season.
"I don’t know what makes him think that he can showboat the way he does, and then nobody retaliates." — Right-hander Chris Archer, after the Rays’ loss Sunday. He was critical of Ortiz’s post-swing actions after a three-run home run in the top of the third inning.