ST PETERSBURG, Fla. — The increasing likelihood of missing out on October baseball has registered for right-hander Alex Cobb. The Tampa Bay Rays entered Thursday 9.5 games back for the American League’s second wild-card spot, and the current predicament feels foreign to him.
”It doesn’t look good for us right now,” Cobb said. ”It’s never been this bad for us coming into September while I’ve been here. … This early in September, it’s never been this way. So yeah, it feels extremely weird.”
Technically, the Rays remain alive for postseason contention. But the math is unkind. Before the Thursday finale of their three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field, they held a 67-73 record, which placed them behind the Detroit Tigers, Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Blue Jays in the chase for the second wild-card spot.
Cobb, who starts against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday at Tropicana Field, has enjoyed meaningful September play throughout most of his Rays career since his debut in 2011. Tampa Bay reached the AL Division Series in the 2011 and 2013 seasons. In 2012, they went 90-72 despite missing out on the postseason.
”I kind of feel bad for the guys that are getting called up, and they don’t get to experience how much excitement September can bring,” Cobb said. ”And I guess we’ve been spoiled in that way, because a lot of guys don’t understand that. A lot of guys haven’t even made it to the playoffs in their career. It’s weird. It’s the first time I’ve dealt with it, and it’s a terrible feeling, which is good. You want guys to be upset about this and not let it happen next year.
”We started playing some good ball, but we dug ourselves too big of a hole. I’d say, honestly, this past few days, this past series, was really when it was like, ‘Man, it’s looking really, really tough right now.’ It’s just starting to sink in. It probably hasn’t sunk in entirely. I’d say within this past week it’s been starting to become more of a reality.”
Rays manager Joe Maddon, for his part, said he remains focused on each day and avoids looking at the standings. Still, he understands the Rays’ slim hopes to play past September.
”I love the fact that Alex is being honest with you,” Maddon said. ”I love that. But from my perspective, my way with dealing with all this is, focus on today. Try to win tonight’s game. … I know the math looks horrific, if there’s any math at all. But I’m just worried about winning tonight’s game.”
JENNINGS WON’T SHUT HIMSELF DOWN
Outfielder Desmond Jennings remained out of the lineup Thursday because of left knee soreness. The issue, described as a bone bruise by Jennings, has lingered throughout the past week, with Jennings not playing since a loss to the Orioles on Aug. 28 at Camden Yards.
However, Jennings said he remains hopeful that he can play at some point this season.
”That’s the plan,” he said. ”I’m not going to shut it down.”
Jennings said there’s ”nothing wrong” and that he thought he could have returned as recently as Tuesday before the pain flared up again. Maddon said Jennings’ situation remains a pain-tolerance issue.
”I’m always concerned about putting somebody out there that can cause permanent damage to themselves,” Maddon said. ”From what I’ve been told, we don’t believe that he could. So at this point, it’s just a tolerance issue.”
ARCHER’S TOUGH OUTINGS
Right-hander Chris Archer has struggled throughout his past two starts, creating questions of whether fatigue has become a factor for him. He allowed a combined 14 runs (13 earned) and 20 hits in losses to the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 29 and Blue Jays on Wednesday.