As the end of August draws near, the mad dash that is MLB divisional races officially kicks into high gear.
With dozens of teams still with a chance to make the post season but less than a dozen probable contenders, every single game for teams with legitimate playoff hopes is a must win situation. And that is the case for the Tampa Bay Rays as they take on the LA Angles in Anaheim this Wednesday.
The Rays (77-48) have been inconsistent over the past few years, reaching the World Series baseball lines one year and then falling off the radar last year. But this year’s team looks like the real deal as they have not only the best record in the hyper-competitive AL East (tied with the Yankees), but the entire MLB.
The team’s pitching has been outstanding and the Rays have been able to get hits when needed. The starting rotation and the bullpen have both been amongst the best in the baseball odds competition and it could just carry Tampa to another World Series title. But first this team must win the division or finish good enough in the standings to win the AL Wild Card -either of these outcomes seems highly likely.
And in order to do this they’ll need to win Wednesday’s matchup with at the LA Angels, a team that has fallen from baseball odds grace this season after owning the AL West for nearly a decade. With a record of 62-64, the Angels have not only fallen below .500 for the first time in years, but also fallen to third place in the division and the playoffs are now impossible.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t put up a fight at home against the Rays. Dan Haren (8-12, 4.55 ERA), the Angels’ starter, is just 1-4 since joining the club in the AL and will most likely struggle to get a win in this matchup as well. The Rays will trot out Jeff Niemann to the mound, a pitcher that’s been almost unbeatable this year with a 10-3 record and 3.12 ERA.
The only wild card in this matchup is the fact that Niemann will be returning from a 15-day stint on the IR and could be rusty. Nonetheless, expect the Rays to win.