Winning the first play of the month always feels just a little bit better and that’s what happened on Sunday when the A’s handled their business at home against the Mariners. We cashed an affordable moneyline and started the month right.
For what it’s worth, I like three teams tonight and Oakland is one of them. The A’s are home underdogs, which simply should not happen, against JA Happ and the Yankees. I like the Cardinals, too, to get their first win in September as slight ‘dogs in DC with a starting pitcher advantage.
But this write-up will be dedicated to the team that I’ve backed more than any other, aside from Oakland. That’s the Tampa Bay Rays.
Tampa Bay wasn’t on my radar before the season, or even in April. I just assumed the Rays were going to suck because of all of the established Major Leaguers they dumped in the winter and because I didn’t take the time to read up on the guys who would be on the field.
It wasn’t until early May when I realized this team was legit. Back when I still believed the Yankees would win the AL East and win it easily, I thought there was a decent chance the Red Sox would finish closer to the Rays than New York. That turned out to be incorrect, but for reasons more to do with Boston and New York than Tampa Bay.
The Rays are on a pace to win over ninety games. They have won three in a row, twelve out of their last fourteen and still have two more games in Toronto, including tonight.
One might say the Blue Jays are limping to the finish line but I’m not sure they’re even determined to get there. As ridiculous as it was, even at the time, Toronto was once better than 10-to-1 to win the AL East. Now, the Rays are closer to catching the Yankees than the Blue Jays are to catching the Rays. If there was ever a division with five teams, each making up their own tier, it’s the AL East. Every team is at least 8.5 games ahead of the one directly behind it.
Toronto has the home field but I’m not sure it matters much, if at all. Tampa Bay looks determined to win as many ball games as it can before the season is out, which is really the best way to spend September, even when there will be no October.
Ryne Stanek has pitched on consecutive days this season (he even once threw an inning three days in a row) but he has never opened back-to-back games, until tonight. He threw a scoreless first last night and Kevin Cash will run him out there again in the middle game of the three-game set.
Yonny Chirinos backed him up with seven one-run innings last night. Tonight, it will likely be Jalen Beeks‘ turn. Beeks has been pitching the middle innings every fifth day, which has him set to go tonight. He’s been great ever since he got through the first rough outing with the Rays. In August, he threw over twenty-seven innings and gave up just eight runs.
Between he and the rest of the surplus of arms just waiting to get a turn in the Rays’ unconventional rotation, the position players playing hard and Toronto sleep-walking to the finish, I’m more than willing to pay -120 to back the Rays tonight.
Play: Tampa Bay -120