Things have changed this year, with Boston finishing the season with over 90 losses for the first time since 1966. The Rays are out of the race, but Baltimore has clinched a postseason berth, hoping to avoid the one game playoff by winning the division. It will be tough as the Rays will be playing very hard, but the Red Sox, unfortunately, will not be for the Yankees. The Orioles experienced it already this past weekend, as the Red Sox have clearly just quit. In spite of Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka pitching the last games for Boston, they refused to put a professional lineup out for yesterday's game and its unlikely they will for the next two games. Odds are the Rays can take a game from the Orioles because they have what the Red Sox lack, pride.
It has been a great run for the Tampa Bay Rays, who to no surprise have enjoyed success since dumping the word "Devil" from their name after the 2007 season. Manager Joe Maddon has led the team to five straight winning seasons, starting with the improbable World Series appearance in 2008. That season, they finished 97-65. In 2009, they finished 84-78, but bounced back by winning the AL East in 2010 with a 96-66 record. 2011 saw them go 91-71 and they need one win in the last two to finish with 90 wins again. Five straight winning seasons with 90 wins in 4 out the 5 is a strong sign that the Rays have become a top franchise. And one who fought through a series of injuries including Evan Longoria, Jeff Niemann and their closer Kyle Farnsworth. Of course, the loss of Farnsworth allowed them to rediscover Fernando Rodney, with his 47 saves and his 0.60 ERA is reminiscent of Dennis Eckersley's 1990 season.
It is usually simple to talk about teams who usually get it done but don't in a particular year. Teams such as Philadelphia, Arizona and Milwaukee all won their respective divisions last seasons, with St Louis favorited to return as a Wild Card winner. With Texas, New York and Detroit all heading back to the postseason, only Tampa exists as a 2011 playoff team missing out this year. But Tampa Bay is not a disappointment, they just missed out. Winning 10 out of their last 11 shows they are a top team. They just fell a little short this year.