With a three game set at Tropicana Field, the Rays have the opportunity to deal a severe blow to the Red Sox this weekend. But with only 35 games remaining, let's take a quick look beyond at the Tampa Bay Rays remaining schedule:
3 vs. Boston Red Sox
3 vs. Toronto Blue Jays
3 at Baltimore Orioles
3 at Boston Red Sox
3 at Toronto Blue Jays
3 vs New York Yankees
3 vs LA Angels
4 at New York Yankees
3 vs Seattle Mariners
3 vs Baltimore Orioles
4 at Kansas City Royals
END REGULAR SEASON
Twenty-five games remain against teams in the American League East, which leaves ten games against clubs from outside the division:
Three home games are scheduled against the LA Angels of Anaheim, who are 2 games under .500. During the 2010 season, the Rays have won 4 of 6 against the team from two cities.
The Seattle Mariners come to St. Petersburg for a three game set. They possess a slightly better record than the Baltimore Orioles, both of which are all but officially eliminated from contention for a Wild Card. The Rays have taken five of the six games played against Seattle thus far.
The regular season ends with a four game road trip to Kansas City. The Royals have won less than 43 percent this year, and are even worse at home. But the Rays have thus far split the season searies with them at 2 games apiece.
All three of those clubs are under .500, and the Rays have taken 11 of 16 from them. They should be able to grab at least six of the final ten.
The remaining games against the American League East will prove to be a bit more difficult.
Six games remain against the Baltimore Orioles, who have only won 35.2 percent of their games. The Rays have taken 9 of 12 from the hapless Orioles thus far in 2010.
Six games remain between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Rays. So far, the division rivals have split the series at 6 apiece, and Toronto has won 52 percent of their games.
The Rays have six games against the Boston Red Sox over the next twelve games. Boston's winning percentage is .570, and your Rays have won 8 of 12 thus far this year.
The team who the Rays have been battling with all year for the division lead are the New York Yankees. The two clubs are tied for the best record in baseball, winning more than 61 percent. So far, the Rays have taken 6 of 11 in the series, and there are seven games remaining, four of those up there in New York.
With the exception of Toronto, you will notice the Rays have a winning record against each of their division rivals. But this is the stretch run.
Baltimore and Toronto have no real shot at making the playoffs, so it won't be surprising to see some of those players take it easy over the next month. Still, with half of the games on the road, the St. Pete Nine can take nothing for granted. We would hope they can win nine of twelve.
The Red Sox and Yankees are a different story altogether. Neither are really used to seeing a third team in the race for the AL East, and will both likely be doing all they can to beat the interlopers.
Luckily for the Rays, the Red Sox are pretty beat up. Even so, they have really been doing quite a job of keeping pace through all the injuries.
If the Rays can win 2 of three this weekend at home, the Sox may get a bit discouraged, and fade a bit. But if the Rays can find a way to take all three, the city of Boston will all but throw in the towel.
If the Sox happen to win the series, expect them to remain focused. All is not lost for the Rays, though, as the Sox end the regular season playing six of nine against the Yankees.
Which brings us to the Evil Empire.
After already playing 125+ games, it only makes sense to have more games remaining against the Yankees than any other team. The question is: Does it really matter?
Let's say the Rays do what they are supposed to do with those teams with losing records, and win 16 of them. For giggles, we'll say the Rays only take three from the Sox. Two wins against those Yankees gives the Rays 99 for the season, likely good enough to win the Wild Card at least.
Of course, we want the Rays to win the division, but if our team takes care of the teams they should beat, we can look forward to some playoff action.