08/30/11 1:00 PM ET
Rays have tough road to playoffs
Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers loom on schedule
By Mitch Williams / MLB.com
The good thing about the Rays' situation is that 13 of those 30 games are against the Red Sox and Yankees, which means they can control their own destiny to a point.
Tampa Bay's starting pitching is a little better than New York's, especially considering the year James Shields is putting together and the fact David Price -- over his last three starts -- has looked like the guy I picked to win the AL Cy Young Award this year.
The big obstacle the Rays have to overcome is the fact that the AL East typically does not come back to the pack. They will have to run down the Red Sox and Yankees from behind.
The one thing manager Joe Maddon has taught his team is to believe there is nothing it can't overcome. The Rays lost their entire bullpen over the winter and have not let that affect them. What Maddon has is a group of guys who don't go quietly into the night. They play in the toughest division in baseball, and they still have proven they can play with the massive payrolls of the Yankees and Red Sox.
That said, and with all the admiration I have for this team because it doesn't roll over and die (even when it looks like it should), I don't think the Rays can make up the 7 1/2 games they need to get that Wild Card spot.
Even considering the Yankees' starting pitching is suspect beyond CC Sabathia, their potent offense and bullpen will keep the Rays out of the playoffs. That and the fact that besides the 13 remaining games with the Red Sox and Yankees, they also have six against the Rangers.
What the Rays have done since 2008 has been absolutely amazing. But I believe this is the year that they just don't quite have enough for another storybook ending. It's been said that pitching wins championships, and I am a firm believer in that. But what Boston and New York have the ability to do offensively can overcome so-so pitching.
For all the Rays fans out there, you should be proud of the product that they have assembled in St. Petersburg. You can always count on 100-percent effort out of the players who put on that uniform every night, no matter how dire the circumstances.
Mitch Williams is an analyst for MLB Network. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.