Well, the 2020 MLB Playoffs are upon us. As baseball finally moves into it’s Bubble phase, 16 teams are squaring off to determine this year’s World Series champion. While it’s hard to think that there won’t be an asterisk next to the 2020 title, a champion will be crowned.
The MLB is a fickle beast. Star-driven and tank-friendly, teams in the dumpster one year can be the king of the mountain the next. With that, stakes are high for almost every team as they make their playoff run, with sought-after stars often heading for greener pastures if they feel their squad can’t get over the hump.
We’re looking at each of the MLB playoff contenders and diving into what’s at stake for each team, the odds of making a deep run, and key storylines to watch.
Let’s hit the Tampa Bay Rays, and their chances at securing a ring in 2020.
Expectations: ALCS Appearance
Look, I know this is a lofty, lofty goal for the Rays, but this team is so incredibly well-built and deep, that I think they can make a deep run into the playoffs. They’ve made mistakes in the postseason, most recently getting sent home by the Astros in the ALDS last year, but this team has truly blossomed into a contender. I mean, they’re the best team in the American League, of course they’re contenders.
What’s Working for Them: Divisional Play
I know it seems cheap to say “they play in a weak division, so that’s why they’re good,” but I’m going to say it because it’s true. However, the Rays took advantage of a weakened AL East, and absolutely scorched everyone.
The Rays have a collective 27-13 record against their AL East division-mates, absolutely walloping the division, taking the AL East crown for the first time in a decade.
The Rays are 8-2 against the Yankees this year, who might end up as the only other AL East to make it to the playoffs. That’s good, especially considering that the Yankees are currently sitting as the 5th-seed.
Currently, if the standings hold, the Rays path to the ALCS might be through the Toronto/Buffalo Blue Jays and the Yankees. That’s good news for Tampa Bay.
What Might Hold Them Back: Lack of September Momentum
The Rays were hotter than Hades in August, busting out a 21-7 record for the month. However, after the calendar turned over, things got a little bit bumpy. In the final month of the season, the Rays currently sit at 12-9, with some questionable loses down the stretch.
This is not the time to be letting off the gas, as the playoffs start next week. If the Rays struggle to solidify their play in the coming days, they might find themselves out of rhythm, and out of sync.
Storyline to Watch
The Rays are the top dog in the American League, which makes them the team to beat. With all eyes on them, it’ll be interesting to see how they manage those expectations. Being the #1-seed is not the same as being a Wildcard winner. It has different weight. It’ll be interesting to see if that relaxes the Rays a bit, or if it adds to the pressure.
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