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Rays Hand Rangers 7th Straight Defeat


With almost every division race already decided, the most interesting and exciting race left is the one for the American League’s two wild card spots, which couldn’t be more wide open with six teams separated by just 3.5 games.

The Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers entered Monday tied atop the wild card standings and even though they ended the day the same way, Texas’ downward trajectory continued as it fell 6-2 in Tampa, a loss that extended its untimely slide to seven games.

Texas – which was comfortably in control of its playoff destiny a short time ago – is now staring at several teams in the rear view mirror, who are just as close as they appear. The Cleveland Indians remained .5 games back after a loss to the Kansas City Royals on Monday, while the idle Baltimore Orioles climbed to within two games, and the New York Yankees and Royals to 2.5 games, respectively.

Meanwhile, Tampa’s win – which was backed by a strong eight-inning performance from Alex Cobb and a three-RBI night from rookie Wil Meyers (pictured above) – was huge in giving it a one game advantage for the top wild card spot, but it is also far from safe. The Rays are just a couple of losses away from falling out of the top two wild card spots, so they know that they need to continue to bring their “A” game to each contest, which are becoming exponentially more important as we reach the end of the MLB regular season schedule.

“At this point of the season, the position we’re in, every game is going to get bigger and bigger,” Cobb said, according to ESPN.com. “Yesterday was the biggest game of the season, today is the biggest game of the season, tomorrow will be the biggest game of the season. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that. We realize the performance we have to put together out there every night, and I think we’re up for it.”

Fortunately for Texas, it has three more shots at the Rays as the teams continue their current four-game set tomorrow, but the Rangers know they need to get our of their offensive funk soon, as the Rangers haven’t led at any point during their current skid.

“I’m not frustrated, I’m confused,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “I’m trying to figure out what we have to do to jump-start this offense.”

In today’s game two, Texas will put its wild card position in the hands of Alexi Ogando (6-4, 3.23 ERA), who is making his first start in more than a month after returning from the disabled list. However, Ogando has looked strong working his way back into the rotation, pitching six scoreless innings of relief over four appearances. And that certainly has the Rangers encouraged.

“He has been throwing the ball well,” Washington told the Rangers’ official website. “Maybe we can get three or four innings out of him. We’re going to give him a chance to do it.”

On the other side, Jeremy Hellickson (11-8, 5.04 ERA) will get the ball for Tampa. Hellickson may have lost the last time he and the Rays faced Ogando, but he has been consistently reliable for Tampa Bay and will be up against a team that is struggling at the plate.

No matter the outcome of the series between these two, the great news for the other four teams currently in the race is that they’ll have an opportunity to gain ground on at least one of them, as long as they take care of their own business. Things should be very interesting over the next week, so be sure and stay tuned to the standings.

As far as today’s game goes, I like the Rays to cover -1.5 at home against a slumping Rangers squad.

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