Thursday night at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Tampa Bay Rays outlasted the Minnesota Twins in a 10 inning slugfest. While winning is always the idea, sometimes a victory can get lost in the overwhelming thought of a 162 game season. However, these types of wins may prove critical to the Rays having any hope of a successful season.
Tampa Bay has always faced the arduous prospects of playing in the tough American League East Division. 2018 may prove to be even more ominous. One of the Rays bitter rivals, the New York Yankees, nearly made to the World Series last season in what was supposed to be a youth movement, rebuilding year.
As the first month of the season plays out the string, New York is playing .500 baseball, but still owns a three game advantage of Tampa Bay. Sure, not much to worry about at this juncture, but another East rival has raised eyebrows with an historic start to their season.
The Boston Red Sox have been beaten only twice during the first month, and their 17 wins have them a full 11 games ahead of Tampa in the early standings. So, when Denard Span legged out an infield base hit to score the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning, it may have been more than a simple extra-inning victory.
The victory also kept the Rays from falling into an unenviable tie for last place in the division with the Baltimore Orioles. Certainly, one month a season does not make, but with the firepower in New York and the obvious talent in Boston, falling behind by double digit games before Memorial Day, could relegate the Rays to quickly shift into “next season mode”.
Span’s hustling effort seemed to lift the spirits in the Ray’s dugout, at least for one night. Span game over from the San Francisco Giants as part of a trade that sent longtime Tampa fan-favorite third baseman Evan Longoria to the west coast. This win was also encouraging from the aspect that staff ace Chris Archer seemed to shake off early season troubles, finally pitching like he’s capable.
Extra-inning walk-off victories are great for team morale. However, with the way things are shaping up in the American League East for the Tampa Bay Rays, they may quickly prove season-saviors. With the surplus of talent in their own division, every victory by the Rays should be savored.