Last year I scanned through the list of teams that made the playoffs in the wild card era of MLB, and it stood to reason that a good goal for any team looking to make the playoffs is 95 wins. Outside a few exceptions 95 wins will generally get you in. Last year the Rays got to 97 and it was good enough to win the division. Boston got the wild card with 95 wins, but 90 would have been enough thanks to the Yankees slow finish to the season.
The All Star break seems as good of a time as any to break out this year's version of the road to 95 wins. Sadly the Rays are on pace for 87 wins. Good enough to be competing for a spot in September, but things will have to change in order for the Rays to make the mark. I'm well aware that we are a mere 3.5 games behind New York which that in and of itself is reason enough to go with the flow and chase the leader (who is within reach). But I like looking at the rest of the season in this fashion too. It's a good coping mechanism for when we go on road trips and lay an egg.
With 72 games left (36 home, and 36 road), the Rays must win 47 games.
My rationale was to start with the thought that they need to at least go .500 on the road, and win every home series. That wasn't enough, so I went back and chose certain home and road series where I thought an additional win wasn't out of the realm of possibilities. Obviously baseball lends itself to streaks, both positive and negative so this is really just a road map. Last year when I did this it was much less daunting. We had a .585 winning percentage on this date last year compared to .539 this year.
With tons of series against the Yankees still left on the schedule those obviously remain most important, but lets not forget about Texas. They are very much in the race this year. The Angels aren't a shoe-in to win the West, and the runner up in the West could take the wild card this year. That fact alone make the Rays sweep at the hands of the Rangers in July that much more painful, because that may be the deciding factor of our playoff fate.
After the Zorilla walk-off this past week Joe Maddon was saying in the post game show that the team hadn't had a really long homestand all year and the second half of the season was much friendlier in that regard. I didn't check his facts on that, but I do see a couple 9 game homestands and a 7 gamer to round out the season. But I also see a couple 10 game road trips and one more trip to the west coast.
Rays fans should be rejoicing. We're in the playoff hunt at the midway point of the season for a second year in a row. Of course expectations are much greater this year, but after 10 straight years of having your season end in May, it is still pretty exciting to be talking this way in July.