Critical week ahead for the Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays are about to embark and what could be considered the most important week of the baseball season.

With the Rays battling the Oakland A’s and the Cleveland Indians for one of two wild card spots, the series in Houston and at home this weekend against Cleveland could a long to determining the Rays wildcard chances.

The Rays have been one of those surprise teams all year as they win games and series you think they will not win, and then lose games against some of the worst teams in baseball.

The past three series the Rays played against the White Sox, Tigers, and Orioles are a perfect example. These three teams have a combined 142-247 record, a .365 win percentage and the best the Rays could do was go 5-5 against these teams.

Now the competition gets ramped with the Astros and Indians on the horizon, and tonight in Houston, the Rays will send former Astro Charlie Morton to the mound to face his former teammates.

Morton has been the Rays best pitcher this season posting a 13-5 record with a 2.85 ERA.

Morton has already pitched against his former team once this season as the Astros opened the season at Tropicana Field. Morton and the Rays beat the Astros 4-2 giving Morton his first win of the season.

Former Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander will go for the Astros tonight. He started the opening game of the season against the Rays back on March 28 as he allowed just four hits and got the win in the 5-1 Astro win.

This three game series with the Astros, the Rays will see some of the best starting pitching that they have seen all season with Verlander going tonight, Gerrit Cole tomorrow night, and newly acquired Zack Greinke on Thursday afternoon.

After Morton tonight, the Rays will go with Ryan Yarbrough on Wednesday night verses Cole, and will use an opener on Thursday.

The Rays need good outings from Morton and Yarbrough. It has been proven that no lead is safe when you send out Jalen Beeks and Austin Pruitt.

With Jose Alvarado on the DL, Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell cannot get back soon enough.

Brenden Mckay should be back this weekend from his ten day stint at Durham and that should take some of the pressure off Beeks and Pruitt.

Although the offense has been struggling, if the Rays can get quality outings from the likes of Morton, Yarbrough, Beeks, Pruitt, and Trevor Richards until Glasnow and Snell return, the Rays will come out of the week in good shape.

If the offense continues to be lukewarm and the pitching is inconsistent, Rays fans may look back at this week as the point the season turned and knocked the Rays out of contention for a wildcard spot.