What a long strange trip this has been to quote Jerry Garcia.
When the season began, not many Rays fans thought that on the last weekend of the season, the Rays would have themselves in a position to punch their ticket to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
The Rays have a two game lead on Cleveland for the the final wild card spot and a win in Toronto this weekend or a loss by Cleveland puts the Rays in the playoffs.
With Oakland winning their game last night, the A’s have a one game lead on the Rays for the top spot to host the wild card game. if the standings stay as they are, the Rays would travel to Oakland to Play the A’s on October 2nd.
When the season began, no one thought that Austin Meadows would become the kind of hitter he has become this season. Leading the Rays in home runs with 32 and runs batted in with 88. Meadows also missed time with a sprained thumb and when he returned it took him awhile to get his swing back.
If healthy the entire season, Meadows could have approached 40 homers and driven in over 100 runs.
Tyler Glasnow was the Rays best pitcher the first six weeks of the season as he went 6-1 with a 1.85 ERA before he had some forearm tightness which caused him to miss almost four months of the season. Glasnow is working his way back as an opener and is pitching just as well or better then he did before the injury.
Brandon Lowe was one of the big surprises for the Rays the first half of the season. Lowe was selected to the all-star game put suffered a bruised shin right before the game and was not able to play.
Lowe suffered an additional injury and a couple of setbacks during his rehab at Durham and just this month was able to start playing on a regular basis for the Rays.
Before his injury mid-season, Lowe was on pace to win the American League rookie of the year award As he had 17 homers and 47 runs batted in at the break.
The Rays struggled with finding a closer until the second half of the season. Jose Alvarado worked his way into the closers role and had a fantastic April, but imploded in May.
Diego Castillo was next man up and he did not excel in that role either. Castillo has been much better though the month of September being able to pitch just one or two innings in relief.
Enter Emilio Pagan. Pagan was acquired from Oakland in a three team trade involving the Rays, Texas, and Oakland during the off season.
Pagan a 28 year old right hander has a 4-2 record with a 2.35 ERA with 20 saves. Pagan has 13 walks while striking out 95 this season.
Pagan has been the unsung hero of this Rays team and gets my vote for team MVP.
Outfielder Austin Meadows has carried this team at times this season offensively. Pitcher Charlie Morton has been the best pitcher this season. Morton pitched shut out baseball his last two starts and finished the season 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA and 240 strikeouts.
But the Rays would not be in the position they are in without the pitching of Emilio Pagan. A closer is hard to find as the Rays found out earlier this season.
How many games did you watch and become extremely frustrated as you saw Alvarado and Castillo implode night after night?
Pagan settled into that role at mid-season and brought some stability to the closers role. When Pagan is summoned you have a sense that the Rays have the game in the bag.
And that’s why Emilio Pagan is my MVP for the Tampa Bay Rays this season.