The Rays showed Friday why they're still in playoff contention despite being three games under .500. They're 5½ games behind the second wild card, which isn't that far back with 47 games remaining. However, they must jump over four other teams to get there, which is obviously possible, though difficult.
The Rays are trying to become just the fourth team in major-league history to get to .500 after being 18 games under. The other three: the 1899 Louisville Colonels, the 2004 Devil Rays (who actually got over .500, going from 10-28 to 40-38, a 30-10 run, before finishing 70-91) and the 2006 Marlins -- the one managerial year for Joe Girardi there.
The Cubs' best run from under .500 to over was in 1968, when they came from 10 games under (35-45) to finish 84-78, a precursor to the great start of 1969 (from July 6, 1968 through July 5, 1969, the Cubs went 100-62).
Could this year's Cubs make a run like that? It's extremely unlikely; they'd have to go 32-16 over their remaining 48 games to finish at .500. I'd settle for 24-24; that would avoid 90 losses for the first time in four years.
Coghlan LF, Baez 2B, Rizzo 1B, Castro SS, Valbuena 3B, Alcantara CF, Ruggiano RF, Castillo C, Jackson P
Jennings CF, Zobrist 2B, Loney 1B, Longoria 3B, Joyce LF, Escobar SS, Molina C, Odorizzi P, Kiermaier RF
Once again, the Rays go with the pitcher batting eighth. Also, yes, Bengie and Yadier's brother Jose Molina is still around. He was a Cub in 1999. Yes, really.
Today's Starting Pitchers
I said I'd write again about Edwin Jackson when he had a good outing. Last Sunday's was pretty good -- two earned runs and no walks in six innings. Perhaps he can do this again. On the other hand, Joe Maddon is a smart manager who managed Jackson for three years (2006-08). He surely knows Jackson's tendencies well. Current Rays are 16-for-74 (.216) against Jackson with one home run (Evan Longoria).
Jake Odorizzi came to the Rays in the James Shields/Wil Myers deal. He is having a decent, not great, season in his first full year in the big leagues at age 24. He's faced only two Cubs before (Chris Coghlan and Justin Ruggiano), so that's no help. What will happen? Who knows? Doom, though, is likely not in the cards.
Today's game is on WGN.
Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.
Baseball-reference.com game preview
Please visit our SB Nation Rays site DRays Bay.
For 2014, we are going to have the same game-thread routine as 2013. Here's how it works.
You'll find the game preview -- like this one -- posting as the first link in the StoryStream™, which will then contain all the overflow threads and the recap. The recap will also be on the front page as a separate post; once I post a game recap, the stream for each game will be retitled "Cubs vs. (Team) (Day of Week) Game Threads" so you can go back and find every thread related to that particular game.
In general, game previews will post two hours before game time. Exception: for day games after night games, that will usually be 90 minutes.
You will also be able to find the First Pitch Thread and all the overflow threads in the box marked "Chicago Cubs Game Threads" at the bottom of the front page (you can also find them in this section link). They will also appear in this StoryStream™. As I've done for each regular-season game for several years now, we'll have the First Pitch thread at five minutes before game time (moved up from actual game time per your requests), then an overflow one hour, two hours and 2:45 after game time.
Discuss amongst yourselves.