Rays look for title too

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The Tampa Bay Lightning won NHL’s Stanley Cup on Monday. The NBA Finals tip off Wednesday, and the MLB Playoffs are underway.

Can you imagine the state of Florida if the Miami Heat pull off an upset of the Los Angeles Lakers, joining the Lightning in the winner’s circle?

Now think about the American League’s top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays, and the National League’s surprising Miami Marlins. For a state that was riddled with the coronavirus this summer, it seems as if the sun is shining on Florida’s playoff teams. I don’t know if the Marlins are getting out of the Wild Card round, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Tampa Bay make a run.

Forget for a moment the Rays will ride the bolt of motivation the Lightning gave them; we’re talking about one of the best pitching staffs in baseball that closed the season with a 3.32 ERA in September — third-best in the league. The Rays also head into the postseason riding a 9-2 winning streak.

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I know we’re talking about a team that has dealt with a rash of injuries and will open the postseason without outfielder Austin Meadows, but the Rays find ways to win. They led the A.L. with 20 come-from-behind victories and had 12 pitchers earn at least one save.

Tampa Bay’s top three starters — Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow and Charlie Morton — were a combined 11-5. Relievers Nick Anderson, Pete Fairbanks and Diego Castillo went 11-4.

Manager Kevin Cash has done an excellent job at finessing a mediocre offense that finished 12th with 289 runs scored, 14th with 80 home runs, and 21st with a .238 batting average. They strike quick to get their pitchers leads and let the staff do the rest. It worked during the regular season; it can work in the playoffs.

The Lightning got things started. The Heat are up next, in the NBA Finals. Now it’s on the Rays to get to the Series. Hey Tom Brady, think we can talk in a few months about a Tampa trifecta?

Wednesday

Cardinals at Padres: I was one of the first in line to tell you just how dangerous the Padres would be come postseason time. Now I’m not sure they’re getting out of the Wild Card round against the Redbirds.

Yes, Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet both threw at Petco Park in what was reported as extended catch sessions, and one of them could start Game 1. But the fact I’m typing this Monday and there are so many question marks, while the Cardinals are all set with their lineup, I like what will probably be an underdog price in this one.

Kwang Hyun Kim opened the season as the Cardinals’ closer. He’ll make his first MLB postseason start and that could spell trouble for San Diego’s heavily weighted right-handed lineup. Kim stifled righties to a .198 batting average during the regular season. Dogs bark at Petco. CARDINALS

Yankees at Indians: In Game 2 of this opening round, I’m loading up on the pinstripes. Masahiro Tanaka is on the hill, and I’d much rather side with his playoff experience than Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco, who is making just his third career postseason game.

Either way the pressure will be on Carrasco, as his team will either be 0-1 in this series, and facing elimination, or 1-0 and having to face an angry Yankees lineup. Tanaka, in either situation, is more suited to handle the pressure with a stellar playoff career to his credit. The right-hander owns a 1.76 ERA with 37 strikeouts in eight playoff starts dating back to 2015. He has stifled opponents to a .157 average in the playoffs. YANKEES

Reds at Braves: I’m taking a shot in Game 1 with Cincinnati.. The Reds have no choice but to win this game, as it’s the most pivotal one for them in this best-of-three. I sat in on the Reds’ Zoom session on the last day of the regular season and really liked what I heard from Sonny Gray, who said the team packed for a month before clinching a playoff berth.

This team has been a determined group. Their philosophy has been to win the first and last game of series. “These games have mattered for us for a long time and that’s the good part about it, we took the challenge … head on,” he said. “We’ve been playing meaningful baseball for a while now. Going into Atlanta, it’s more meaningful baseball for us.” Especially Game 1. REDS

Last week: 2-1

Season: 14-11

About the Author

W.G. Ramirez

W.G. Ramirez is a 32-year veteran covering sports in Southern Nevada, and resident of 46 years. He is a freelance reporter in Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press.

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