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The 9th Inning: Are The Rays the most underrated team in baseball?

Welcome to the 9th Inning. This is a weekly column every Sunday on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the week’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I give my personal thoughts on a few events as well as tell you what to look forward to in the following week. I also give out weekly awards for team of the week and player of the week. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that will happen every week. I was unable to publish the column last Sunday due to a busy schedule but it returns today.

This is the third article of this column and I hope for some immense success with it each week. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global market as possible. Let’s dive right into it.

The AL East is not over just yet

Last week, if you would’ve asked me whether I thought the AL East was a locked up race yet, I would’ve said it’s close to it. It’s amazing how in one week of baseball, things can change in a heartbeat. The Red Sox have hit a wall, are in danger of being swept by the Rays today, and neither Chris Sale nor Eduardo Rodriguez have come off the DL yet. Now Red Sox fans should obviously not panic, as I don’t think there’s anyway this team misses the postseason and it will take an elongated hot streak by the Yankees to get them closer to the Sox. The Red Sox are still the best team in baseball but they cannot afford to slump now, especially this late in the year. Mookie Betts is in a slump and he hasn’t really done that all year, he’s hitting 5 for 33 (.152 average) in his past eight games. Red Sox fans should however stop saying that the AL East is over, because the Yankees are only seven games out, six in the loss column, and the rivals still play six more times in the regular season.

The Athletics are a true contender and are challenging Houston for AL West supremacy

I never saw it coming. Not once. Who would’ve thought that the Oakland Athletics would be a game and a half back of the Houston Astros in the AL West in late August? If you did, you’re a lucky person. The Athletics are baseball’s best story and they are grinding everyday to try to potentially win the division but also be sure to lock up a spot in the postseason. The Athletics aren’t a pretender, and they have the team to compete in October. The schedule gets extremely tough from here on out and we will learn a lot about the A’s in September.

The most underrated team in baseball

What if I told you that the most underrated team in baseball was going to miss the playoffs and is soon bound to be eliminated from division contention? Yes, the Tampa Bay Rays are the most slept-on team in the major leagues. They’re overshadowed by the Yankees and Red Sox in the tough as nails AL East, but they’re a winning baseball team and are not talked about nearly enough as they should be. Blake Snell is a top of the line ace in the big leagues and could very well be the AL Cy Young this season. Tommy Pham has been a solid addition from the trade deadline for the Rays. Their opener experiment has turned their pitching staff into one of the overall best in baseball. They are no joke and can compete with the best of the best on any given night. They’ve gone 8-7 against the Yankees this season, and beaten the Red Sox six times this season. They would be in the midst of the playoff race if they were in any other division.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

Hot:

The Tampa Bay Rays (8-2 in Last Ten)

The Chicago Cubs (7-3 in Last Ten)

The New York Yankees (7-3 in Last Ten)

The Colorado Rockies (7-3 in Last Ten)

Not:

The San Francisco Giants (3-7 in Last Ten)

The Pittsburgh Pirates (3-7 in Last Ten)

The Philadelphia Phillies (3-7 in Last Ten)

The Los Angeles Angels (3-7 in Last Ten)

The Boston Red Sox (4-6 in Last Ten)

Power Rankings:

1. Boston Red Sox (90-41)

2. New York Yankees (82-47)

3. Houston Astros (79-50)

4. Oakland Athletics (78-52)

5. Chicago Cubs (75-53)

6. Los Angeles Dodgers (69-61)

7. Colorado Rockies (71-58)

8. Arizona Diamondbacks (71-58)

9. Cleveland Indians (73-56)

10. Atlanta Braves (72-57)

11. Seattle Mariners (74-56)

12. St. Louis Cardinals (72-58)

13. Milwaukee Brewers (72-59)

14. Philadelphia Phillies (69-60)

15. Tampa Bay Rays (69-61)

16. Pittsburgh Pirates (64-66)

17. San Francisco Giants (64-67)

18. Washington Nationals (64-66)

19. Toronto Blue Jays (60-69)

20. Los Angeles Angels (63-67)

21. Minnesota Twins (61-68)

22. Texas Rangers (58-73)

23. New York Mets (58-71)

24. Cincinnati Reds (56-74)

25. Chicago White Sox (50-79)

26. Detroit Tigers (53-77)

27. Miami Marlins (53-78)

28. San Diego Padres (50-82)

29. Kansas City Royals (40-90)

30. Baltimore Orioles (37-93)

The Weekly Awards:

The Team of the Week is the …

Tampa Bay Rays (7-0 record)

The Rays started off the week last Sunday with a road shutout win over the Red Sox to salvage a game in an already-lost series. They then returned to the dump that is Tropicana Field (sorry, Rays fans, I’m just being honest) and swept the Kansas City Royals in four games. After the Royals left, the Red Sox came to the Trop and the Rays gave the Red Sox a rare series loss over the weekend, winning the first two games of the series to extend their winning streak to seven. The Rays will go for a rare sweep of the Red Sox today at 1:10 pm with dominating ace Blake Snell on the mound. What a week for them!

The Hitter of the Week is …

Toronto Blue Jays DH/1B Kendrys Morales

The veteran slugger was firing on all cylinders during this past week and he certainly deserves this recognition. Heading into today’s game against the Phillies, Morales has homered in six straight games, which is tied with two other players for the longest streak in the 2018 MLB season. Over the past week, Morales made 24 plate appearances in six games, hitting seven home runs, scoring eight runs, and batting in 11 RBIs while putting up a .500 batting average. He totaled a 0.9 WAR this week, which was best amongst big league hitters. Way to go Kendrys!

The Pitcher of the Week is …

New York Yankees RHP Sonny Gray

You might be a little intrigued by seeing Gray’s name on here as Pitcher of the Week, considering he’s struggled all season long and enough to the point where he’s now a bullpen long man and spot starter in the Bronx. But Gray had a phenomenal week and looks to be gaining more comfort in his new role. Last Sunday against the Blue Jays, Gray entered out of the bullpen and pitched two scoreless frames for the Yankees, giving up two hits, walking one batter and recording one strikeout. Yesterday in the second game of the Yankees doubleheader against the Orioles, Gray shined in his first start since he got rocked by the Orioles on August 1st. He tossed six and a thirds worth of scoreless baseball on the mound, surrendering three hits, walking one, and striking out seven batters. Gray, now widely known as “Pickles”, secured the win and a sweep of the day for the Yanks!

What to Look Forward To:

There is a lot of exciting baseball to look forward to heading into the final week of August. Firstly, September Call-Ups will begin on Saturday and we will get a glimpse of the future for a ton of teams. To start the week, we get to see the Oakland Athletics travel to MinuteMaid Park to take on the Houston Astros in a three game series that will be pivotal towards the AL West standings. We also will get to see the Pittsburgh Pirates head to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals in what could be a ride-or-die series for the Pirates in terms of what they will be able to do in the NL Wildcard race. The Tampa Bay Rays will look to continue their hot stretch when they head to Atlanta to face the Braves, which will be a very exciting series to watch.

Starting off the weekend series on Thursday will be potential playoff battles such as the Mariners @ Athletics, Diamondbacks @ Dodgers, and the Cubs @ Braves in a rainout makeup game. After their makeup game, the Cubs will head to face the Phillies in Philadelphia in another potential playoff matchup preview. We have an exciting slate of games all week long in the major leagues!

Thanks for reading the third edition of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next time! Peace!

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