For Rays: One Down, Two (Or Three) To Go

BOSTON, MA: Casey Kotchman #11 of the Tampa Bay Rays and Jarrod Saltalamacchia #39 of the Boston Red Sox watch the flight of Kotchman's two-run home run in the sixth inning at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Thursday night, the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Boston Red Sox in the first game of their four-game series.

They beat them bad.

But then, they were supposed to beat them.

The Rays sent rookie Jeremy Hellickson and his 2.96 ERA to the mound. The Red Sox sent rookie Kyle Weiland, making just his fourth start in the majors, to the mound. Weiland had pitched decently in one of his starts, and poorly in his two others. Not surprisingly, Thursday night made it three. Meanwhile, Hellickson didn't pitch his best baseball of the season but he did limit the Red Sox to one run before departing with two outs in the sixth inning, having already thrown 117 pitches (the Red Sox will do that to a guy).

That 9-2 victory pulled the Rays to within three games of the Red Sox in the Wild Card standings.

Three probably won't be enough, because both teams have only 13 games left.

The Red Sox are pretty good. If they go 7-6 the rest of the way, the Rays have to go 10-3 just to tie ... and of the Rays' 13 games left, three are against the Red Sox and seven are against the best team in the American League. Yes, the Yankees might be coasting some. And yes, in their collective heart of hearts they might prefer to play the Rays rather than the Red Sox in the ALCS. But I suspect they'll still try to give a good accounting of themselves in the games that matter.

Like I said, the Rays were supposed to win Thursday night.

Friday night, they're not supposed to beat Josh Beckett.

Saturday afternoon, they're not supposed to beat Jon Lester.

Sunday afternoon, they're supposed to beat Tim Wakefield, thanks in part to David Price.

The Rays have to take these games one at a time. For real. But we can take them in chunks. And in this chunk, they have to win the games they're supposed to -- last night, and Sunday -- and grab at least one of the games they're supposed to lose.

Even then, the odds will be against them. But without two wins in the next 72 hours, they're almost certainly sunk.

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