HOW IMPORTANT IS THE CLEVELAND SERIES?
The Rays have now lost three in a row for the first time since the beginning of June (when they were swept by Boston at Fenway). They haven't been able to produce any runs so far during this road trip (okay, that's not fair- they scored 1) and are nursing a division lead that has now shrunk to just 2 games over Boston, and are headed to the armpit of our great country for a 4 game set against the Indians.
The obvious question is, 'How important is this series in the grand scheme of things'- in terms of the big picture?
The answer: very!
Teams will have their ups and downs throughout the seaon, I understand that, but when you're a young, upstart team that happens to play in the AL East-- you cannot give games away. The Yankees and Sox will make you pay.
Coming out of their homestand, in which they won 6 of 7 (including a sweep of the BoSox), the Rays had an opportunity to really put a run together and head to the break with a 5 or 6 game lead, but instead they went to the Bronx and did their best Devil Rays impression and laid a big, fat egg. If the Rays can't get it together, and smoehow drop 3 or 4 to the Indians I don't think they'll ever recover.
This may be the most important series of the season so far. The Sox are playing the O's and Yankees are playing the Pirates, so chances are that they will each win their respective series; which makes it all the more crucial for the Rays to 'right the ship' against the Indians.
Mark my words; If the Rays don't at least split this series, they will not make the playoffs. It doesn't neccessarily matter who the Rays are playing- its the circumstances/timing more than the opponent, the Indians just so happen to be the team that could be the catalyst for a disappearing act of historic proportions.
Time will tell.
For the record, on paper it looks like the Rays should win at least 2 (probably 3) of these games, but If the Rays find a way to lose.... look out!