The Rays finally got off the schnide with an impressive win last night in Seattle (recap). Now, as we move on toward tonight's game the focus shifts toward exactly how important this game really is. The Rays haven't won a series since the opening series in Boston, and are currently 4.5 games back in the East.
I posted earlier in the week (What They Need) that the Rays needed to win at least 2 out of 3 in Seattle (I honestly believed the Rays would sweep the M's, but alas I was wrong... go figure). I'm holding true to my original thought. If the Rays lose tonight it will mark the 14th consecutive day (the 13th game) since the Rays were able to win back to back games. The one and only time they've done it this season, as I alluded to above, was the opening series in Beantown.
So, to answer my own question: Is this a must-win game? Yes.
Or at least as much of a must-win as you can have in the first month of the season.
The Rays' "ace" is on the mound, in Shields, the bats are coming around, and the defense is showing all of its gold-glove potential, so ,if, with all those things working for them they still can't dig-in and pull out a win against a middle-of-the-road Seattle team it'll not only hurt, but be crushing. More importantly it'll start to reveal the true character of this team.
Here's the problem as I see it:
Everyone (media, fans, pundits) is sitting back and saying "it's a marathon not a sprint" or "they were this far behind last year too" or whatever other Cubs-esque cliche excuse they can come up with to justify the Rays level of sucktitude so far this season, and I'm starting to believe that the players are sharing that same mentality. It came so easy last year, everything clicked into place and they never looked back- so, in their young minds they think "well, we're even better this year, so it'll click again eventually and then we'll win". Wrong. It doesn't always "click", and in the East you can't sit around and hope that it does either. You've got to go out and find ways to win. Even Joe Maddon seems to have the same nonchalant attitude towards it, saying something to the effect of, "when the hitting picks up, we'll win". Really? And if it doesn't- then what?
Tonight's game is paramount, and if the Rays lose I'll elaborate even more (in a less scatterbrained manner, I promise- busy day in the Dirtbag household).