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Los Rayas and Los Vigilantes For the Wild Card

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Despite ranking second and third in records among American League teams and having the two highest run differentials in the Junior Circuit, the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rays will meet in the wild card round.

Both teams will do so as the fourth- and fifth-ranked teams, respectively, at Tropicana Field on Tuesday afternoon.

Tampa Bay Fortresses at a Glance

Tampa Bay secured the top wild card spot after losing a close race in the division, finishing just two games behind the first-place Orioles, the only AL team with 100 wins, and will play at home against the Watchers.

Their 90 wins tied them with the Astros for first place in the West, but they lost the division title on a tiebreaker under new rules that eliminated Game 163.

These two teams are a little above the level of an average wild card series, but only one will take a flight to Baltimore this weekend for the ALDS.

Of the 750 team seasons since the Rays were founded in 1998, and excluding 2020, their current offense is tied for eighth in wRC+.

His wRC+ of 117 would lead the league in most years, but this year the focus was on the Atlanta Braves, who tied the home run record in a lower offensive environment and became the first team to bat .500.

The Rays join the Houston Astros as the only teams with four batters with a wRC+ of 130 or higher with at least 400 plate appearances.

While every member of the Rays with at least 350 plate appearances finished with an above-average wRC+, they will be without much of their talent for this series.

Second baseman Brandon Lowe will miss the postseason due to a knee injury; Raley and center field speedster Jose Siri, on the other hand, missed the final weeks of the regular season and it is unclear if they will be ready in time for Tuesday.

The Rays may not have an ideal roster, but they do have the potential to pull off the series.

Vigilantes and Their High Level of Adaptation

The Watchmen also had to make significant additions to their rotation due to injuries, most notably Jacob deGrom's torn UCL.

But while the Rays had depth options that became viable rotation leaders, Texas primarily added from outside the organization, most notably by getting Montgomery and Scherzer at the trade deadline.

Montgomery has been exactly what the Watchmen needed, averaging six innings per start with a 2.79 ERA for his new team to ease the burden on a highly unstable bullpen.

His changeup and curve have allowed him to minimize his gap against left-handed hitters, especially necessary given that Tampa Bay will likely field an all right-handed lineup against him.

Nathan Eovaldi looked like a Cy Young contender before missing August with a forearm injury and having a string of rough openings after his return, even as his workload has been carefully managed, making him a potential weak link.

While both of these American League powerhouses have strong offenses and formidable starting rotations, their bullpens are what really set them apart in ability.

The Watchmen led the AL West Division for much of the season, but faltered in the second half largely due to repeated bullpen collapses.

While his 14-22 record in games decided by one run and 2-8 mark in extra-inning games can be attributed to luck in a small sample size, those losses are much better explained by his league-worst save percentage and bottom-five bullpen WPA.

Only one reliever on the team, José Leclerc, pitched at least 40 innings with an effectiveness below four; all other teams had at least two.

Texas' biggest midseason improvement was the trade that brought Aroldis Chapman to Arlington, but it cost the team Cole Ragans, who had an impressive second half in a deal the Watchmen might deeply regret.

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