The Tampa Bay Rays last held a better record than the Boston Red Sox on May 23. That was before Monday night.
It took four months, but the Rays have a chance to get back to the top again.
Tampa Bay completed a stunning comeback and caught the Red Sox in the American League Wild Card standings with a 5-2 win over the New York Yankees on Monday, combined with a 6-3 Red Sox loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
For most of those four months, the Rays dug themselves into an even deeper hole in the AL East and Wil Card pictures. As late as Sept. 2, they trailed the Red Sox by nine games. Now, if they gain one more game on Boston in both teams' respective final two regular-season contests, they will become the first team in MLB history to earn a playoff berth after trailing by nine games in September.
We knew in this clubhouse that we had enough faith in coming back, Rays pitcher James Shields told reporters after Monday night's win. And I know there's not a lot of people out there who had faith in us, but here we are.
Here's a breakdown of the final two games for both teams and who has the edge to come out on top:
Red Sox (Erik Bedard) at Orioles (Zach Britton), 7:05 p.m. ET
Yankees (Bartolo Colon) at Rays (Jeremy Hellickson), 7:10 p.m. ET
Neither the Red Sox nor Orioles have a particular edge in the pitching matchup. The last time Bedard pitched came against the Orioles - and he didn't make it past the third inning. He gave up four runs in 2 2/3 innings as Boston fell, 7-5. Meanwhile, Britton has given up at least four runs while not getting past the fifth inning in three of his last four starts.
The Rays, however, have the clear edge in their pitching matchup. Hellickson, perhaps the AL's Rookie of the Year, gave up just two runs in seven innings in his last start against the Yankees. Colon hasn't won a game since July 30, and he has given up at least six runs in his last two starts.
Red Sox (John Lester) at Orioles (Alfredo Simon), 7:05 p.m. ET
Yankees (TBA) at Rays (David Price), 7:10 p.m. ET
The Red Sox seemingly have who they want on the mound, but Lester is 0-3 with a 10.54 ERA in his last three starts. And this start will be on short rest. Meanwhile, don't expect a lot of competition from the Yankees in this game. Manager Joe Girardi has not yet announced a starter, and said he would likely use some combination of relievers, most of whom will not make the Yankees' postseason roster.
He also might rest many of his regular position players, as he has expressed frustration at the short, one-day turnaround between the end of the regular season and start of the postseason. And Price hasn't given up more than three earned runs in his last nine starts.
You know the saying: Momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher. Well, the Rays have momentum - and their next two starting pitchers aren't bad, either. On the other side, the Red Sox have two struggling pitchers, one of whom goes on three days of rest. Remember, this is the same Red Sox team that started 2-10 only to go 55-25 in May, June and July. Problem is, they don't have nearly a full season to get that momentum rolling again.