The Tampa Bay Rays now know what their 2020 schedule will look like. Like the other 29 teams, the Rays now have several questions when looking at their 60-game schedule, including days off, tough stretches, and the end of the season. Let’s take a look at how the Rays schedule breaks down and what to expect when the season wraps up on September 27th.
The season brings 60 games in 66 days. 40 of them are against typical common AL East foes. The remaining 20 games are against the strong NL East. The NL East figures to have four teams fighting for their division. It’s hard to argue against the fact that the ten-team East schedule is the toughest among the three regions.
Another interesting difference in this year’s schedule is that only half of the games are the usual-three-game series. 30 of the games are broken down to two-game series and fiour-game series. Not that a 60 game sprint season would be easy to get in a groove, but this could make it even harder.
The Rays open the 2020 season on Friday July 24th with the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s a three-game weekend series where the young powerful Blue Jays lineup will face the big three of the Rays pitching staff.
Assuming Hyun-Jin Ryu gets the ball on opening day for the Jays, the Rays could open the season showcasing their newly-acquired right handed hitters. Hunter Renfroe, Jose Martinez, and Yandy Diaz should find their names within the first five slots. Mike Zunino will do the majority of the catching throughout the year, especially against left handed pitching.
The big decision will be who patrols centerfield. Kevin Kiermaier will get most of the starts in center and rightfully so. This year however, the Rays brought in Manuel Margot who is known for hitting left-handed pitching. It will be a curious game one strategic decision on Kevin Cash’s part.
After the opener, the Rays should have a clear pitching advantage for the Saturday and Sunday matchups. Anything less than taking two out of three would be a disappointing start.
With 60 games against the nine East coast teams, it’s easy to say the whole sprint of a season will be a tough stretch. While that is mainly true, the real tough spot will come during August when they play 25 games in 27 days all against division opponents. Sitting right in the middle of that stretch is a ten-game road trip against the Boston Red Sox, Blue Jays, and New York Yankees. If the Rays go 5-5 in that three-series road trip, consider that a huge win.
The Yankees are a huge favorite to win the AL East so anytime they show up on the schedule, don’t expect anything easy. All ten games against them take place before Labor Day weekend. So if the Rays trail them heading into September, they will need some help from other teams in order to take down the division.
In a 60-game sprint, it’s tough to find a stretch where the team can truly exhale. Among the Rays nine opponents, only the Miami Marlins and Baltimore Orioles are teams not expected to contend. Good news is, the Rays play them 16 times.
The best stretch comes right at the end of the aforementioned tough stretch. From August 25th to September 6th, the Rays play nine out of 12 games versus those two teams. Of course the Yankees are the other series in that time frame but the easier opponents could allow for the rotation to be shuffled around and some players to get a day off leading into that Yankee series. Must win games are an even more premium this year than in the past.
Dates to Circle
July 27th-30th: Atlanta Braves.
The Atlanta Braves are one of the more exciting teams in all of baseball. The Rays play four games, two home and two away, versus the two-time defending NL East champions. They will get an up close look at one of the best players in the league in Ronald Acuna Jr. Both teams would be very happy with a four-game split and move on to their next opponents.
August 6th-9th: New York Yankees
This is the meeting with the evil empire on the Rays schedule. A four-game set at home to see who takes early control of the division. Taking three out of four would be huge for either team. Gerrit Cole will likely pitch one of the weekend games.
September 7th/8th and 15th/16th: Washington Nationals
The Rays play the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals four times in a nine-day span. The first one is in Washington DC on Labor Day. A fun thing about two-game series is teams have the opportunity of missing the other’s aces. That would be beneficial to the Rays if they were to dodge Max Scherzer and/or Stephen Strasburg.
September 25th-27th: Philadephia Phillies
The regular season wraps up at home with a team hungry to get back to postseason relevance. The Philadelphia Phillies, as well as the Rays, are postseason hopeful. That makes this series even more exciting and important. With a short season, it’s hard to imagine these three games not having huge implications for either if not both.
While the 2020 season may seem complicated, it will probably come down to the simple things: beat the teams that should be beat, win the series at home, control the losing streaks and stay healthy. That last one may be the toughest one but every team is in the same boat. If the Rays can do that, they can get back to the postseason for a second year in a row.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images