While no team has ever won the pennant over the first month of the season, plenty have fallen out of contention during this crucial time.
The Tampa Bay Rays will hope to avoid the fate of the countless clubs in the latter category during the 2013 season, but the schedule could make it a definite possibility. After opening the campaign with six consecutive home games over six days against AL East rival Baltimore and Cleveland, the Rays will play 19 of their next 25 games away from Tropicana Field.
After battling the Indians on April 7, the Rays will spend the next 11 days on the road with three-game series at Texas and Baltimore, respectively, sandwiched around a four-game series at Fenway Park. A six-game homestand, which will be comprised of three-game series with Oakland and the New York Yankees, will be followed by four games in Chicago against the White Sox, three games in Kansas City and the team’s first interleague series at Colorado.
Courtesy of the Houston Astros’ move to the American League for the 2013 season, the MLB schedule is unlike any in history. With 15 teams in each league, the schedule dictates interleague play throughout the season.
As if they weren’t already quieted and shuttered away by the adaption of three divisions in each league, the addition of the wild card and the creation of an additional wild card in 2012, purists must cringe at the thought of an interleague series in late September deciding a playoff race.
Tampa Bay won’t have to worry about a National League team spoiling its hopes because its last interleague contest will be on Aug. 11 at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium. The Rays will play 20 interleague games against the Miami Marlins and five teams from the National League West.
The most significant change for the Rays in 2013 will be an increase to 76 games against AL East rivals Baltimore, Toronto, New York and Boston and the reduction of the annual Citrus Series against the Marlins from six games to four. Tampa Bay played 18 games against each of its four division foes in 2012.
Tampa Bay will play 29 of its division games in April and May. The Rays will play 10 of 16 games in May at home against Toronto, Boston and New York, which is why it is so crucial for the team to survive the early road-heavy slate.
Over the first 23 games of the 2012 season, Tampa Bay was 15-8. In the month of the May as the early season injuries became visibly noticeable, the Rays were 14-14.
Although each season is different, each game from one to 162 counts the same. Without the 15-8 start, Tampa Bay may not have been in position to overcome the significant injuries, including a torn hamstring that sidelined star third baseman Evan Longoria from April 30-Aug. 7, to put together a run toward what would have been the once-maligned franchise’s fourth playoff berth in five years.
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