ST. PETERSBURG — Officially, the regular season ends on Oct. 5. The way the Rays are going, it could end much, much sooner.
This team has found itself in a dangerous race against time, attrition and wild-card contenders. The Rays are like a NASCAR team gambling they can reach the checkered flag before running out of gas.
The hopeful outlook is they’ll be fine if they can just survive until September. Manuel Margot should be back by then. Maybe Wander Franco and Harold Ramirez, too. The pitching staff could also get reinforcements from among a half-dozen pitchers rehabbing on the 60-day injured list.
That version of the Rays? That could be a fun team to watch in the postseason.
The problem is the Rays may never get there. Not based on their current trajectory.
Since getting to the All-Star break on a roll at 51-41, the Rays have lost seven of 10 games and three consecutive series. They have been passed in the wild-card standings by the Mariners and Blue Jays and, after losing 5-3 to Cleveland on Sunday, are just 1 ½ games ahead of the Guardians.
It’s not quite a free fall, but it’s got that potential.
And that means the next couple of days could be pivotal in the direction of the season. With the trade deadline looming on Tuesday evening, the Rays have a Solomon-like decision.
Do you stand pat, and hope this lesser version of…