By now the formula is simple: You want to win the American League East, you want Eric Hinske on your roster.
It worked for the Boston Red Sox in 2007, the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008 and now the New York Yankees.
The Yankees are hoping to ride the Hinske train to the World Series, just as the Sox and Rays did. Actually, the Yankees will rely more on CC Sabathia and Derek Jeter and A-Rod and Mark Teixeira than Hinske, but it’s always nice to have a good luck charm in your clubhouse.
The Rays might be home for the postseason, but a handful of members of the 2008 AL champs are still playing.
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Scott Kazmir is in Anaheim and will start Game 3 in Boston, a place where Los Angeles Angels pitchers go to fail in October.
Rocco Baldelli could face Kazmir if Baldelli’s strained left hip flexor allows him to make the playoff roster.
Edwin Jackson could face Hinske providing the Detroit Tigers don’t complete their collapse with a loss this afternoon in Minnesota.
Trever Miller is in the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen.
Jason Hammel, the last player not to make the Rays out of spring training, is with the Colorado Rockies.
So, while the Rays came up short last October in their pursuit of a World Series title, a few of them might have the opportunity to close the deal this fall.
“I’m happy for them,” Rays reliever J.P. Howell said. “But I’d love to be going no matter what. It hurts more to see them going to the playoffs. It’s like, ‘(Darn), I know what they are going through.’ ”
Most of the Rays said they will watch the playoffs, now that they have an appreciation for what exactly the players on playoff teams are going through.
There’s the pressure that increases with each game in each round. There’s the elements — cold and maybe rain in the northern cities.
There is the incredible thrill of winning and the incredible low of losing.
Hinske experienced both in the span of two Octobers, winning it all with the Red Sox and making the last out for the Rays in Game 5 of the World Series.
If the Rays thought going to the World Series was enough of an incentive to return, sitting home and watching it on TV — and maybe seeing a former teammate join the dog pile on the mound after the final out — might be even more of an incentive.
Carl Crawford said he’ll fly to Detroit to see Jackson pitch if the Tigers advance to the World Series.
Pack a coat, he was told. It might be cold.
“Can’t be any colder than last year,” Crawford said. “I hope.”