After sweeping the New York Yankees, and winning five of six in their final regular-season home stand, the Tampa Bay Rays hit the road for one last road trip. On Friday, the Rays will start a three-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays, who took two of three from the Orioles.
Tampa Bay is in the driver’s seat in the AL Wildcard race after their sweep of the Yankees. The Rays pitching staff was dominant in the two-game series, combining for 29 strikeouts and allowing just one run across 21 total innings. In the series finale, the Rays fanned 16 and allowed just one hit; the only other time the Yankees struck out that often with just one hit was the famous Pedro Martinez one-hitter on September 10, 1999, when he struck out 17.
Tampa Bay enters the final series of the season 31 games over .500 for the first time since 2010, a game behind Oakland for the top Wildcard spot, and with a two-game lead over Cleveland for the final AL Wildcard spot. The Rays can clinch their first postseason berth since 2013 with a win and a Cleveland loss, or a pair of wins this weekend.
With three games left to play, the Rays have a 97.1% chance of a postseason berth according to FanGraphs. Baseball Prospectus gives them a 92.8% chance.
The Blue Jays put 11 runs on the board against Baltimore twice in a week, however, aside from those two ballgames, Toronto averaged just over four runs per game in 10 of the last 12 contests. Even so, the Jays are 8-4 over that stretch which included a series win against New York. Expect Toronto to try and play spoiler against Tampa Bay.
The Rays have owned the Blue Jays this season, going 12-4 with a 28 run differential. In the season series, Toronto has averaged just under four runs per game.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash is expected to throw Tyler Glasnow (6-1, 1.92 ERA), Ryan Yarbrough (11-5, 4.08 ERA), and Blake Snell (6-7, 4.21 ERA). Charlie Montoyo will counter with T.J. Zeuch (1-1, 4.58 ERA), Trent Thornton (5-9, 5.00 ERA), and Clay Buchholz (1-5, 7.00 ERA).
Tyler Glasnow was impressive across three innings on Saturday, allowing two hits with zero walks while punching out seven. The right-hander joined Andrew Kittredge and Shawn Camp as one of only three Rays to strike out seven in three innings or fewer. The team has been cautious with Glasnow, who missed a majority of the summer with a forearm strain since he returned from the IL. He didn’t make it through the four innings the Rays had planned, yet he was spectacular in his time on the mound. Glasnow owns a 2.25 ERA with 17 strikeouts in eight innings (three outings) since returning from the IL. Overall, he is 6-1 with a 1.92 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and a .198 batting average against with 72 strikeouts across 56-1/3 innings this season. Glasnow will get one final regular-season tuneup against the Blue Jays on Friday.
T.J. Zeuch allowed two runs on four hits with no walks and six strikeouts across four innings against the Yankees on Saturday. Zeuch was making his second start this season, and he shut out the Yankees over the first three frames before the 24-year-old allowed two runs in the fourth inning on doubles by Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and a single by Mike Ford. He was removed after 70 pitches. In 17-2/3 big-league innings, Zeuch has a 4.58 ERA, a 1.47 WHIP, and 16 strikeouts. Zeuch relies primarily on a whiffy 92 mph sinker with armside run and has some natural sinking action, while also mixing in an 84 mph 12-6 slider with two-plane movement, an 83 mph changeup with a ton of backspin, and a whiffy 76 mph curveball.
Ryan Yarbrough gave up six runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out just two over 3-1/3 innings against the Red Sox on Sunday. Yarbrough endured a disastrous first inning in which he allowed six hits, including a three-run home run, before running into trouble again in the fourth. Expect Yarbrough, who has a 4.08 ERA with 114 strikeouts through 27 appearances this season, to be on a short leash.
Trent Thornton worked five innings and gave up four runs on five hits while striking out three on Sunday against the Yankees. Thornton had previously shined in his previous two turns as a primary pitcher with a sparkling 5.5 K/BB and one run allowed over 10 innings, but the two-run homer he allowed to DJ LeMahieu prevented the right-hander from maintaining momentum. Thornton is 0-1 with an 8.44 ERA in four starts against the Rays this season (16 innings of work). Key Matchups: Willy Adames (2-8, HR, 2 RBI), Matt Duffy (1-2), Avisail Garcia (4-7, 1 HR, 4 RBI, BB), Brandon Lowe (3-5, 2B, HR, 4 RBI), Austin Meadows (7-9, 2B, 3 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB), Eric Sogard (1-2), Joey Wendle (1-3, 2B)
Blake Snell allowed one run on two hits and three walks while striking out three over 1-2/3 innings against the Red Sox on Monday. Snell struggled with his command, allowing three free passes before being pulled in the second inning after allowing a run on a double. The Rays are still easing the left-hander back into his usual workload, and he was not expected to pitch more than a few innings. Snell has a 4.21 ERA with 143 strikeouts through 22 starts this season.
Clay Buchholz allowed six runs on six hits and three walks while striking out four over four innings against the Orioles on Monday. Buchholz was hit hard, allowing three home runs, including two in the fifth inning. The right-hander has a 1-5 record with a 7.00 ERA and 33 strikeouts across 11 starts this season. He is 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA in two 2019 starts against the Rays. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (3-4, 2 2B), Austin Meadows (3-8, RBI), Tommy Pham (1-3), Joey Wendle (2-2)
— Free on Sunday? Join us at Golden Dinosaurs Vegan Deli for only last regular season watch party, as OUR guys finalize their playoff push!
Let’s fill the patio with blue — both light and dark — grey, and sunburst yellow. Discounts for Rays fans…oh, and did I mention fun and camaraderie? Help cheer on OUR crew, hope to see you there!
Do they owe is a Wildcard? Of course they do, of course, they do.