Austin Meadows hit his first homer as a Ray on Saturday, a missile to right field. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

The Tampa Bay Rays are set to play their final game of the season this afternoon with the hope of finishing the season with 90 victories. Tampa Bay has had five previous 90 win seasons, although this would be the first since 2013. A nice, round number like 90 would give the Rays the opportunity to join an elite club of just six teams that have won 90 games six times over an 11 season stretch.

The Rays also enter play with 50 home wins — it’s just the fourth time the team has reached that milestone. As Neil Solondz (Rays Radio) made mention of, Tampa Bay has gone 18-9 in the month of September, and 40-25 since the All-Star Break.

Russell Martin is slated to handle the managing duties for the Blue Jays, in what technically is the final game for Toronto’s skipper, John Gibbons. Martin will make the lineup and handle in-game moves in what is a risky, albeit fun, send off for the longtime manager of the Blue Jays.

For his part, Rays manager Kevin Cash said he won’t have a veteran player “manage” Sunday’s finale:

I don’t plan on it; I don’t know that I could deal with Sergio (Romo) standing next to me for nine innings.

Speaking of taking a gamble, the Rays did just that with Blake Snell’s Cy Young chances by starting him yesterday, especially had the game gone bad. And in all fairness, the first inning of Saturday’s ballgame appeared to be a disastrous one, as Snell labored through 29 pitches (mostly breaking balls) resulting in three walks and a run on a sac-fly. Yet Snell locked it in once he got through the initial frame, tossing five innings on 82 pitches (49 strikes, 60% strike rate) and striking out 10. When all was said and done, Zilla hit the 180-innings mark he wanted.

Even though he didn’t notch his 22nd win, as he left the game with the score tied, he still finished the season with the majors’ most wins and 221 punch outs.

I feel like I’ve put up a good case, Snell said. They’re going to pick who they pick. I don’t have a say. But the work that I did put together I feel like it’s a good case to have.

Austin Meadows came up big in the seventh inning, turning on a 0-1, 82 mph changeup and sending it to deep right field for his first homer as a Ray.

OF Austin Meadows showed the Rays a glimpse of what they hope to see more, hitting a clutch homer to put them ahead in the seventh. Manager Kevin Cash said that Triple-A skipper Jared Sandberg told him Meadows hung in well against lefties, and he did just that, writes Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times).

CJ Cron also hit his 30th home run of the season, waiting back on three consecutive high and outside fastballs only to crush a 3-0 heater that caught too much plate. Cron spoke about the milestone after the game:

He’ll get a chance to hit number 31 this afternoon.

The New What Next

Ryne Stanek (2-3, 3.08 ERA) will open the Rays in a bullpen day, pitching opposite of Sam Gaviglio (3-9, 5.19 ERA).

Stanek is opening for the 29th time in 59 appearances. He has allowed runs in his last two opening roles, giving up homers in each.

Per Solondz, the Rays allowed two homers yesterday, and have given up 21 in the last 10 contests. That said, Tampa Bay has given up 164 homers this year, a total that is the second fewest in the American League, and sixth fewest in the majors.

Gaviglio will face the Rays for the fourth time this season. Gaviglio has allowed just two runs in each of the last two starts against Tampa Bay. However, he has not worked more than five innings in any of his September outings. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (1-3, 2 RBI, BB), Jake Bauers (2-3, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB), Ji-Man Choi (1-4, 2B), CJ Cron (1-4), Matt Duffy (3-9), Tommy Pham (1-2, 3B, RBI), Mallex Smith (3-8, 2B, RBI), Joey Wendle (4-6, 2 2B, 3 RBI)

Rays 9/30/18 Starting Lineup

Smith CF
Pham LF
Wendle 3B
Cron DH
Lowe 2B
Adames SS
Meadows RF
Bauers 1B
Ciuffo C
Stanek RHP

You can read about the series on our preview.

The New What Next: Rays vs Blue Jays — the final series preview of the regular season


— Don’t expect to see Matty Duffy or Ji-Man Choi this afternoon in the season finale.

— Sunday also likely marks the final games (for the Rays that is) for a pair of veteran free-agents to be: Sergio Romo and Carlos Gomez.

— Thank you for another fun season, dear readers!

We’ll take a couple of days off then return with our preview of the AL Wildcard game between the Athletics and Yankees on Wednesday. We’ll also start our autopsy of the Rays season sometime thereafter. Keep checking back.

— Just sayin’:

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