After winning their second consecutive game over the Boston on Saturday, the Tampa Bay Rays look to close the season series against the Red Sox with a win this afternoon. At 30-16 on the season, Tampa Bay enters play as the first American League team to hit the 30-win mark. They maintain a 4-1/2 game lead over Toronto in the AL East and find themselves back to 14 games over .500.
Suffice it to say, if the Rays are going to win the AL East division title and make a deep run into October, they will be leaning on Austin Meadows and Brandon Lowe, both of whom came up big last night.
In the first inning, with former Ray Nathan Eovaldi on the mound, Meadows turned on a 100 mph fastball on the black and sent it to deep right field.
While Meadows hasn’t hit his stride just yet, he entered Saturday’s contest with a .426 OPS across his last nine games and has collected a hit in each of his last three games, including three extra-base hits.
As for Lowe, after former Ray Christian Arroyo tied up the ball-game on a two-run seventh-inning homer in the top of the frame, Lowe crushed a 92 mph four-seam fastball in the home half of the inning, sending it 431 feet away and into the right-field stands.
Lowe entered Saturday hitting .148 over his last 18 games, including an 0-for-22 skid. He, however, made some adjustments and finds himself in the midst of a five-game hit streak, which includes a pair of homers.
Kevin Cash lauded Meadows and Lowe for putting in the work to get past their tough stretches.
They’ve had better at-bats, for sure. These guys are really, really determined. They get frustrated with themselves more than anything when things don’t go their way, but give them a ton of credit for kind of sticking through and putting the work in.— Kevin Cash
The Rays skipper also talked about Lowe’s go-ahead blast following the game.
It was really impressive and very timely. It was nice that Brandon could get a pitch that he can handle and we answered right back. Brandon has had a tremendous season and I know he’s been scuffling a bit as of late, but he keeps at it and came up with just a huge hit today.— Kevin Cash
Tampa Bay is now an MLB best 11-4 in one-run games, and have come from behind to win 16 times (an AL East best). The Rays now have a magic number of 11 to clinch the division over Toronto, and six over several teams to clinch a playoff spot.
Not everything that glitters is gold though, as Tampa Bay lost another player to the injury bug. Ji-Man Choi suffered a left hamstring strain in the fourth inning as he rounded third and headed home on Nate Lowe’s RBI single. Choi is expected to hit the Injured List today after undergoing an MRI.
I think it’s fair that he’s going to miss some time. It’s pretty unfortunate,. He’s such a big part of our team. It’s really unfortunate at this point. We’ll see what the doctors say, but that’s a tough one.— Kevin Cash
Choi’s MRI should help determine the severity of the injury and if he’ll be able to return before the start of the postseason.
It doesn’t feel good right now. We’ll see what happens with the MRI tomorrow, but we’re just hoping for the best. …I believe in my team. Throughout this whole season, it has always been next man up and we have great depth. I also believe in my trainers. They help me a lot throughout the season.— Ji-Man Choi
As Neil Solondz (Rays Radio) writes, “Tampa Bay could add a position player for Sunday and then make another move on Tuesday when it’s expected pitcher Oliver Drake (bicep tendinitis) will be activated. Tampa Bay is carrying 15 position players and 13 pitchers. After Monday’s off-day the Rays will play ten games in the next nine days.”
The New What Next
Charlie Morton (1-2, 4.94 ERA) will get the start in the season finale against Boston, pitching opposite of Martín Pérez (2-4, 4.40 ERA).
Charlie Morton got the start for Tampa Bay, and even though he allowed three runs on four hits and a walk over five innings of work, he took a big step forward in his second start off the Injured List. Morton — who went two-plus innings and threw 36 pitches in his last turn on the mound — worked five efficient innings on Monday. Morton threw 45 of 57 pitches for strikes (79% strike rate) and retired his final seven batters. The right-hander stymied Boston back on August 4, allowing just one run on five hits (including a solo home run) across 5-2/3 strong innings. Morton struck out five.
Martín Pérez coughed up four runs on five hits and six walks over five innings against the Phillies. He struck out two. The southpaw’s command was almost nonexistent in this one, as Pérez also uncorked a wild pitch and threw only 47 of his 86 pitches for strikes (55% strike rate). The southpaw maintains a 4.40 ERA and a 1.29 K/BB through 47 innings on the season. In his last start against the Rays, Pérez allowed two runs on three hits (including a home run) and two walks across 5-2/3 innings. Key Matchups: Mike Brosseau (3-7, 2 2B, HR), Brandon Lowe (2-5), Kevan Smith (1-3, 2B)
You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup is below.
Rays 9/13/20 Starting Lineup
- Margot CF
- Arozarena LF
- Wendle 3B
- Brosseau 2B
- Renfroe RF
- N. Lowe 1B
- Adames SS
- Tsutsugo DH
- Smith C