I’ve got to admit, it’s fun at the Trop when it’s full. (Photo Credit: X-Rays Spex)

After taking two of three from the Yankees, and gaining some ground in the division, the Tampa Bay Rays turn their sights to the Red Sox, against whom they’ll seek some little revenge when they start a three-game series Monday afternoon. The Red Sox swept the Rangers over the weekend.

At 74-58, the Rays enter play five games back of the Yankees in the division, and in sole possession of the second American League Wildcard spot with 30 games left to play.

Let’s be honest, the ending to Sunday’s contest was less than operable and was, frankly, straight-up bullshit. Tampa Bay rallied late and threatened to erase the Yankees’ two-run lead in the ninth inning, bringing Yandy Díaz to the plate with a pair of runners in scoring position. Yet, Yandy took a 102 mph sinker two baseballs below the strike zone and was rung up by home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza. Calls like that cannot be made in September when a pennant is on the line.

The loss snapped Tampa Bay’s five-game winning streak, although they have put themselves in a good spot by winning 20 of their last 30 games since the beginning of August, including four of the last six games against the Yankees. As frustrating as it may have been to not finish the sweep, the rest of the weekend was a reminder they can compete with anyone. They’ve still won 16 of their last 21 games, with four of their five losses during that stretch coming by just a run.

Despite winning five in a row, Boston has only won two of the last five series … although one of those series wins came at the expense of Tampa Bay, who will be seeking revenge this week. They have been on four separate three-game losing streaks in the second half of the season, which has pushed them to the fringes of a playoff position. They are trying to make a late push, yet Boston is in desperation mode as they watch the Orioles and Blue Jays ahead of them perform relatively well, while their wheels continue to spin without much traction.

The Rays are 9-4 against the Red Sox this season, with five of those wins (against two losses) coming at the Trop.

Pitching Probables

Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will turn to Luis Patiño (1-1, 3.95 ERA), Drew Rasmussen (9-4, 2.70 ERA), and Jeffrey Springs (7-4, 2.62 ERA). Alex Cora will counter with Michael Wacha (10-1, 2.56 ERA), Hank Rich Hill (6-5, 4.52 ERA), and a pitcher to be named before the series finale on Wednesday.

Luis Patiño, in his last big league start, scattered four hits and two walks while striking out four batters over 5.2 scoreless frames against the Yankees. Patiño was recalled from Triple-A Durham (in so doing, right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis was designated for assignment to create space on the roster) and impressed in his first big-league start in nearly a month. The right-hander fanned only four batters, but he racked up 16 swinging strikes among his 86 pitches (63 strikes), and consistently pumped quality strikes — his 73% strike rate is a career-high for the right-hander in an outing of three or more innings. He also kept batters off balance, sprinkling in 20 sliders and 18 changeups to keep hitters off his mid-90s fastball, and limiting hard contact with only four hard-hit balls of the 17 put in play by Kansas City. Patiño didn’t surrender any extra-base hits and allowed only one runner to reach second base in his final inning of work. He was able to lower his ERA to 3.95, although his FIP remains high at 5.54 (with a 6.11 xFIP). Beyond that, the right-hander maintains an improved 1.61 WHIP and a 1.17 K/BB across 13.2 innings.

Michael Wacha allowed two runs on four hits and one walk while striking out seven batters over six innings against the Twins on Wednesday. Wacha induced just eight swinging strikes in the contest although he still managed a healthy seven strikeouts. He allowed a two-run homer to Luis Arraez in the third inning but kept Minnesota off the scoreboard en route to his 10th win of the season. Wacha is posting a career-low 7.2 K/9 on the campaign, although he is also on pace for career-best marks in ERA (2.56), FIP (3.81), and WHIP (1.02). He’s been fortunate to record an unusually low BABIP, so it’s logical to question whether his strong numbers will continue to hold. The Rays have saddled Wacha to a pair of losses on the backs of six runs and eight hits (including four homers), and three walks. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, BB), Yandy Díaz (3-4, 2B, HR, RBI, BB), Manuel Margot (4-13, 2B), Harold Ramírez (2-6, HR), José Siri (1-3, 2B)

Drew Rasmussen allowed one run on four hits over six innings against the Marlins. He struck out four without walking a batter. The right-hander battled Trevor Rogers for five scoreless frames before Jon Berti hit a solo shot to left-centerfield in the sixth. The Rays got Rasmussen off the hook for a loss right away with a run in the top of the seventh inning. Rasmussen delivered his sixth quality start of the season, and since the All-Star Break, he’s rattled off eight consecutive outings of two earned runs or less — a stretch in which Rasmussen boasts a 1.84 ERA and a 2.39 FIP, with an 0.86 WHIP, and 6.83 K/BB through 44 innings. Rasmussen has gotten one start against Boston this season, allowing three runs on four hits (including a homer) and a walk across six innings.

Rich Hill allowed four runs on five hits and four walks while striking out two batters against the Rangers. Hill pitched his best game of the season in his previous outing, striking out 11 batters over seven scoreless frames against Tampa Bay. He couldn’t carry that momentum over, however, as he tied a season-high with four walks and was lifted after allowing the first three batters he faced in the fifth inning to reach base. Hill hasn’t had many big blowups this season, although he’s allowed at least four runs in six of his 20 outings, leading to a mediocre 4.52 ERA for the season, with a 4.05 FIP, a 1.29 WHIP, and a 2.62 K/BB across 93.2 innings. Hill has been good against his former team, going 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two starts (11.0 total innings) while scattering seven hits and four walks. Key Matchups: Randy Arozarena (2-5), Yu Chang (1-2, BB), Ji-Man Choi (2-3), Isaac Paredes (1-3), David Peralta (5-17, 3B, HR, 4 RBI, BB), Taylor Walls (1-3, BB)

Jeffrey Springs got the start Friday and scattered four hits and three walks while striking out seven across 5.2 scoreless frames against the Yankees. Springs worked out of several jams and was able to get whiffs when he needed them. He backed his seven strikeouts with 18 swinging strikes across 97 total pitches (19% SwStr%), and he has now struck out at least seven hitters in each of his last three turns. In eight outings since the All-Star Break, Springs maintains a 2.74 ERA and 2.30 FIP, with a 4.27 K/BB, and a 1.22 WHIP across 42.2 frames. Springs hasn’t fared well against the Red Sox this season, allowing eight earned runs on 13 hits (including three homers) and five walks across 12 innings.



— The Rays will have to make room for Patiño on the active roster. Per Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times), they likely will drop reliever, Matt Wisler. A steady line of teammates and several coaches were at Wisler’s locker after Sunday’s game, seemingly saying goodbye.

— Wander Franco went 2-for-4 with a walk as the DH in five plate appearances for Triple-A Durham on Sunday. Franco is slated to play with Durham through Saturday, although his schedule can be ammended. He tried to make an earlier return, joining Durham on August 15, but he made just two plate appearances before leaving the game with discomfort in his surgically repaired right hand.

— Brandon Lowe took swings, fielded ground balls, and made throws on Sunday, all signs of progress as he recovers from being hit on the right elbow by Micahel Wacha on August 26, sustaining nerve and triceps damage.

He’s doing much better. Quick turnaround.

— Kevin Cash

The infielder is eligible to come off the Injured List Wednesday. “I don’t know if we’ll get there,” Cash said. “I hope so.”

— Shane McClanahan played catch for the first time since skipping his Tuesday start due to left shoulder impingement and receiving a cortisone shot and “felt great,” according to Cash. “Like I said, he’ll be back very soon.” McClanahan is eligible to return on September 15, the last day of the trip to Toronto.