With the Rays (along with over half of the American League) having a postseason spot all but locked up for quite some time now, it’s felt like there hasn’t been a whole lot to play for. Tonight, however, the Rays had a chance to do something they had not done in a decade: win the American League East.
Tyler Glasnow got the start for the Rays, coming off an outing where he struck out 10 of 21 batters faced at Camden Yards in a game where the good guys won 2-1, and the strikeout stuff was on again tonight in Queens.
Glasnow was opposed by Michael Wacha. In his first year with the Mets, Wacha was carrying a 6.75 ERA over 28 IP coming into this start. Despite the rough season in New York, Wacha got off to a hot start against the Rays, striking out the side in order in the first inning.
The Mets threatened in their first chance at the plate, with Brandon Nimmo drawing a leadoff walk and Jeff McNeil picking up the game’s first hit two batters later, but like his counterpart, Tyler Glasnow also struck out the side and kept the Mets off the board.
Both teams would score in the second, after solo home runs from Joey Wendle and Andre Gimenez. After a 21-pitch first inning, the best part for Glasnow was getting out of the second on only 10 pitches, despite giving up the run. That efficiency allowed him to stay in the game through six innings.
The Rays were in business once again in the top of the third, when Manuel Margot dropped a bunt to the left side, which was fielded by Mets’ third baseman Todd Frazier, but Margot got down the line so quickly a throw was obsolete. After the leadoff bunt single, Rays’ backstop Mike Zunino put the offense in business with a double to left field, giving them runners on second and third with nobody out.
Margot’s speed would help him again when Brandon Lowe hit a ground ball to first baseman Pete Alonso, who threw to home attempting to get Margot, but a slide to the right side of the plate was enough to give the Rays the lead once more.
Speed giveth, lack of speed taketh away, as Mike Zunino was doubled up at home on the very next play after Arozarena flew out to right fielder Jeff McNeil. Is it me, or has Rodney Linares been a little too aggressive recently? Sure, you’re forcing McNeil to make a play here, but a double play of this fashion to end the inning with just one run on the board is a killer.
Glasnow has had some trouble with the long ball this season, and he gave up his second of the game, along with the lead, in the bottom of the fourth. This one came off the bat of Dominic Smith... and it was a no-doubter. With a 107.8 EV and a 32 degree launch angle, Dom Smith crushed Glasnow’s hanging curve for his 10th home run of the year.
Wacha and Glasnow traded a few zeroes until the top of the sixth, when Randy Arozarena drove in himself and Brandon Lowe on a 419-foot laser home run to center field. If you were still doubting the Liberatore trade, just know that Arozarena is here to stay and will be a staple in the Rays’ outfield for years to come.
Despite being incredibly efficient and only throwing 76 pitches over six innings, Kevin Cash turned it over to the bullpen for the seventh, bringing in hard throwing righty Pete Fairbanks. Glasnow’s night ended after allowing two runs on three hits, walking one, and striking out eight. Despite hanging one to Dom Smith, Glasnow’s curveball was on tonight, so you know the Pitching Ninja had to get involved...
Tyler Glasnow, Curveballs.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 24, 2020
Reported. Bullying. pic.twitter.com/kb7YVGvSIE
To give the bullpen some more run support, Brandon Lowe did his best Dominic Smith impression and parked another ball in the upper deck at Citi Field. Lowe entered the contest with a 194 wRC+ against LHP’s, and Shreve would help him raise that even higher by grooving a 94 mph fastball at the belt. Lowe got all of it and made it 6-2 Rays.
I hope you hadn’t forgotten about Randy Arozarena yet, because his night wasn’t over. In the top of the ninth, he took Steven Matz deep to give the Rays their last insurance run of the night, and it was a BOMB (109.6 EV, 27 LA, 431 ft.).
Going into the bottom of the eighth, Ryan Sherriff was given the ball for his ninth outing of the season. After a clean frame from the lefty, Oliver Drake was given the ball to close this one out, but would let the Mets right back into it after allowing three hits, including a home run to Todd Frazier to make it 8-5.
With just one out to go, Nick Anderson came on to finish it off, and he did so by striking out Andres Gimenez on three pitches.
The Rays are American League East champions, and primed for a deep run in October. The goal for the rest of the regular season will be to get healthy and take some momentum into the first round next week. With just one series to go, the Rays will try to lock up the #1 seed, a feat not yet accomplished in franchise history.