The Rays have clinched their playoff spot. They’ve clinched the division, giving themselves a home-field advantage for the upcoming ALDS. They’ve secured a franchise-best win record with a few games left to play. So what’s left for them to do?
Well, crushing the Yankees’ Wild Card dreams is certainly up there on the list.
In their last series of the season, they found themselves in the Big Apple, deep in enemy territory, and things went about as Rays-Yankees as you might expect.
Shane McClanahan was in for the Rays, and Nestor Cortes and his mustache were on the mound for the Yankees. In the first inning Cortes made quick work of the first two Rays batters but Nelson Cruz did manage a solo blast to give the Rays the first score of the night.
And we're off to a BOOMING start pic.twitter.com/P8bZuFW53z— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 1, 2021
The Yankees quickly balanced things out with a run of their own, but it was a bit more of an effort to get there. First Torres doubled, then advanced to third on a wild pitch. He was then able to score on a deep single off the bat of Stanton to tie the game.
The Rays were able to get one right back in the second. Margot reached on an infield single, then Mejia singled to advance Margot to second. A Kiermaier single allowed Margot to score and put the Rays back up by one. In the bottom of the single McClanahan allowed one single to Gardner but was otherwise efficient.
Things got very quiet on the scoring front for the next several innings. Both teams went 1-2-3 in the third, and in the fourth, the Rays went down in order while the Yankees were able to eke out a mere single off the bat of Urshela, with Pete Fairbanks taking over on the mound, but no runs scored.
In the fifth Kiermaier legged out a really nice two-out triple that chased Cortes from the game, but the Rays were unable to get him all the way home. The next reliever for the Rays was Louis Head, who had himself a nice 1-2-3.
Onto the sixth, and Diaz drew a two-out walk, but the inning ended with the next at bat. Head continued to deal in the bottom of the sixth, giving up a single to Aaron judge, but nothing else.
Things got interesting in the seventh, though only in that the inning seemed to take a full hour and not because anyone actually scored any runs. Mejia got a two-out single, then Kiermaier got aboard with a hit-by-pitch. Arozarena then walked to load the bases, but the Rays were shut down with no additional runs scored. Head gave way to Fleming one batter into the bottom of the seventh, and Fleming neatly wrapped up the last two batters.
In the top of the eighth, Diaz singled, then legged out a stolen base. Yes, you read that right, Yandy Diaz stole second. It was his first stolen base since 2019. In spite of another runner in scoring position, the Rays could not extend their lead. Fleming was back in action for the bottom of the inning. Fleming made quick work of the Yankees, and we were onto the ninth.
The top of the ninth lasted roughly one week. Mejia drew a one-out walk, and Phillips came in to pinch-run. Kiermaier walked. Arozarena grounded into a fielder’s choice which advanced Phillips to third, but erased Kiermaier. Arozarena then stole second. Franco wasn't messing around though with a long single that scored Phillips and Arozarena easily. The inning ended on the next bat, but the Rays did what was needed, putting themselves up 4-1.
When did Andrew Kittredge start looking like a wizard? That beard is getting majestic.
Kittredge gave up what should have been a single to Stanton, but the throw from Phillips went... off course... to put it politely... letting Stanton advance easily to second, and with the Rays offense shifted to right, Stanton basically trotted himself down to third (I’m not checking the scoring on this but... defensive indifference FEELS right), then a little-bitty bunt off Gallo, again not being covered, and Stanton scored. Urshela then singled and suddenly two men were on with one out. Then Gardner singled to score Gallo and suddenly the score was at 4-3?
I can confirm Andrew Kittredge is not a wizard.
A pinch-hitting Sanchez struck out for the second out of the inning and it was all down to Odor. Kitt managed the final strikeout, and while it got tense and a bit too interesting, they hung on for the win. And the countdown to 100 wins is 1.
Final: Rays 4, Yankees 3