The Tampa Bay Rays are tied with the Toronto Blue Jays for the first Wild Card spot after beating them 10-6 Friday night. The win also secured the season series win for the Rays and gives them the tiebreaker advantage.
The game was an entertaining tug-of-war until the Rays pulled it out late. At times the game felt too entertaining with so much at stake. Not to be greedy but a boring blowout would have not have been a complaint from me.
The Rays offense got going in the bottom of the first inning with runners on second and third following a Harold Ramirez walk and Wander Franco double. Ramirez scored on a groundout to first from Randy Arozarena. In the next at-bat Manuel Margot hit a bunt single that was so sweet you would assume it was drizzled with cream cheese frosting and not keto approved. Margot’s RBI-single scored Franco and the Rays had an early 2-0 lead.
Jeffrey Springs looked sharper than the cheddar that goes in a proper macaroni and cheese with five strikeouts through the first four innings. His only blemishes were a single to Bo Bichette in the first and a double to Whit Merrifield in the third to this point. Unlike the proverbial mac and cheese, Springs was serving real-life changeups over the plate that Blue Jays hitters struggled to get a piece of.
Jeffrey Springs, Nasty 82mph Changeup. pic.twitter.com/jxgdq8wSFd— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 23, 2022
Good things come in twos and for the Rays in the bottom of the fourth inning, doubles were very good things. Isaac Paredes hit the first double of the inning off the left field wall that was just shy of being a solo homer. Christian Bethancourt followed two batters later with an off the wall double of his own scoring Paredes and giving the Rays a 3-0 lead.
This Blue Jays decided to make things interesting in the fifth inning. Teoscar Hernandez and Raimel Tapia hit back-to-back doubles off Springs to put a run on the board for Toronto. After a flyout by Merrifield and a Danny Jansen walk the Blue Jays had runners on the corner. Keeping with the back-to-back theme of the inning Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit consecutive RBI-singles to tie the game. In what should have been the third out, Alejandro Kirk reached first safely on a throwing error by Paredes that allowed Bichette to score and give the Blue Jays a 4-3 lead.
The Randy man makes everything he rakes satisfying and entertaining. Down by a single run with runners on first and third, Arozarena crushed a line drive that bounced off the top of the pad and off a seat for a three-run home run to give the Rays back the lead and make it a 6-4 game. The homer was his 20th of the season giving him back to back seasons with 20 home runs and 20 RBIs.
Randy's 20th of the year puts us back on top ‼️ pic.twitter.com/CAlYPXEGLJ— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 24, 2022
¡RANDY se une al club 20/20!— MLB Cuba (@mlbcuba) September 24, 2022
El orgullo de Pinar del Río consigue unirse al selecto club de 20 jonrones y 20 bases robadas por 2da temporada seguida en @LasMayores. Es el primer jugador nacido en Cuba en hacerlo.#ColadaPower pic.twitter.com/3yyFQOxpll
Later in the bottom of the fifth inning, rays rookie Miles Mastrobuoni got his first hit during his first start with a single to center field.
A moment he'll never forget pic.twitter.com/g3trmZwWUA— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 24, 2022
Colin Poche took the mound for the Rays to replace Springs, though, it did not lead to much relief. The Blue Jays quickly had two baserunners after a walk to Teoscar Hernandez and a Tapia single. Poche was able to strikeout Merrifield but with the top of the order coming back around Kevin Cash made the change to Jason Adam.
Adam came into the game stranding a club-record 27 straight inherited runners which if I’m mentioning this before talking about his performance he clearly didn’t extend that streak. Jansen was the first batter Adam faced he hit a RBI-single to left field that scored Hernandez. George Springer followed that up with a sacrifice fly to right that scored Tapia as Margot’s throw was off target and not in time tying the game 6-6.
✔️ Score the tying run— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) September 24, 2022
✔️ Get a workout in pic.twitter.com/a9Wf9iF1uA
Kevin Cash must have had enough with this close game as he pulled out all the stops and the pinch hitters in the bottom of the eighth inning. Ji-Man Choi was the first off the bench in the inning as a pinch-hitter for Paredes and he provided an early return with a leadoff walk. Choi was lifted for Taylor Walls as a pinch-runner. Mastrobuoni moved Walls over to third with a single to right for his second career hit. David Peralta then entered the game as a pinch-hitter for Bethancourt. Peralta came through for the Rays with a sacrifice fly to right that Walls hustled home to beat the tag and take back the lead.
Getting out of the inning only trailing by one run proved to be just out of the reach of the Blue Jays. After intentionally walking Jonathan Aranda with two outs Bichette failed to field a routine ground ball to shortstop that went just under his glove. The error allowed Mastrobuoni to score his first career run. The bases were loaded after a Franco single bringing the Randy man himself to the plate. Arozarena hit a line drive off the top of the left field wall that scored Aranda and Ramirez. As Arozarena made an aggressive move to try to make it to second base he was tagged out to end the inning with the Rays leading 10-6.
Pete Fairbanks took the mound for the Rays in the ninth inning to secure the victory. The look in Pete’s eyes was the usual look of determined victory or a father that has told his children to sit down for the last time. Springer got a leadoff walk that proved futile in the comeback attempt as Fairbanks retired the next three Blue Jays hitters, striking out the first two.
This team clearly still has the talent to reach their potential and play deep into October. The Rays look to take sole possession of the first wild card spot Saturday at 6:10pm ET with Drew Rasmussen on the mound.