The gloves came off as the Tampa Bay Rays sealed their postseason berth with a 6-2 win over the Houston Astros. This makes four consecutive postseason appearances which is the longest streak in franchise history.
Framber Valdez was the starter for the Astros and the poor guy did not stand a chance. In his last start against the Baltimore Orioles right-handed batters batted.429 (9-for-21) with an OBP of.455 (22 PA’s) against Valdez. So naturally, the Rays lineup all the right-handers he could face.
Also notable in the lineup is the 1-2 punch of Yandy Diaz and Randy Arozarena at the top of the order. In Yandy’s first start in 11 days since sitting out with shoulder soreness.
Diaz and Arozarena were both walked to start off the game giving the Rays two free baserunners. Wander Franco who was interestingly without batting gloves tonight grounded into a double play essentially negating the free passes, though, it did move Diaz to third base. Harold Ramirez made sure to capitalize as he hit a RBI-single to right to score Diaz and give the Rays a 1-0 lead.
The Astros needed a win over the Rays or a loss by the Yankees to clinch the top seed in the American League and their offense came out swinging appropriately. Alex Bregman was the second batter to face Drew Rasmussen and he feasts on elevated fastballs with a well-hit average of .298 this season. In the first pitch of the at-bat Rasmussen served an elevated fastball so nicely over the center of the plate you would think it came with a sprinkle of parsley on top. Bregman launched it over the left field wall for a no doubt home run to tie the game 1-1.
Alex Bregman - Houston Astros (23) pic.twitter.com/DB35yooeTO— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) October 1, 2022
Manuel Margot had some struggles in the field tonight and two of those moments came in the bottom of the fourth inning. He misplayed a Yordan Alvarez line drive off the wall in the for a double and later Yuri Gurriel hit a RBI-single on a line drive right off the tip of Margot’s glove giving the Astros a 2-1 lead. Earlier in the game Margot overran a line drive from Jeremy Pena that resulted in a triple in the second inning. The Rays were able to overcome the miscues and limit the damage to the single run.
The top of the fifth was a reminder of how potent this Rays offense has the potential to be. Diaz hit a single to get a baserunner with one out and Arozarena followed suit with a RBI-triple to tie the game. Ties don’t get you to the postseason so Wander Franco hit a RBI-single to give the Rays a 3-2 lead they would ultimately never look back from.
Here for the Jose Siri hugs after every run— Tricia Whitaker (@TriciaWhitaker) October 1, 2022
Wander Franco drives in Randy Arozarena and the Rays have a 3-2 lead over the Astros. pic.twitter.com/FqNdb06UCW
Valdez made it to the sixth inning for the Astros but he would not make it out of it. Francisco Mejia led off with a single followed by a walk to Isaac Paredes giving the Rays two on with no outs for the second time. Jose Siri hit a RBI-double scoring Mejia. Taylor Walls hit a sharp ball to right that was ruled a fielders choice as Jose Altuve made a great play fielding the ball and throwing it to Christian Vazquez at the plate catching Paredes before he could score. Diaz extended the Rays lead to 6-2 with his 33rd double of the year and his third hit of the game. That was enough to end the night for Valdez with 5.1 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB and 2 K on 93 pitches.
Drew Rasmussen was the epitome of efficiency Friday night. He finished with 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, and 1 HR on only 73 pitches.
Since allowing a triple to Pena in the second inning, Drew Rasmussen has retired 13 of the last 16 Houston hitters, allowing two doubles and that single (error?) that Margot mishandled. Other than that, Rass has settled in.— Ryan Bass (@Ry_Bass) October 1, 2022
What an outing by Drew Rasmussen with a chance to clinch a playoff spot. 7 innings, just 73 pitches, 5 hits, 2 runs, 0 walks, 3 K’s. #Rays lead Houston 7-2 headed to the bottom of the 8th. #Raysup pic.twitter.com/0BnlR2cF6L— Toby Srebnik (he/him) (@fsutoby) October 1, 2022
If you would have bet me on Opening Day that at the end of September Walls would have as many home runs as Franco and Margot combined I would happily have taken that bet. Turns out I would have lost that bet as Walls took Phil Maton deep to right field for his eighth home run of the year. Rays led 7-2 after eight.
This went wayyyyy over the Walls pic.twitter.com/hiAiJItrAo— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 1, 2022
The Astros added one more run in the ninth on a RBI-double from Gurriel as the Rays win 7-3.
This win could be the start of something good for the Rays. The team has struggled losing four of their last six games and now are starting to get healthier and if the offense can start performing to potential this team can find themselves playing deep into October.
Making the postseason is the first goal and the team still has the opportunity to work on finishing with a higher seed in the wild card race as they face the Astros again tomorrow at 7:20pm ET with lefty Shane McClanahan starting for the Rays opposite Cristian Javier for the Astros.
For tonight, enjoy the celebration.