The Tampa Bay Rays are chasing a second consecutive American League East title, and the organization added to its playoff plans on Monday.
On Tuesday in St. Petersburg, Fla., the Rays (93-58) and Blue Jays (84-66) meet for the second game of a three-game series, a night after Tampa Bay unveiled rookie hurler Shane Baz, the organization’s top overall prospect.
The 22-year-old right-hander fired five innings of two-run ball — allowing two solo homers — and set down 15 of the 17 Toronto hitters he opposed.
Baseball America’s No. 11 prospect, Baz struck out five without issuing a walk and made just 65 pitches in recording the win as the Rays prevailed 6-4.
Bringing a young pitcher up late in the season to contribute in the postseason is a page out of the Rays’ playbook and a necessity considering the current state of their rotation.
Rookie Shane McClanahan (9-6, 3.51 ERA) has assumed injured Tyler Glasnow’s ace role, and former reliever Drew Rasmussen (3-1, 3.00) has been very productive as a starter.
Meanwhile, Ryan Yarbrough (8-6, 5.30), Michael Wacha (3-5, 5.56) and rookie Luis Patino (4-3, 4.73) have been ineffective and inconsistent.
Right-hander Chris Archer (hip) was moved to the 60-day injured list Monday and is out for the season.
In 2008, the Tampa Bay organization pitched little-used rookie southpaw David Price in the postseason. Last year, McClanahan pitched in the playoffs before ever appearing in a regular-season game.
Baz could be next.
“You’re not going to see much more impressive outings against Toronto’s lineup than that,” manager Kevin Cash said after the Monday win.
Rasmussen will get the ball Tuesday for his 19th appearance and ninth start since being acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers on May 21.
The right-hander has made one start and one relief appearance against Toronto in his career, both this season, going 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA. On Sept. 14 at Toronto, he tossed five sharp innings and was the winner as the Rays posted a 2-0 victory.
The resurgent Blue Jays opened September with a season-best, eight-game winning streak and are 15-4 this month after their Monday loss. They are a half-game up on the New York Yankees (84-67) in the race for the second American League wild card, and they are 1 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox (86-65), who hold the top wild-card spot.
First-place Tampa Bay is seven games ahead of Boston in the AL East.
Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo will send out Alek Manoah (6-2, 3.39 ERA) on Tuesday.
Since firing seven innings of shutout ball in a 4-0 win over the Kansas City Royals on July 31, Manoah has watched his ERA rise almost a full run over the next eight starts.
In August and September, the 23-year-old Homestead, Fla., native has posted a 3-1 record with a 4.34 ERA.
The former University of West Virginia standout and 2019 first-round pick has made three career starts against the Rays — two a week apart in early July and the other on Sept. 13 — and holds a 2-1 record with a sparkling 0.96 ERA against them.
In last week’s outing in Canada, Manoah crafted eight brilliant innings of one-hit, shutout ball as Toronto trounced the first-place visitors 8-1 behind home runs from Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
“That’s the first time in my time seeing the Rays that they didn’t pinch-hit anybody — that’s how good Manoah was,” Montoyo said of the rookie’s 10-strikeout, no-walk start. “That slider was nasty, and he was locating his fastball. He looks just like he did at the beginning of the season. He’s not losing anything.”
–Field Level Media
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