The Tampa Bay Rays approach the end of their season in the thicket of a tight wild card race. The team currently holds a 4.5 game lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the AL Wild Card standings. The Rays, Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays all currently hold a wild card spot, and each team’s record is within a single game of each other. After splitting their series against the Blue Jays on Thursday, the Rays begin a three game series against the Texas Rangers Friday night.
Shane McClanahan Returns from IL
With the return of ace Shane McClanahan from the injured list, the Rays look to make a final push as the season comes to a close. McClanahan was on the rubber for the first time Thursday night since spending 15 days on the IL. McClanahan, who is currently a top contender for the AL Cy Young award, suffered an injury to his left shoulder during his warm-ups against the Miami Marlins on Aug. 31. In his first game back, McClanahan looked as sharp as ever. He pitched five innings, allowing no runs and striking out five. The Rays would go on to route the Blue Jays 11-0.
"Hopefully it's a strike!"
— Bally Sports Florida & Bally Sports Sun (@BallySportsFL) September 15, 2022
McClanahan’s health is a critical part of the Rays’ wild card hopes and postseason success. McClanahan is 12-5 this season and currently boasts a 2.13 ERA. His ERA is the second lowest in the league behind Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander. An active McClanahan bolsters Tampa Bay’s starting rotation of Corey Kluber, Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs.
The Rays’ offense was also firing on all cylinders in Thursday’s 11-run victory over Toronto. A three-run home run from third baseman Yandy Diaz and a three-hit night for outfielder Randy Arozarena led the charge for the Rays. Diaz and Arozarena have been the main offensive weapons throughout the season. Diaz leads the team in batting average (.294) and OBP (.402), while Arozarena leads the team in home runs (19), RBIs (79), hits (142) and stolen bases (30).
While Tampa Bay will need consistent production from this dynamic duo in the remaining 19 games of the season, the Rays also need the rest of the squad to perform at the plate. With veterans Kevin Kiermaier and Mike Zunino out for the season due to injury, the Rays will look toward other players such as Christian Bethancourt, David Peralta and Harold Ramirez to bear the load.
Closing Out the Season
The Rays final 19 games of the season consist of a 10-game home stint from Sep. 16-25. Their final nine games are all on the road. This may pose a problem for the Rays. The squad’s home record is 80-63, but their away record is 33-39. In their road series, Tampa Bay faces the AL Central-leading Cleveland Guardians, the AL West-leading Astros and their rivals in the Boston Red Sox.
Tonight, the Rays face the Rangers at 7:10 p.m.. Right-hander Corey Kluber starts on the mound for Tampa and left-hander Martin Perez starts for Texas.