Tampa Bay Rays' David Peralta walks towards the dugout after striking out against the Toronto Blue Jays during the sixth inning of a baseball game Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Scott Audette)

Rays Wildcard Race takes a Blue Jay Hit

AL East Champion, for two years running, that title belonged to the Tampa Bay Rays.

But a division loaded with the likes of the Blue Jays and a Yankees team behind a historical Aaron Judge developed into a tall ask with each passing series.

Sunday night’s 7-1 loss to the Blue Jays was the culmination of just that as the Rays saw their hopes fly away with each of Toronto’s four homers on the night.

Eliminated from the division race, the Rays currently sit 84-69 on the season after losing their last two of a four-game home series against the Blue Jays. They sit 10.5 games back with all of their final nine games away from Tropicana Field. But it’s the AL Wildcard race that has the Rays in a crunch to get their bats in order.

Tampa: Ground won

The Rays seemed set to sweep division rivals in the Toronto Blue Jays after 10-5 and 10-6 wins to open their final home series.

Leadoff magic from Jonathan Aranda backed by Wander Franco’s three RBIs gave the Rays the first of two wins completing a dream start to the series.

Randy Arozarena would bring about a tie in the AL Wildcard race after a six RBI night as the Rays escaped the Blue Jays with four runs in the bottom of the eighth.

The third game of the series provided the Rays with an opportunity to go ahead in the race. However, they were faced with the ace Alek Manoah. The American League All-Star threw seven innings of zero-run ball for eight strikeouts leading to a 3-1 win for the Jays.

Rays-Jays for the Wildcard tie

The series on the line, the race on the line and Shane McClanahan on the mound.

The previous night had been hard on Tampa bats facing Manoah and this was the golden chance to even things out for Tampa, a fourth and final game for most of the marbles.

The night started swiftly for McClanahan with a leadoff single from George Springer would go unpunished as Bo Bichette followed with a double-play ball.

Vladimir Guerrero followed with a strikeout swinging, a nasty changeup, as the ace should.

https://twitter.com/PitchingNinja/status/1574086847260672000?s=20&t=cI0_PQZLi9yV4JbS2yI75g

The Jays picked up their stride as Springer and Alejandro Kirk sent McClanahan’s fastball and slider deep, a combo redeemable for three Toronto runs.

Arozarena continued to play offensive hero for the Rays as his sacrifice fly gave Tampa what would be their only run in an underwhelming final push in the race.

Springer would go on to take McClanahan’s four-seam fastball for one last ride through the Tropicana Field air and into the center field stands, 4-1 Jays.

The top of the eighth marked midnight for the Rays’ conjured cinderella series, a Teoscar Hernández 464-foot bomb to left sent the Wildcard race 1,300 miles away to Toronto.

All eyes are on a postseason road trip

A 7-1 win for the Jays and the Rays kissed the division reign goodbye from afar.

But the loss on Sunday meant more for the all-important race for postseason ball.

Tampa Bay sits half a game ahead of Seattle for the second wild card spot in the American League, two games back of the Blue Jays.

It’ll be a rough race to the top with nine games, all on the road, remaining for the Rays. Eyes now turn to a three-game series at Cleveland up next.

About Rafael De Los Santos

Junior studying Journalism - Sports & Media at the University of Florida

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