With Yandy Diaz's return to the lineup followed by a 7-2 win over the Houston Astros, the Tampa Bay Rays have clinched postseason play for the fourth consecutive season. The Rays improved to 86-71 on the 2022 campaign.
Diaz went 3-4 with a walk and driving in two, while shortstop phenom Wander Franco drove in an early run. Starting pitcher Drew Rasmussen capped a tremendous breakout season with seven strong innings, improving his ERA to 2.84 on the season across 146 frames.
Rasmussen is one of many, including Jeffrey Springs (2.45 ERA, 141 Ks) and Shane McClanahan (2.51 ERA, 0.917 WHIP), to step up amidst a rotation that didn't have arms such as Yonny Chirinos and Tyler Glasnow until recently. Rasmussen told Tricia Whitaker after the game that "this is the chance you play for."
The starting rotation's solid work top-to-bottom has been bolstered by terrific work out of the bullpen. The Rays 3.29 bullpen ERA is fourth in the American League, behind the Astros, Yankees and Guardians, all of whom are among Tampa's postseason competition. Jason Adam, who had been non-tendered by the Cubs last November, led the way with a career-low 1.56 ERA in 67 games.
The Rays relied heavily on break-through seasons from their lineup this year, amidst a team that saw 60 different players hit the IL. Manuel Margot hit for an OPS+ over 100 for the first time in his seven Major League seasons, while Harold Ramirez has been approximately 25% better than league average at the plate according to the same metric. The 140 OPS+ from Yandy Diaz has led the team thus far, falling-in-line with RCG's pre-season projection.
The Rays made history beyond that tonight, becoming the first AL club in the expansion era to clinch postseason berth on a road trip of at least nine games to end the season. Rays manager Kevin Cash has tied the club-record for most postseason appearances, matching Joe Maddon who made the playoffs in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013.
The Rays are the third AL East team to clinch postseason play, joining the Yankees and Blue Jays. While the Rays are notorious for mixing and matching lineups, the rotation can also go a variety of ways. Rasmussen, McClanahan and Springs all had tremendous years for the Rays, while veteran Corey Kluber has ample postseason experience, including having pitched in the World Series. On top of that, Glasnow has the best stuff of the group and will be available.
The Rays have five games remaining on the season across Houston and Boston. Tomorrow's game against the Astros is set for 6:20 local time, as McClanahan (12-7, 2022 All-Star game starter) goes up against Cristian Javier (2.65 ERA, 187 Ks). As always, you can watch the Rays on Bally Sports Sun. Rays Colored Glasses will continue to keep you up-to-date on all things Rays heading into October.
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