Spots secured, Rays and Blue Jays ready for wild-card round

Field Level Media

October 01, 2023 at 5:28 pm.

The visiting Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays play their final regular-season game Sunday afternoon with playoff spots secured.

The Rays (98-63) defeated the Blue Jays 7-5 in 10 innings Saturday afternoon to gain a split of the first two contests of the three-game series in what could be a warmup for a potential wild-card series between the two.

The Rays entered the series with the first American League wild card spot clinched and were using the final three games of the regular season to prepare for the playoffs. That did not stop them from delaying Toronto’s celebration.

The Blue Jays (89-72) could have clinched a playoff spot with a win on Saturday. Instead, it took the Seattle Mariners’ 6-1 loss to the Texas Rangers later in the day to give Toronto a wild-card spot.

“It’s hectic, it’s stressful and all that kind of stuff, but this is why you play,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after the loss to the Rays. “This is why you play 162 (games). We’re actually doing it. We’re playing 162 for a reason. It’s exciting, it’s up and down, back and forth, all that kind of stuff. But at the end of the day we control our own fate, so that part of it feels really good.”

The Mariners’ loss meant that Schneider could save right-hander Kevin Gausman for the best-of-three wild-card series that starts on Tuesday. Schneider had said that he would have started Gausman on Sunday if the playoff spot had not been locked up on Saturday.

Neither the Rays nor the Blue Jays had named a starting pitcher as of early Sunday. Each team used seven pitchers on Saturday, and it will probably be more of the same Sunday.

The Rays used Shawn Armstrong as a one-inning opener Saturday and Toronto starter Hyun Jin Ryu pitched three innings.

Rays manager Kevin Cash said that he was focused more on what the Rays, especially the young players, did more than the result. Playing in front of a crowd of 42,097 was good preparation for the postseason atmosphere.

“We want these guys to continue getting reps,” Cash said. “This is a pretty good atmosphere against a very good team. So all those things work, I think, in any young player’s favor. … The priority is us feeling good about ourselves. And we’ll see what takes place the rest of the night.”

Taylor Walls hit a two-run single in the 10th inning for the Rays on Saturday. Harold Ramirez had three hits, including a two-run home run, and Josh Lowe went 2-for-4 with two doubles.

Lowe extended his hitting streak to 10 games, batting .400 (16-for-40) with five doubles, two homers, and seven RBIs. Over his past 43 games, he is hitting .342 (53-for-155) with 26 RBIs.

“We’re kind of just going out there and trying to cause some chaos right now,” Lowe said. “It’s pretty fun.”

“It’s all good for us,” said Tampa Bay’s Junior Caminero through a translator. “We’re doing everything we can to win and get the victory. We don’t really care about the fans over here, we’re just over here trying to do our job and win the game.”

Caminero was 2-for-5 with an RBI.

The Blue Jays had a solo homer and three RBIs from Daulton Varsho on Saturday.

In his past 12 games, he has gone 11-for-42 (.262) with a double, two triples, four homers and nine RBIs.