The Tampa Bay Rays are about to play, quite possibly, the most important five-game stretch of regular season games in franchise history. Five games. 45 innings, give or take, just to have the honor of playing nine more. All the Rays need to do is to keep the magic going.
Ji-Man Choi, Brandon Lowe and Willy Adames all homered in the fourth inning to spark a 7-4 win over the visiting Boston Red Sox on Monday. It was the Rays’ fourth straight win, a stretch that included three consecutive extra-inning victories.
The Rays needed the offensive boost after another shaky outing from ace Blake Snell, who failed to make it out of the second inning for a second consecutive start, allowing one run on two hits and walking three. Boston added another run in the third and two more in the fourth to put the Rays in an early 4-0 hole.
But just as they have shown in this final stretch of the season, the Rays would find the rabbit in their hat when they needed it. With two men on in the bottom of the fourth, Choi hit his 17th home run of the year –a three-run shot — just out of reach of a leaping Jackie Bradley Jr. Lowe, who had only been activated from the Injured List on Sunday, followed that with a 437-foot blast. After Kevin Kiermaier was hit by a pitch, Adames erased the early deficit and then some with the Rays’ third home run of the inning to make it 6-4.
Avisail Garcia tacked on another run with an RBI double in the sixth. Rays relievers Oliver Drake, Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo, Emilio Pagan and Colin Poche shut the Red Sox down the rest of the way.
The win puts Tampa Bay up by a 1/2 game over the Cleveland Indians for the second slot in the Wild Card Chase, and 1 1/2 games behind the Oakland Athletics for the home-field slot. Neither Cleveland or Oakland played Monday. In the event of a tie record with Cleveland, the Rays would claim a spot in the postseason thanks to a 6-1 record over the Tribe in the regular season.
The only thing standing in the way now is the dreaded New York Yankees, who have already clinched their postseason spot with an American League East Championship. The Rays host the Yankees for a two-game set before finishing the season with a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays. Yonny Chirinos (9-5, 3.67 ERA) will take the hill for Tampa Bay for the 7:10 start.
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