The Tampa Bay Rays are aiming for a second straight American League Eastern title, and the organization added to its playoff plans on Monday.
On Tuesday in St. Petersburg, Fla., The Rays (93-58) and Blue Jays (84-66) meet for game two of a three-game series, one night after Tampa Bay exposed the rookie pitcher. Shane Baz, the best overall perspective organization.
The 22-year-old right-hander shot five innings on two runs – allowing two solo homers – and registered 15 of 17 Toronto batters he opposed.
The number one American baseball hopeful, Baz struck out five goalless and made just 65 shots to register the victory as the Rays won 6-4.
Bringing in a young pitcher late in the season to contribute to the playoffs is a page out of the Rays’ playbook and a necessity given their current state of rotation.
Rookie Shane McClanahan (9-6, 3.51 ERA) took on the ace role of injured Tyler Glasnow and former reliever Drew Rasmussen (3-1, 3.00) was very productive as a leaving.
Meanwhile, Ryan Yarbrough (8-6, 5.30), Michael Wacha (3-5, 5.56) and rookie Luis Patino (4-3, 4.73) were ineffective and inconsistent.
Right-hander Chris Archer (hip) was moved to the 60-day injured list on Monday and is out for the season.
In 2008, the Tampa Bay organization launched little-used rookie southpaw David Price in the playoffs. Last year, McClanahan made the playoffs before appearing in a regular season game.
Baz could be next.
“You’re not going to see a much more impressive game against Toronto than this,” manager Kevin Cash said after Monday’s win.
Rasmussen will get the ball on Tuesday for his 19th appearance and ninth start since acquiring the Milwaukee Brewers on May 21.
The right-hander has made a career start and relief appearance against Toronto, both this season, going 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA. On September 14 in Toronto, he pitched five close innings and was the winner as the Rays clinched a 2-0 victory.
The resurgent Blue Jays started September with an eight-game winning streak, the best of the season, and are 15-4 this month following their loss on Monday. They are half a game ahead of the New York Yankees (84-67) in the race for the second American League wild card, and they are 1 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox (86 -65), which hold the first place of the jokers.
Tampa Bay is in first place with a seven-game lead over Boston in the LA East.
Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo wants to send Alek Manoah (6-2, 3.39 ERA) on Tuesday.
Since shooting seven shutout innings in a 4-0 win over the Kansas City Royals on July 31, Manoah has seen his ERA increase by nearly a full point over the next eight starts.
In August and September, the 23-year-old Homestead, Fla. Native posted a 3-1 record with a 4.34 ERA.
The former West Virginia University star and 2019 first-round pick made three career starts against the Rays – two within a week apart in early July and the other on September 13 – and holds a 2-1 record with a sparkling 0.96 ERA against them.
In last week’s outing in Canada, Manoah had a brilliant eight innings with a shutout as Toronto beat the visitors in first place 8-1 behind the home runs of Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
“This is the first time since I’ve seen the Rays that they haven’t hit anyone by pinch – that’s how good Manoah was,” Montoyo said of the rookie’s departure with 10 strikeouts without step. “That cursor was nasty, and he was locating his fastball. He looks like he had at the start of the season. He’s not losing anything.”
– Field level media