While the Tampa Bay Rays view this weekend as a rehearsal for what they hope is a deep postseason run, the New York Yankees are trying to secure their playoff spot as quickly as possible.
The Rays continue their postseason tune-up and attempt to prevent the Yankees from clinching Saturday afternoon when the American League East rivals continue a three-game series at Yankee Stadium.
The Rays (99-61) are 6-2 in the Bronx this season and 11-3 there since the start of last season. They opened the series by holding on for a 4-3 victory on Friday.
Rookie Wander Franco hit a two-run single after his 43-game on-base streak ended Thursday. Nelson Cruz moved into a tie with Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and Jeff Bagwell for 40th on the all-time list with his 449th homer, and Kevin Kiermaier reached four times and is hitting .349 (20-for-58) in his past 24 games.
“In their situation, they have pressure on them and they know what’s at stake for them,” Kiermaier said. “So we want to throw our best at them, and they’re going to do the same with us, so may the best team win. That’s the name of the game.”
The Yankees (91-69), who lead the AL wild-card race, are one game ahead of the Boston Red Sox (90-70) and two in front of the Toronto Blue Jays (89-71) and the Seattle Mariners (89-71). New York enters with a magic number of one to clinch its fifth straight postseason spot.
“We’re playing really good baseball,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after his team completed its 88th game decided by two runs or fewer. “Tough one there and we got to turn the page quickly and get after it (Saturday).”
Streaky all year, the Yankees are 8-2 in their past 10 games after losing 15 of 22. They nearly pulled off a comeback against Tampa Bay’s Andrew Kittredge in the ninth inning, but Gary Sanchez and Rougned Odor struck out with two on after Joey Gallo and Brett Gardner hit RBI singles.
“We want to clinch, that’d be nice, but we got two more games to do that,” Gallo said. “We control our own destiny, but that’s up to us.”
New York’s Giancarlo Stanton had two hits, including an RBI single, and he has driven in 14 runs in his past seven games.
Odor started at third base because DJ LeMahieu was out with right hip soreness, and LeMahieu might be unavailable Saturday.
Jordan Montgomery (6-6, 3.49 ERA), who is 1-0 with a 1.65 ERA in his past three starts, goes for New York on Saturday. The left-hander took his 17th no-decision Sunday in Boston when he allowed one run on seven hits in five innings in a 6-3 win.
Montgomery has allowed one earned run or fewer in 14 starts, including three of his four starts against the Rays. He is 4-3 with a 4.01 ERA in 11 career starts against Tampa Bay.
Rookie Shane Baz (2-0, 1.69 ERA), the sixth pitcher in team history to win his first two starts, takes the mound for Tampa Bay. He last pitched Sunday against the Miami Marlins when he retired the first nine hitters, allowed three hits and struck out nine in 5 2/3 scoreless innings.
Baz was acquired by Tampa Bay from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2018 in the trade that also landed Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows in exchange for Chris Archer. He went 3-0 with a 1.76 ERA in 10 starts for Triple-A Durham before joining the Rays and is ranked by Baseball America as the 11th-best overall prospect.
–Field Level Media