Randy Arozarena almost singlehandedly lifted the Tampa Bay Rays to a Friday night win that put them into a tie for the American League’s top wild-card spot.
After taking the first two games in their four-game series with Toronto, the Rays will face the Blue Jays again on Saturday in St. Petersburg, Fla.
With two games remaining between them, the Rays and Blue Jays each have the same record — 84-67 — as they battle to capture to No. 1 wild-card position.
The Rays sealed the season series against the Blue Jays with their 10-6 win on Friday, giving Tampa Bay a 10-7 head-to-head mark. With just two matchups left in the 19-game season series, Tampa Bay is assured of the wild-card tiebreaker should the teams end up with the same record.
Both clubs hold a 1 1/2-game lead over the team occupying the third AL wild-card spot, the Seattle Mariners (82-68). The first team out of playoff position, the Baltimore Orioles (79-71), sits three games back of Seattle.
Arozarena became the second player in franchise history to reach the 30 stolen base-20 homer milestone when he hit his 20th long ball on Friday. B.J. Upton achieved the mark in 2011 and 2012.
The 2021 AL Rookie of the Year has heated up over the summer, leading the majors with 40 RBIs since Aug. 1.
“You see guys who are Rookie of the Year and the next year the league makes an adjustment on them,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of Arozarena, who drove in as many runs as Toronto scored on Friday. “But Randy’s talent continues to find ways to get big hits.”
Fortunately for the visitors, interim manager John Schneider’s has Alek Manoah set to start on Saturday being pushed back a day.
After posting a 1-2 record and a 3.34 ERA in August, Manoah (14-7, 2.40 ERA) has rebounded with a strong September, turning in four strong starts.
Over those four outings, the Homestead, Fla., native is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA, having allowed four runs and 17 hits in 28 innings with 21 strikeouts.
Though a small sample size, his two-year career slate in September and October is promising: a 6-0 record with a 2.48 ERA in 10 starts. Batters have hit just .175 against him in those outings.
“He’s a guy that we want to be strong throughout the postseason,” Toronto pitching coach Pete Walker said of giving Manoah an extra day of rest. “It’s kind of uncharted territory for Alek at this time of year and the amount of innings (183 2/3) that he’s thrown, so we want to make sure he’s as fresh as possible.
“I think it’s going to enhance his stuff a little bit and maybe give him a little bit better velocity early in the game. That’s (what) we’re hoping for.”
Manoah, 24, is 3-2 with a 1.69 ERA against the Rays across 37 1/3 innings in six career starts. This year, he is 0-1 with a 2.13 ERA in two outings against Tampa Bay.
Rays starter Drew Rasmussen (10-6, 2.92 ERA) will look to regain the outstanding form he had prior to his past two starts.
The right-hander struggled against the Blue Jays on Sept. 14 and the Houston Astros on Monday, getting saddled with two losses while yielding eight runs on 12 hits in 10 innings.
In six career starts and one relief outing against Toronto, Rasmussen is 1-2 with a 2.51 ERA in 32 1/3 innings. This year, he is 0-2 with a 3.10 ERA in four starts vs. the Blue Jays.
–Field Level Media