One certainly could expect the Tampa Bay Rays to have a little bit of a hangover on Saturday after clinching a wild-card playoff berth Friday night in Toronto against the Blue Jays. But the Rays went into Saturday's game with a chance to secure home-field advantage for Wednesday's American League wild-card game against the Oakland A's. With both teams having 96-64 records at the start of play Saturday, the Rays needed to finish ahead of Oakland to secure the home field, as the A's won the season series four games to three.
The Rays will now need help from the Seattle Mariners late Saturday night, as Tampa Bay fell to the Blue Jays 4-1. Should the A's defeat Seattle Saturday or Sunday, or the Rays lose again Sunday, Oakland will host the wild-card game Wednesday night.
It didn't look good from the very beginning for the Rays, as the Blue Jays scored three in the first off Rays' starter Ryan Yarbrough. The first four batters reached base, starting with a lead-off home run by Jays' center fielder Teoscar Hernandez. Cavan Biggio followed with a single, and he came home on a triple by Randal Grichuk. Rowdy Tellez then singled Grichuk home to complete the first-inning scoring.
The game then became a pitching duel between Yarbrough and Toronto starter Trent Thornton into the sixth inning, as the Rays were unable to get it going against Thornton.
Thornton had a shaky first inning, walking both Tommy Pham and Brandon Lowe with two out, but he got out of that trouble by striking out Jesus Aguilar. Thornton then cruised through five, allowing only a Matt Duffy single in the second, and lead-off walks to Lowe in the fourth and catcher Michael Perez in the fifth.
The Rays finally got on the board in the seventh, as Matt Duffy hit a solo homer, his first home run since June 16, 2018, a span of 427 at-bats. That turned out to be the Rays' lone run, as their bats were stifled by an assortment of Toronto relievers.
The Blue Jays answered back with an insurance run in their half of the seventh, as Richard Urena scorched a 1-out double off Diego Castillo, scoring Danny Jansen, who had singled with one out.
You can suggest that the celebratory hangover from Friday night's wild-card clincher could have caused the Rays to look sluggish all game, but they will go into Sunday's game with a chance to tie the team record for wins in a season.
And if you're reading this on Sunday morning, you may already know where Wednesday's wild card game will be played.
* Thornton picked up his sixth win of the season and is now 6-9. Yarbrough took the loss and is now 11-6. Ken Giles picked up his 23rd save with a 1-2-3 ninth inning for Toronto.
* Blake Snell (6-7, 4.21 ERA) will get the ball to start Sunday's game against the Jays, with former Red Sox ace Clay Buchholz (1-5, 7.00 ERA) going for Toronto. Game time is 3:07 p.m., as all MLB games will start at around the same time.