The Rays take the field against the Blue Jays this afternoon with an unexpected incentive.
Win, and they’re in the playoffs.
The complexities of a multi-team race with some of the teams having head-to-head games remaining has created much confusion this past week in determining magic numbers and clinch dates. There was a revision in the last hour explaining that the Rays need only to win to ensure at least a wild-card berth.
Until then, it was understood the Rays needed to win and have either the Red Sox or Yankees lose tonight.
Here is the explanation from the Rays’ media notes:
UPON FURTHER REVIEW — With a win today, the Rays would clinch a spot in the postseason. ... The reason for this is that 1) a Rays win ensures they finish ahead of the A’s and Mariners, 2) the Blue Jays would fall to 67 losses and the Yankees would enter their game tonight with 67 losses, 3) the Blue Jays and Yankees play a 3-game series next week, guaranteeing that at least one of them reaches 69 losses and mathematically cannot catch the Rays.
The Rays only can get in today with a win; if they lose and the Red Sox or Yankees lose, the magic number would remain at one, given the remaining head-to-head games.
The Rays have bigger goals, such as winning the East division title (with a magic number of five) and securing homefield advantage by finishing with the best record. But the chance to clinch a berth at home, and celebrate in front of their fans, which they haven’t done since the dramatic Game 162 finish to the 2011 season, is something they are looking forward to.
To do so, they will have to beat a hot Blue Jays team. The Rays, who have lost eight of their last 13, are starting Luis Patino after using scheduled starter Michael Wacha out of the bullpen on Tuesday. The Jays are going with a bullpen day, with Ross Stripling slated to work the bulk of the innings.
The Rays are again without designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who manager Kevin Cash said is “under the weather” but available if needed.
Here is the Rays lineup:
And for the Jays:
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