Daily Dose: Doubleheaders galore

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Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz each turned in gems Sunday as Boston claimed both ends of a doubleheader against Tampa Bay, extending the Rays’ losing streak to 11 games. Lester allowed just two hits over eight shutout innings for his fifth victory in a row and is now 10-2 with a 2.02 ERA and 149/39 K/BB ratio in 129.1 innings since a loss on May 26 dropped him to 3-5 with a 6.07 ERA.
Buchholz hasn’t been nearly that dominant, but seven innings of one-run ball Sunday gives him seven Quality Starts in eight outings. He’s now 5-3 with a 3.66 ERA in 71 innings overall this year, although a 49/30 K/BB ratio isn’t particularly good. With two wins Sunday afternoon the Red Sox widened their Wild Card lead to 3.5 games over the Rangers, putting their odds of making the playoffs at around 85-90 percent.
While the Red Sox prepare to welcome Daisuke Matsuzaka back to the rotation later this week, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Sunday also saw the Phillies take both ends of a doubleheader from the Mets, with each game offering some intrigue. Game 1 had Brad Lidge back at closer just three days after he was officially stripped of ninth-inning duties. A three-run lead gave him plenty of leeway and he needed it, giving up two runs before escaping with his 29th save in an outing that certainly shouldn’t help him reclaim the full-time gig.
Game 2 featured Pedro Martinez turning back the clock with eight shutout innings, at which point Ryan Madson got the nod to close out a 1-0 win. Charlie Manuel clearly couldn’t be sure things would work out that way, but Lidge taking the easy saves and Madson taking the tough saves makes some sense. Martinez tossed 130 pitches for his biggest workload since way back in 2001 and is now 5-0 with a 2.87 ERA. Wow.
* Alfonso Soriano is officially done for the season after the Cubs announced Sunday that he’ll undergo arthroscopic knee surgery this week. Soriano finishes the year at .241/.303/.423 with 20 homers, 55 RBIs, 64 runs, and nine steals in 117 games, all of which represent career-worst totals except for his 18 homers as a rookie in 2001. The surgery is considered minor, but Soriano is still a big question mark for 2010.
* After missing his last start because of back spasms, Tim Lincecum threw a bullpen session Saturday and reported no problems, clearing the way for him to take the hill Monday night against the Rockies. Lincecum hasn’t been great versus Colorado for his career, but shut out the Rockies for eight innings on August and obviously should be in all fantasy lineups for this week.
AL Quick Hits: Michael Young (hamstring) is hoping to rejoin the lineup Friday, which means that he’ll probably return before Josh Hamilton (back) … CC Sabathia picked up his AL-best 17th win Sunday despite walking four versus just one strikeout … Joe Mauer went 3-for-4 with a homer Sunday and is now one RBI short of his career-high of 85 … Jake Peavy (elbow) was encouraging by a bullpen session Sunday and may finally join the White Sox’s rotation this week … Brian Bannister has been told to take the rest of the season off after getting a second opinion on his fatigued arm … Brian Duensing tossed seven shutout innings Sunday and has allowed three runs or fewer in all six of his starts … Dustin Pedroia had an opposite-field homer at Fenway Park for the first time in his career Sunday … Kyle Davis threw six shutout innings Sunday despite six free passes and as many balls as strikes … Justin Morneau was absent from Sunday’s lineup with back and wrist soreness.
NL Quick Hits: Chris Carpenter had a rare ugly outing Sunday, giving up seven runs in six innings for his fourth loss … Randy Wolf (elbow) had a bullpen session Sunday and is now slated to start Tuesday … Ian Desmond collected two more hits Sunday while starting at second base for the first time since high school … Chad Billingsley was pulled after just four innings and 71 pitches Sunday, allowing three runs … Brad Penny tossed seven innings of two-run ball Sunday, making him 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA since returning to the NL … J.A. Happ (oblique) will throw a bullpen session Monday in the hopes of avoiding a third straight missed start … Javier Vazquez allowed two runs in a complete-game win Sunday after taking a shutout into the ninth … Ted Lilly cut his ERA to a career-best 3.05 with six scoreless innings Sunday … Pittsburgh is shutting Ross Ohlendorf down for the season after logging 30 innings more than his previous career-high.

Rays beat Mets 8-5, clinch 1st AL East title in 10 years

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Confetti instead of champagne. Silly string instead of beer.

The Tampa Bay Rays, long accustomed to doing more with less, figured out a way to maximize the division-clinching celebration they were allowed to enjoy during a 2020 season shortened by the coronavirus.

Randy Arozarena homered twice and the Rays clinched their first AL East title in 10 years Wednesday night with an 8-5 victory over the New York Mets.

“I’m completely dry right now, which I’m not a huge fan of,” center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, the longest-tenured Rays player, said with a grin. “But you have to adapt to what we’re asked of.”

With teams instructed to celebrate in a muted and socially distant style, the Rays went old school – or maybe elementary school – with their clinching party.

The team filed slowly onto the field after Nick Anderson fanned Andres Gimenez for the final out. A couple of players shot off canisters filled with confetti that eventually dotted the grass and dirt at Citi Field. Hugs and handshakes were exchanged before the Rays doused one another with silly string and lit some cigars in the visiting clubhouse.

Later, hooting and hollering could be heard from the visitors’ dugout.

“We’re little kids trapped in grown men’s bodies,” Kiermaier said.

Joey Wendle and Brandon Lowe also went deep for the Rays to back Tyler Glasnow‘s six solid innings. Tampa Bay will be home at quirky Tropicana Field for a best-of-three first-round playoff series beginning next Tuesday.

It is the third division crown for the thrifty Rays, whose payroll this season is just over $28 million – more than only the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles. Tampa Bay, which began play in 1998, also won the AL East, home of two big-spending powers in the Yankees and Red Sox, in 2008 and 2010.

“It feels great to win the division, no matter what division you’re in,” Kiermaier said. “But especially the American League East – it’s just a different animal.”

After missing a chance to clinch Tuesday, the Rays went into Wednesday again needing just a win or a Yankees loss against Toronto to lock up the division championship.

The Rays (37-20) broke a 2-all tie in the sixth on Arozarena’s two-run homer off Michael Wacha and pulled away, taking care of business themselves while New York was routed 14-1 by the Blue Jays.

“At the end of the day, a clinch is a clinch,” said Wendle, who homered in the second. “But to do it on a win – everybody’s kind of riding the high of winning the game along with the division. We didn’t want to see it come down to them losing a game.”

Tampa Bay also is closing in on wrapping up the top record in the AL and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

Lowe, who had an RBI fielder’s choice in the third, hit a two-run homer in the eighth. Willy Adames added an RBI single later in the inning and Arozarena homered again in the ninth.

The insurance came in handy for the Rays when the Mets scored three times off Oliver Drake in the ninth – via an RBI groundout by Robinson Cano and a two-run homer by Todd Frazier – before Anderson closed the door.

“I think we had the game pretty much in control (and) certainly recognized what was going on in Buffalo, but I don’t know if you can ever prepare for a moment like that – it’s pretty special,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Glasnow (5-1) allowed two runs on three hits and one walk with eight strikeouts.

Gimenez and Dominic Smith homered off Glasnow in the final home game of the season for the Mets, whose long-shot playoff hopes were further damaged with the loss. New York began the day 2 1/2 games out of an NL wild-card spot.

“We still have a shot with the four games left and we’re competing,” manager Luis Rojas said. “We’ve just got to do what we do – just keep fighting like we did in the ninth.”

Wacha allowed four runs on six hits and struck out four in six innings.

STABLE SHIRT

Rays pitcher Charlie Morton sported a T-shirt picturing a stable of horses as he spoke with reporters during a pregame Zoom call. Morton did little to discourage the notion the shirt was inspired by Cash’s viral rant earlier this month, when he declared the Rays have “a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 mph” after Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman threw near Mike Brousseau’s head in the ninth inning Sept. 4.

“The stable shirt?” Morton said. “It was in my locker last week and I like horses.”

With a grin obviously growing even behind his Rays mask, Morton said he rode horses as a kid.

“So I was ecstatic to see this shirt in my locker and I wore it,” he said.

As for the fireballers on the Rays’ pitching staff?

“We’ve got some guys that throw really hard,” Morton said.

ANOTHER LOSING SEASON

The loss guaranteed the Mets (25-31) will finish with a sub-.500 record for the ninth time in the last 12 seasons – a total matched or exceeded only by the Chicago White Sox (nine), Miami Marlins (10) and San Diego Padres (10). The White Sox and Padres have already clinched playoff spots and a winning record, while the Marlins are in second place in the NL East.

New York made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016 and went 86-76 last year.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: LHP Jose Alvarado (shoulder, lat) is scheduled to throw batting practice to 3B Yandy Diaz (hamstring) and 1B Ji-Man Choi (hamstring) at Tropicana Field on Thursday. Cash said all three players are progressing and he hopes they are available for the playoffs. . Brousseau (oblique) missed a fourth consecutive game. Cash said he would have been available off the bench if needed

Mets: RF Michael Conforto (hamstring) returned to the lineup as the designated hitter after missing two games and went 0 for 4. . The Mets activated RHP Dellin Betances (lat), who last pitched Aug. 29, and optioned RHP Corey Oswalt to the alternate site.

UP NEXT

Rays: After a day off Thursday, Morton (2-2, 4.64 ERA) is scheduled to get his postseason tuneup in the opener of a series against the Phillies on Friday.

Mets: Rookie LHP David Peterson (5-2, 3.80 ERA) opens a four-game road series against the Nationals. Peterson struck out a career-high 10 against the Braves last Saturday.