2015 MLB Draft: Rounds 3-5 notes – Rangers grab Michael Matuella

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– The Rangers made Duke right-hander Michael Matuella the third pick of day two and the 78th selection overall. The 21-year-old entered the year as perhaps the favorite to go first overall in the draft, but a back condition (spondylolysis) dropped his stock even before he required Tommy John surgery in April. There was still some thought he might go in the first round anyway, but after falling this far, it’s quite possible he’ll return to Duke and try to improve his stock prior to next year’s draft. It could hinge on what kind of offer the Rangers can make him.

– Right-hander Jacob Nix was the Astros draftee ripped off last year when the team couldn’t sign No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken and then lost most of its draft pool, including the $1.5 million they had committed to their fifth-round pick. Nix ended up getting his most or all of his money anyway through a grievance, and now he should get to start his pro career with the Padres after being drafted 86th overall. It’s actually a bit lower than he was expected to go (he was considered a second-round talent last year, but he fell to the fifth because of his asking price).

– Mariners’ third-round pick Braden Bishop is probably a better fantasy prospect than an actual prospect. He stole 36 bases in 410 at-bats over the last two years for the University of Washington, so if he can hit enough to make it as an everyday center fielder, he’ll be a fantasy target in time.

– The Giants hope to have their double-play combination of Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik long into the future, but they landed one of the better prep shortstops available in Jalen Miller at pick No. 95.

– After playing it safe and picking college shortstops with their first two picks, the A’s chose high school right-hander Dakota Chalmers in the third round. It seemed worry about his rather slight build and taxing delivery took him out of the first, but he’s one of the drafts top arms. He throws in the mid-90s and already has four pitches he can use in games. If the A’s can get their top two picks signed for less than slot money, it’d help a bunch in getting Chambers to forgo his commitment to Georgia.

– The Red Sox selected outfielder Tate Matheny, son of Mike, with their fourth-round pick. He was drafted by the Cardinals out of high school three years ago, but Mike asked the team not to take him this time around. The Red Sox certainly aren’t looking at him as a nepotism pick. His tools don’t stand out, but his bat and ability to handle center might make him a fourth outfielder in time.

– Outfielder Demi Orimoloye was the second Canadian taken, following the surprise pick of Josh Naylor from the Marlins at No. 12. Orimoloye, a right fielder with big power potential, went 121st overall to the Brewers. Baseball America had him ranked 41st going into the draft, so he could be a steal if the Brewers get him signed.

– Mariano Rivera Jr. went to the Nationals in the fourth round after seeing his stock climb as a junior at Iona. He went 5-7 with a 2.65 ERA and a 113/27 K/BB ratio in 85 innings against modest competition. Like his dad, he’s probably looking at a move to the pen. What he really needs is someone who can teach him a cutter.

– Outfielder Joe McCarthy had a chance to be a first-round pick before back surgery ruined his junior season at Virginia. The Rays picked him 148th overall and will try to convince him to sign now rather than go back and try to boost his stock.

– Michigan State outfielder Cam Gibson, son of Kirk, was taken by his dad’s old team in the fifth round, going 160th overall to the Tigers. Three years ago, the Diamondbacks picked him in the 38th round while his dad was still managing the team. He declined to sign then. Gibson lacks power, but he should be able to last in center field.

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.