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What’s on Tap: Previewing Tuesday’s action

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A lot has been made in recent weeks of the Orioles’ inability to develop quality starting pitching. Jake Arrieta, once a prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, authored his second career no-hitter in late April. The O’s however, tired of Arrieta’s inconsistency and sent him with Pedro Strop to the Cubs in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman in a trade they would quickly regret. Other top pitching prospects to reach their full potential as starters include Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, and Zach Britton.

Britton said last month that the reason the young pitchers struggled as starters is because “They took away the individual approach to everything.” He continued, “Things we did extremely well in the minor leagues to get to the big leagues – we were told that just doesn’t work here. And you’re like, ‘That’s kind of weird, right?’ You don’t just reinvent yourself in the big leagues. That was the struggle. And the struggle, as we got older, was trying to get back to what made us what we were before.” Britton implied that then-pitching coach Rick Adair was the one interfering.

The Orioles’ coaching staff has changed since Britton was a prospect, but the club has still yet to develop a bona fide starter. Tillman, who posted a 4.99 ERA last year, is the #1 by default, but he’d be a #3 or lower in many other rotations. Dylan Bundy has battled myriad injuries and Hunter Harvey has had a similar fate.

Kevin Gausman, on the other hand, has started off the 2016 season quite well. In three starts, the right-hander has allowed four runs (three earned) on 10 hits and three walks with 14 strikeouts in 19 innings. Rate-wise, that’s a 1.42 ERA with a 20 percent strikeout rate and a 4.3 percent walk rate. Gausman had been sidelined since mid-March due to a shoulder problem, but he has appeared to put that problem in the rear-view mirror. It’s a lot to ask of Gausman to become the Orioles pitching prospect who finally lives up to the hype, but considering how well he pitched at times last year and how he’s started this year, it wouldn’t be surprising if he does.

Gausman takes on the Twins’ Jose Berrios at Target Field in an 8:10 PM EDT match-up tonight.

By the way, Monday’s Padres-Cubs game was rained out. I highlighted the Padres’ Cesar Vargas, who opposes the Cubs’ Jon Lester tonight, in Monday’s What’s on Tap. Check it out if you missed it.

The rest of Tuesday’s action…

Detroit Tigers (Michael Fulmer) @ Washington Nationals (Joe Ross), 7:05 PM EDT

Kansas City Royals (Kris Medlen) @ New York Yankees (Masahiro Tanaka), 7:05 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Zach Davies) @ Miami Marlins (Adam Conley), 7:10 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics (Sean Manaea) @ Boston Red Sox (Sean O’Sullivan), 7:10 PM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies (Adam Morgan) @ Atlanta Braves (Matt Wisler), 7:10 PM EDT

Pittsburgh Pirates (Juan Nicasio) @ Cincinnati Reds (Alfredo Simon), 7:10 PM EDT

Chicago White Sox (Carlos Rodon) @ Texas Rangers (Derek Holland), 8:05 PM EDT

San Diego Padres (Cesar Vargas) @ Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester), 8:05 PM EDT

Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer) @ Houston Astros (Chris Devenski), 8:10 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Rubby De La Rosa) @ Colorado Rockies (Chris Rusin), 8:40 PM EDT

St. Louis Cardinals (Mike Leake) @ Los Angeles Angels (Hector Santiago), 10:05 PM EDT

New York Mets (Jacob deGrom) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (Alex Wood), 10:10 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Drew Smyly) @ Seattle Mariners (Wade Miley), 10:10 PM EDT

Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ) @ San Francisco Giants (Matt Cain), 10:15 PM EDT

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.