Getty Images

What’s on Tap: Previewing Saturday’s action

1 Comment

With 16 games left before the end of the season, the Pirates and Reds will try to squeeze in one last doubleheader on Saturday at 12:10 PM EDT and 6:10 PM EDT. It’s the fourth postponed game the Pirates have had to account for this year, and the Reds’ first.

Kicking off Game 1 is Pirates’ right-hander Jameson Taillon, who was skipped over in the last rotation cycle in order to preserve his innings limit as the season winds down. Barring a five-run, three-inning hiccup against the Brewers in late August, the rookie has been rock-solid for the Pirates, polishing a 3.27 and 1.5 fWAR over 15 outings with the club.

Opposite Taillon, Reds’ starter Anthony DeSclafani is chasing his ninth win after giving up four runs on four homers in his last two outings. The right-hander was scratched from his last scheduled start, and although it reportedly had nothing to do with physical setbacks, the mental and physical break should do him some good as he approaches his final appearances of the year.

DeSclafani has worked to improve his peripheral stats in 2016, bringing his 2.68 BB/9 rate down to 1.84 and raising his K/9 rate from 7.36 to 7.88, but his home run rate has jumped from 0.83 HR/9 to a career-worst mark of 1.17. The problem isn’t confined to his pitching line, either — the Reds’ pitching staff currently ranks last among major league clubs with 236 home runs issued in 2016.

In the evening, the Pirates and Reds will duke it out a second time with rookie right-hander Trevor Williams and Cincinnati southpaw Brandon Finnegan. It’s the first MLB start for Williams, who contributed four innings in relief after getting called up from Triple-A Indianapolis on September 7. Finnegan, meanwhile, is facing a potential season shutdown after grinding through 164 2/3 innings in his first full season as a starter, though manager Bryan Price wouldn’t completely rule out a comeback. Finnegan is 9-10 on the year with a 4.04 ERA, due in no small part to his league-leading 29 home runs allowed.

You can find more from Saturday’s action below.

Pittsburgh Pirates (Jameson Taillon) @ Cincinnati Reds (Anthony DeSclafani), 12:10 PM EDT, Game 1

Pittsburgh Pirates (Trevor Williams) @ Cincinnati Reds (Brandon Finnegan), 6:10 PM EDT, Game 2

New York Yankees (Bryan Mitchell) @ Boston Red Sox (David Price), 1:05 PM EDT

Washington Nationals (Gio Gonzalez) @ Atlanta Braves (Josh Collmenter), 1:05 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Zach Davies) @ Chicago Cubs (Jake Arrieta), 4:05 PM EDT

Detroit Tigers (Justin Verlander) @ Cleveland Indians (Carlos Carrasco), 4:10 PM EDT

Miami Marlins (Jose Urena) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Jeremy Hellickson), 7:05 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Matt Andriese) @ Baltimore Orioles (Chris Tillman), 7:05 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Ervin Santana) @ New York Mets (Seth Lugo), September 17, 7:10 PM EDT

Chicago White Sox (Miguel Gonzalez) @ Kansas City Royals (Jason Vargas), 7:15 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics (Raul Alcantara) @ Texas Rangers (Yu Darvish), 8:05 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Brock Stewart) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (Shelby Miller), 8:10 PM EDT

San Diego Padres (Edwin Jackson) @ Colorado Rockies (Jon Gray), 8:10 PM EDT

St. Louis Cardinals (Mike Leake) @ San Francisco Giants (Jeff Samardzija), 9:05 PM EDT

Toronto Blue Jays (Francisco Liriano) @ Los Angeles Angels (Ricky Nolasco), 9:05 PM EDT

Houston Astros (Houston Astros) @ Seattle Mariners (James Paxton), 9:10 PM EDT

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

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Leave a comment

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.