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Rays, Athletics clinch AL Wild Card spots

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The Rays and Athletics are positioned to face off during the AL Wild Card game next month, thanks to two last-minute playoff clinches on Friday night. With the Rays’ 6-5 win over the Blue Jays and the Nationals’ 8-2 win over the Indians, Cleveland has also been eliminated from any potential postseason play.

It’s a significant advancement for the Rays, who will head to the postseason for the first time since 2013. It’s a significant advancement for the Rays, who will head to the postseason for the first time since 2013. They leaned on Tyler Glasnow to guide them through the first 4 1/3 innings of Friday’s series opener, which he did while holding the Blue Jays hitless and issuing just two walks and four strikeouts. Backed by a couple of home runs from Tommy Pham and Austin Meadows and a pair of RBI singles from Willy Adames and Avisail Garcia, the bullpen finished off the win with five strong innings, including a two-inning effort from Oliver Drake.

Should the Rays advance past the Wild Card Game, they’ll be in line to compete for their second-ever Division Series title — something that eluded them during their last three campaigns in 2013, 2011, and 2010. They haven’t made it further than the Division Series since 2008, when their first (and only) trip to the World Series ended with a 4-1 series loss to the Phillies.

The Athletics, meanwhile, are ready to complicate the Rays’ path to postseason victory after wrapping their own Wild Card spot with the Indians’ loss to the Nationals on Friday. While it’s anyone’s game to win — despite the relative strengths and weaknesses of both clubs, anything can happen during a one-game playoff — the A’s have much more experience in the postseason, albeit a pretty poor Wild Card Game record. They’ve lost their last two Wild Card face-offs in 2018 and 2014, but will be embarking on their 28th postseason run overall, with a 10th World Series title in their sights.

Zack Wheeler will miss at least two starts when his wife gives birth

Zack Wheeler miss starts
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Per The Athletic’s Matt Gelb, Phillies starter Zack Wheeler will miss at least two starts when his wife goes into labor and gives birth to their first child, expected to be later this month. Wheeler, in fact, is not sure if he will return to play at all once their child is born.

Wheeler said, “We just have to see how things are here at the field and at the stadium. I’m happy with what I see so far. But things could change, especially once our baby’s born. I always think about what’s going on around me. Is it safe? Is it OK? Literally every single day. I have to just ask myself that. I’m going to continue to keep asking myself that every day.”

Wheeler, 30, inked a five-year, $118 million contract with the Phillies in December. He is slated for the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind Aaron Nola. Last season, with the Mets, Wheeler posted a 3.96 ERA with 195 strikeouts and 50 walks over 195 1/3 innings.

The No. 5 spot in the Phillies’ rotation is currently up for grabs between Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, Ranger Suárez, and prospect Spencer Howard. One of the remaining three could fill in for Wheeler when he needs time off, temporarily or otherwise.