For starters: Rays vs. A’s, in a series that matters

Rays relief pitcher Ryan Yarbrough throws during the second inning of the Thursday's game against the Astros. (MONICA HERNDON   |   Times)
Rays relief pitcher Ryan Yarbrough throws during the second inning of the Thursday's game against the Astros. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Published September 14 2018
Updated September 14 2018

UPDATE, 5:27: It looks to be opener vs. opener on Saturday, as the A's, with Trevor Cahill sidelined, are likely to turn to Liam Hendriks to work the first inning and then turn it over to their deep bullpen. … Good to see Tampa product Matt Joyce, who has been coming off the bench most recently for the A's.

UPDATE, 4:43: Duffy said his back was good enough to play and didn't have to test it in BP, though Cash said the pain is not "completely out of there" and they will take it day to day. … Cash acknowledged the series is only big if the Rays play well, and that they have to do some other things well for it to matter. Also, that he hopes his players don't treat this games any differently. "I hope they approach everything like they've been doing. I don't know if you go out of the way to prep anybody,"  Cash said. "To be honest, I don't know how big this series is. The A's have a pretty substantial lead over us. We'd like to play really well and see if we can make a dent in it. But we've got to do a lot better than just play good this series if we're going to continue making dents. But saying that, couldn't be happier with the way the guys have performed against really good teams. And this is another really good team that's in the ballpark over the next three days." … The Rays open play at a season-high tying 15 games over .500.  … OF Tommy Pham has a 16-game hitting streak, three shy of the team record set by Jason Bartlett in 2009.

DEVELOPING: The Rays open a weekend series with the A's tonight, aiming to take advantage of the chance to move from the fringe into the fray for the final AL playoff spot.

Opening the day 8 games back with 17 to play puts the Rays (80-65) in position to need to sweep to make it an interesting final two weeks. The A's (89-58) are not only seeking to lock in the second wild card, but are 1 1/2 games behind the Yankees for the top spot, and only 3.5 behind the Astros in the AL West.

RHP Diego Castillo will be the opener for the Rays tonight, with LHP Ryan Yarbrough, who leads all major-league rookies with 14 wins, slated to work the bulk of the innings.

3B Matt Duffy, who was not in the lineup the last three games due to back tightness, is hitting second for the Rays tonight.

RHP Edwin Jackson, a 35-year-old pitching for his 13th team, will start for A's. He spent parts of three seasons with the Rays.

Here is the Rays lineup:

Smith rf
Duffy 3b
Choi DH
Pham lf
Wendle 2b
Adames ss
Kiermaier cf
Bauers 1b
Ciuffo c
Castillo p

 Here is the A’s lineup:

Martini lf
Chapman 3b
Lowrie 2b
Davis dh
Olson 1b
Piscotty rf
Laureano cf
Semien ss
Lucroy c
Jackson p