Rays journal: Franchise returns to 90-win plateau

Jake Bauers of the Rays hits a double in the seventh inning against the Blue Jays on Sept. 30, 2018. (MONICA HERNDON   |   Times)
Jake Bauers of the Rays hits a double in the seventh inning against the Blue Jays on Sept. 30, 2018. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Published September 30 2018
Updated September 30 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — Though they fell short of making the playoffs, the Rays were pleased to reach a number of big numbers in Sunday's 9-4 season-ending win over Toronto.

Most significant was reaching 90 wins as a team, a 10-game improvement from last season and enough in the previous four years to make the playoffs.

"It sounds better to say you won 90 games as opposed to 89,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "No doubt we wanted to get to a round number with a zero on it.''

Yep Veteran CF Kevin Kier­maier addressed the team in an extended version of the usual clubhouse victory celebration to note the accomplishment.

"Just giving the team a shout-out for reaching 90 wins for the first time since 2013,'' he said. "I know I speak for everyone when I said it was an absolute pleasure taking the field with these guys each and every day.
"It was a great year for us in a lot of different ways, a lot of coming-out parties, a lot of fun to watch. I let everyone know first and foremost, 90 wins, that's a huge accomplishment for this team."

Though it was the first time the Rays had won 90 since 2013, it was the sixth in 11 seasons, since the 2008 name change. Only the Red Sox (7), Dodgers (7) and Yankees (6) have as many.

It also marks just the third time since the 2012 introduction of the second wild-card team that a 90-win team missed the playoffs. The others: the 2013 Rangers (who lost Game 163 to the Rays) and the 2012 Rays.

Individually …

Among the numbers reached by Rays players:

.300: Well, INF Joey Wendle got close enough to be acknowledged on the scoreboard for breaking the team rookie record for batting average (held by now-coach Rocco Baldelli) and to be pulled off the field in the eighth so he could be acknowledged by the crowd, which chanted "Joey, Joey" and coerced him to pop out of the dugout for a rare Trop curtain call. "That was fun,'' he said. "I prefer to not bring a lot of attention to myself, but I certainly do appreciate the gesture from Cash and the coaching staff, and also from the fans. That was pretty special for me.'' He also would've been the Rays' first .300 hitter since 2011, when Casey Kotchman did so. But technically, Wendle didn't quite get there. In going 1-for-3, he finished at .29979466. Had they pulled him out after his third-inning single, at 1-for-2, he would've hit .30041152.

40: Stolen bases by OF Mallex Smith, second most in the American League (Kansas City's Whit Merrifield had 45) and third in the majors. "That's cool," Smith said. "But it still leaves me in third place, so it wasn't enough.'' Smith's 40 were the most by a Ray since 2010, when Carl Crawford stole 47 and B.J. Upton 42.

16: Wins by rookie LHP Ryan Yarbrough, tied for seventh most in the AL and most among all rookies. His 14 relief wins are the most in the majors since 1986, when Mark Eichhorn (Jays) and Roger McDowell (Mets) also had 14.

Game report

Jake Bauers might have had the biggest smile in the clubhouse, his 3-for-3 day not only factoring heavily in the win as he knocked in two runs and scored two, but also because it got his batting average back over .200 after a rough couple of months. "I don't think I would have ever thought I'd be happy about hitting .200, but here we are,'' he said. … The Rays went ahead to stay in a three-run fifth inning. … RHP Ryne Stanek worked two impressive innings as the opener, striking out the side in the second. … RHP Austin Pruitt got the final 10 outs for his fourth save of three-plus innings.

Crowd control

The Marlins kept the Rays from finishing last in the majors in attendance, but Tampa Bay's 81-game total of 1,154,973 was its lowest since 2005 and fourth worst in its 21-season history. The average was 14,258 per game. Despite having a better and more exciting team, the Rays dropped about 8 percent from last year, when they drew 1,253,619.

Miscellany

• RHP Sergio Romo served as the bat boy, as he did in last year's finale, but with a twist. He wore a No. 16 Cash jersey, adding a $ symbol under the nameplate.

• OF Tommy Pham extended his on-base streak to 32 games, matching the fourth longest in franchise history. Since coming off the disabled list Aug. 16, Pham hit .355 with a 1.097 OPS.

• The 19-9 September record was the best in franchise history.

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