Thursday, September 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

How big is Rays-A’s this weekend? Well …

That the Rays are playing a series with even the slightest amount of playoff implications in mid-September is somewhat of an accomplishment.

How big the matchup with the A's that starts tonight at the Trop is depends on your perspective.

For the A's, it's just another stop — albeit a long way from home — on their unexpected charge into the playoffs. Though their six-game winning streak ended Thursday night in Baltimore, they remain within 3- 1/2 games of the AL West-leading Astros and 1-1/2 of the first wild card-holding Yankees. The A's have been the best team in the majors since mid-June with a 55-22 record and are 89-58 overall, fourth-best in the AL.

RELATED: Regrets, Rays should have a few on not being closer to A's

For the Rays, it's a bigger deal, realistically their last chance to get from the fringe to actually in the race. As well as they've played after their own slow start in posting an 80-65 record, they go into Friday's opener eight games back, latching on to the potential of a three-game sweep to get within five heading into the final two weeks of the season. Anything less than that and their hopes would rest on a total collapse by the A's or Yankees.

The Rays and A's are similar in a few ways, as colleague Martin Fennelly wrote about, and also how they got to this point on the field, overcoming a series of injuries and issues with their starting pitching staffs with creative solutions.

In fact, Saturday could be somewhat historic — and maybe known as Brian Kenny Day in honor of the MLB Network host championing this strategy — as both teams are likely to use an opener to pitch the first inning or two and then follow with a pitcher to work the bulk of the innings.

Though not quite the showdown series it could have been had the Rays been in position to pull even or surpass the A's, there is enough hype for the weekend games, including ticket specials, that Rays manager Kevin Cash is curious to see how his mostly young team responds.

"I'm excited to see how the guys come in and perform,'' Cash said. "It's being talked about. I kind of like the fact that it's being talked about. Let's see. Put some added emphasis on it and see how we respond. I'm going to guess that we'll handle it well because they've handled all the challenges really well to this point.''

The Rays won three of four when the teams played in Oakland in late May, though many of the faces have changed.

Also of note, while Cash has been getting talked up as candidate for the AL Manager of the Year honors, Oakland's Bob Melvin seems the favorite.

The A's come in with some familiar faces, including ex-Rays RHP Edwin Jackson, Tampa product OF Matt Joyce and RHP Fernando Rodney.

Jackson, slated to start tonight, is, at age 35, pitching for his 13th team; having thrown more for the Rays than any of the others. Struggling a bit after a quick start with the A’s, he is 3-3, 3.98 over his career against the  Rays, including a 149-pitch no-hitter in 2010 for Arizona.

Also:

* 3B Matt Duffy (backs) is eyeing a return to the lineup Friday after being out for three games.

* LHP Ryan Yarbrough, slated to work after opener RHP Diego Castillo on Friday, is seeking a team rookie record 15th win.

* Lower level corner seats have been reduced to $10 for the Saturday and Sunday games.

* Triple-A Durham moved to within one win of a second straight International League championship with a 3-0 win Thursday over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees) to take a 2-1 lead in the best of five series. Game 4 is tonight.

* Class A Bowling Green lost 2-1 to Peoria (Cardinals) and is even in the best-of-five Midwest League championship series. Game 3 is at home on Saturday.

Comments
Rays journal: Austin Meadows gets called up, but there’s nowhere to put him

Rays journal: Austin Meadows gets called up, but there’s nowhere to put him

TORONTO — After taking his first look at OF Austin Meadows in Rays colors, manager Kevin Cash said the promising prospect is a "huge part" of their future. But he also acknowledged that they might not get much of a look at that future over the ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
For starters: Rays at Blue Jays, looking to keep rolling

For starters: Rays at Blue Jays, looking to keep rolling

UPDATE, 6:36: Cash said Meadows is "a huge part" of the future and the Rays want to get a look at what he can do, but he may not get much opportunity and Cash feels Kiermaier, Pham and Smith deserve to keep playing. … RHP Yonny Chirinos is slat...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Are these guys threatening to turn AL wild card into a race? Just ask the Rays

Are these guys threatening to turn AL wild card into a race? Just ask the Rays

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Rays still have got a long way to go and a short time to get there if they're gonna do what they say can't be done.If the Smokey and the Bandit paraphrase doesn't work for you, then let's try another theatrical reference....
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Rangers game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Rangers game

OF Tommy Pham is playing with a sore groin and a sorer right ring finger, but he is determined, in his words, to "salvage" his season, and his two home runs Wednesday give him 19 total, five in 28 games with the Rays since the trade to go with a .327...
Published: 09/19/18
Rays journal: Austin Meadows among final wave of callups

Rays journal: Austin Meadows among final wave of callups

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Rays will get their first look at OF Austin Meadows when he joins them Thursday in Toronto as part of the final wave of callups.And based on what RHP Tyler Glasnow, a former Pirates and now Rays teammate, said, they're go...
Published: 09/19/18
Oh, baby! It’s Rays rookie dress up day

Oh, baby! It’s Rays rookie dress up day

Today was rookie dress-up day for the Rays, a long-standing, and recently by rule toned down, tradition among teams to embarrass their first-timers.Masterminded by veteran reliever Sergio Romo the Rays went with a fitting theme for the rookie-laden t...
Published: 09/19/18
Rays keep pressure on, beat Rangers 9-3 for fifth straight win

Rays keep pressure on, beat Rangers 9-3 for fifth straight win

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rays still have a long way to go, and they are going to need a lot of help to get there.But they continue to do their part to try to make it a race for the final American League playoff spot, beating the Rangers 9-3 Wedne...
Published: 09/19/18
Rays calling up Meadows, plus Hu, Milner, Pruitt but not Wong

Rays calling up Meadows, plus Hu, Milner, Pruitt but not Wong

UPDATE, 1:14: Cash said this is expected to be the extent of the callups, so that sounds like a no for Wong and the others. … Meadows is understandably of the most interest and Cash said he is excited to see him, but acknowledged it will be a l...
Published: 09/19/18
For starters: Rays at Rangers, playing for something

For starters: Rays at Rangers, playing for something

UPDATE, 1:09: The Rays are talking a little bit more about the possibilities of making it to the playoffs, RHP Tyler Glasnow sharing a view similar to Snell: "Everybody in this clubhouse is getting ready for  a wild-card game." .. Yarbrough is e...
Published: 09/19/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Why Blake Snell should win the AL Cy Young Award

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Why Blake Snell should win the AL Cy Young Award

Rays pitcher Blake Snell becomes baseball's first 20-game winner and deserves to win the AL Cy Young Award, Rick Stroud says on today's podcast. Snell picks up the victory as the Rays  blank the Rangers to move 18 games above .500.Plus, Buc...
Published: 09/19/18