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Charlie Morton takes mound for Tampa Bay Rays tonight with simple plan: Win

Rays open final homestand tonight vs. Red Sox tied with Indians for second AL wild card with nine games left.

ST. PETERSBURG ― Top winner Charlie Morton will be on the mound tonight to face the Red Sox as the Rays open their final homestand battling Oakland and Cleveland for one of the two AL wild-card spots.

“It’s pretty self-explanatory at this point,’’ Morton said. “We have to win.''

The Rays are 90-63, tied with the Indians for the second spot and two games behind the 92-61 A’s. All three teams have nine games left. The AL wild-card game is Oct. 2.

Morton, the 35-year-old veteran who won a World Series with Houston in 2017, said he enjoys being in this position.

“It’s meaningful baseball in September,’’ Morton said. “I’ve been on some teams where there wasn’t meaningful baseball in September, maybe even parts of August, some most of August. And it’s not fun. But when you get down to the end of it and you’re still in the thick of things and kind of controlling your own destiny, it’s why you play.’’

Morton, who worked six innings to beat Angels last Friday, will be making his career-high extending 32nd start tonight and has already thrown a career-high 182⅓ innings.

He is 15-6, 3.16 overall, though 5-4, 4.52 in 12 starts since mid-July All-Star break compared to 10-2, 2.32 in 19 before.

He is 2-0, 4.18 in four starts vs. Red Sox this season; 5-1, 4.26 in eight total.

The Sox are starting veteran Rick Porcello, who is 13-12, 5.77.

Porcello worked five innings in Sunday win over Phillies for his 148th career win. He has allowed 238 baserunners in 162⅓ innings this season, and a majors-most 104 earned runs.

Porcello is 8-5, 2.87 in 16 starts at Tropicana Field, working five-plus innings 15 times, and 14-12, 3.67 vs. the Rays overall.