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Rays lose second straight, but head next to wild-card game

Blue Jays 8, Rays 3: Blake Snell and Yonny Chirinos both had less than encouraging outings for Rays in rough finale.
Tampa Bay Rays catcher Mike Zunino (10) and starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) have a meeting on the mound after the Rays give up two runs in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 29, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario.
Tampa Bay Rays catcher Mike Zunino (10) and starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) have a meeting on the mound after the Rays give up two runs in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 29, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Sep. 29, 2019|Updated Sep. 30, 2019

TORONTO – The Rays are extremely focused, obviously, on facing the A’s in Wednesday’s win-or-go-home AL wild-card game.

But they also have to be planning ahead if they prevail and go on to face the Astros in the division series.

And two of the pitchers they seem likely to count on heavily then had uninspiring outings in Sunday’s regular season-ending 8-3 loss to Toronto.

Snell, in his third outing back following late July elbow surgery, had to battle just to get to the third inning, showing an unusual lack of command and crispness in needing 62 pitches (37 strikes) to record seven outs, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks.

Snell said he still considered it a step forward and was pleased that he got better as he went on, especially with the curveball.

“I had metal rods in my arm, what, six, seven weeks ago? So to be where I’m at right now and to feel how I feel, this whole week throwing I felt really good, I’m happy with that,’’ he said. “I just feel I’m going to get better and better. So, yeah, it’s encouraging.’’

Manager Kevin Cash is hoping so, as Snell could pitch Friday’s ALDS opener.

“I get the feeling … if we get the opportunity and pitch him again, he’s going to find a second gear,’’ Cash said. “He’s capable of doing that. And you know, we’ve been so fortunate with these guys coming back, with Tyler (Glasnow), with Yonny, and Blake maybe hasn’t had the easiest path but I think he’s going to be okay.’’

Chirinos, in this third outing after missing about seven weeks with finger inflammation, allowed four runs on four hits over 2⅔ innings, throwing 38 pitches.

The Rays noted his velocity was down a bit from his Tuesday outing, though Cash sounded more curious than concerned, and it wasn’t clear yet how Chirinos might be used.

Chirinos said he felt good and couldn’t account for the rough outing. “I felt the same, my body felt the same, I don’t know if it was because of the weather was colder or what,’’ he said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “I can’t really explain what happened.’’

Diaz activated, Choi returns to action

Infielder Yandy Diaz looked pretty good at the plate for a guy who’d been out more than two months with a fracture in his left foot, lining out twice and then striking out his third time. “I felt good, I hit the ball hard, I was up there with a lot of confidence,’’ he said via Navarro. The foot still bothers him at times, and per Cash likely would limit him to pinch-hit duties on Wednesday, which makes for an tougher decision on whether to include him on the 25-man roster. … To make room on the 40-man roster to reinstate Diaz, the Rays designated for assignment rookie reliever Cole Sulser, who worked 7⅓ innings without allowing a run. … Ji-Man Choi said the bruised left foot that kept him out of the lineup the previous two games felt better, and he showed it, though still running cautiously, with a double and his 19th homer of the season. … Infielder Eric Sogard is moving toward a return to action after being limited for three-plus weeks with a bruised right feet, and said he could be ready sometime this week.

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Time for a toast

A new entry among the pre-game rituals is a group of players taking a shot of Red Bull in the dugout. Rookie Mike Brosseau started it with Matt Duffy, and the group has expanded to more than a dozen players. Brosseau pours the energy drink into cups – “Brosseau’s bar” - then leads the team in a toast that goes like this, though usually with a few adjectives tossed in: “There are good ships, there are wood ships, there are ships that sail the sea. But the best ships are friendships and championships, and may they ever be.’’

Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Michael Brosseau (43), on right, gathers teammates as they do their ceremonial pregame Red Bull shot in the dug out before taking on the Toronto Blue Jays on September 29, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario.
Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Michael Brosseau (43), on right, gathers teammates as they do their ceremonial pregame Red Bull shot in the dug out before taking on the Toronto Blue Jays on September 29, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Miscellany

• The Rays finished 96-66, one win shy of the franchise record set in the 2008 World Series season, and a team-best 48-33 on the road.

• Cash rested some players and freely substituted, treating the game similar to the final one of the spring, using 23 players overall. They fell behind 2-0 in the first and after Choi’s homer made it 2-1 in the fourth allowed three more runs.

• The Rays finished with an AL-best 3.65 team ERA, leading the league for the second time in franchise history, also 2012. The Astros finished at 3.66. … Choi’s homer was the Rays’ 217th, of the season, second most in franchise history.

• The Rays will have Monday off in San Francisco, except for a couple of pitchers who may go over to Oakland to throw, then have a full workout and media availability on Tuesday.

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