HOUSTON — A day after saying he was worried about returning to the lineup by the end of the season due to left shoulder soreness, Yandy Diaz is slated to hit leadoff and serve as the designated hitter for the Rays tonight as they again try to clinch a spot in the postseason.
Diaz has not started a game since Sept. 19, making one pinch-hit appearance on Tuesday. He was in the lineup to play third base on Wednesday but was scratched about 40 minutes before first pitch due to recurring soreness.
But manager Kevin Cash said Thursday he expected Diaz to return soon, and apparently the matchup against tough Astros lefty Framber Valdez made today the day.
The Rays enter play against the American League West champs with a magic number of one. With either a Tampa Bay win or loss by Baltimore, the Rays will clinch one of the three AL wild-card spots and a trip to the postseason for the fourth straight year.
The Orioles play tonight at the Yankees. That game starts 65 minutes before the Rays-Astros game, so Tampa Bay could learn that it is in the playoffs while still playing.
The Rays found out before Thursday’s game in Cleveland that they could win their way in but let a one-run lead get away in the eighth inning of a 2-1 loss, with the clubhouse crew scrambling to take down the plastic sheeting covering the lockers in anticipation of a celebration.
Drew Rasmussen will start for the Rays, who were swept in a three-game series last week at Tropicana Field by the Astros, who celebrated clinching the West division title.
Here is the Rays’ lineup:
And for the Astros, with Tampa’s Kyle Tucker hitting cleanup:
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