BOSTON — Tyler Glasnow gave the Rays pretty much what they were looking for Monday with a solid second start since August 2021 Tommy John surgery, working into the fourth inning while throwing 64 mostly well-executed pitches.
And now the Rays plan to give him the ball to start Game 2 of the best-of-three Wild Card Series that opens Friday in either Cleveland or Toronto.
“That’ll be awesome,” Glasnow said. “I think that was the ultimate goal working back, to try to be in the playoffs. And now that it’s here, I’m excited.”
Glasnow had to battle through a 27-pitch first inning, but his work into the fourth — with only a wild pitch on strike three for what would have been the third out keeping him from completing it — got the Rays off to a good start, and a three-run lead.
But with the Rays resting all their top relievers a second straight day, Triple-A call-up Kevin Herget was asked to take it from there, and he allowed the Red Sox to rally for a 4-3 win.
Though the loss was the Rays’ third straight and 10th in their last 14 games, it got them them closer to what seems more and more to be their unsaid goal, which is to finish third among the three American League wild-card teams, thus playing the AL Central champ Guardians and, if they win, the East champ Yankees.
The Rays (86-74 with two games left) are currently third, 1 ½ games behind the Mariners, lost later Monday to Detroit, and have three games remaining, including a Tuesday doubleheader. Any combination of two Rays losses or Mariners wins will keep them third.
If the Rays finish second (and they hold the tiebreaker over Seattle), they would face the heavy-hitting Blue Jays, who are the top wild card, and then if they win, the West champ and top-seeded, Astros.
Having Glasnow back is a bonus in any situation, and the Rays are excited to have the hard-throwing right-hander following Shane McClanahan in their playoff rotation, with either Jeffrey Springs or Drew Rasmussen expected to start Game 3 if there is one.
“It was really good to see (Glasnow),” said outfielder Manuel Margot, via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “You can tell he’s been maintaining his velocity at 95-96-97 (mph). I think he’s gonna be a key piece in the playoffs for us.”
Glasnow, who worked three innings on 50 pitches Wednesday in his first big-league game since June 14, 2021, had a little longer leash Monday, and he needed it.
He had a bit of a battle in the first inning, walking the leadoff batter and allowing a single to the second, and needing 27 pitches to get three outs. Then he got locked in and pretty much cruised from there, allowing one other single and striking out seven of the 15 Sox he faced overall.
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Both Glasnow and Rays manager Kevin Cash said the rough first inning wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“It was a little, I guess, un-smooth, I suppose, in the first, just kind of getting back into the rhythm and going out there,” Glasnow said. “I think part of the reason I wanted to come back sooner (than the playoffs) was to get one of those innings in, kind of remember what that feels like and just remember kind of how to get back to even, I guess.”
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a little bit of adversity,” Cash said. “He definitely had that in the first inning. He’s going to have to go through that a little bit. And he settled in and got back in the zone. Him and (catcher Christian Bethancourt) worked well. Stuff was outstanding again. ...
“Sometimes it’s better when you’re coming back to have those challenges. You don’t want everything to be 10-pitch innings every time. They made him work, work really hard and he came out really good from it.”
Though the Rays had another quiet night offensively, rapping just five hits, Cash said he felt the at-bats were better, as were some of the results. Margot hit his first homer since May 8, having gone 63 games — missing two months with a knee injury — and 241 at-bats without. And Wander Franco hit his first home run since July 2, which was a week before he broke the hamate bone in his right hand.
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