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Rays head into playoffs on five-game losing streak

Notes | There were a few good things, such as three hits for Ji-Man Choi and Randy Arozarena breaking his 0-for-13 stretch.
The Rays' Vidal Brujan celebrates with Ji-Man Choi, right, as Brujan returns to the dugout after hitting a home run during the seventh inning of Wednesday's game against the Red Sox in Boston.
The Rays' Vidal Brujan celebrates with Ji-Man Choi, right, as Brujan returns to the dugout after hitting a home run during the seventh inning of Wednesday's game against the Red Sox in Boston. [ STEVEN SENNE | AP ]
Published Oct. 5|Updated Oct. 7

BOSTON — The Rays are headed into the playoffs on a season-high, five-game losing streak after falling 6-3 to the Red Sox in Wednesday’s regular-season finale.

Tampa Bay prioritized rest for key players over the final week, scoring just eight runs in the five games. It showed as the Rays finished 86-76, which was enough to earn the third American League wild-card spot and a Wild Card Series date in Cleveland.

“I just told (the players) we can stop sucking, now let’s find ways to win games,” manager Kevin Cash said.

There were a few encouraging things, led by Ji-Man Choi rapping three hits, including a two-run homer that was his first since Sept. 13, continuing a warming trend after a rough two-plus months.

“I needed some hits to gain my confidence back but lately I’ve been doing that so definitely it is a confidence booster,” Choi said via team interpreter Daniel Park.

Randy Arozarena got a hit, his third-inning single snapping an 0-for-13 stretch, though he still is 2-for-his-last-30. Vidal Brujan, picked off earlier after pinch running, homered in the seventh. Otherwise, the Rays accomplished their primary goal, which was to avoid getting anyone else hurt.

Josh Fleming, activated off the taxi squad to start, worked 4 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on eight hits.

Roster seems close to set

Lefty reliever Colin Poche’s Tuesday oblique strain will force the Rays to shuffle their bullpen crew for the best-of-three Wild Card Series, with the 26-man rosters due Friday at 10 a.m.

They seem likely to carry 12 pitchers, starting with Games 1 and 2 starters Shane McClanahan and Tyler Glasnow, and Game 3 options Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen, with the other joining the bullpen.

Of the eight relievers, three look to be lefties — Jalen Beeks (who will be activated off the injured list), Garrett Cleavinger and Brooks Raley. Right-handers Jason Adam, Armstrong and de facto closer Pete Fairbanks have spots, as likely does veteran starter Corey Kluber, serving as a long reliever. That’s key because postseason extra innings are played under traditional rules, with no runner on second base. That would seem to leave the last spot decided between JT Chargois and Javy Guerra.

Position player-wise, the only question may be if catcher Francisco Mejia makes it back for Friday’s 12:07 p.m. start, having gone home for the birth of his child. If not, Rene Pinto is available.

The rest of the group appears to be set with catcher Christian Bethancourt; infielders Jonathan Aranda, Brujan, Choi, Yandy Diaz, Wander Franco, Isaac Paredes and Taylor Walls; and outfielders Arozarena, Manuel Margot, David Peralta, Harold Ramirez and Jose Siri.

The Rays headed to Cleveland after the game, with plans for a light workout Thursday afternoon.

Miscellany

Radio broadcaster Dave Wills is set to return to the booth for the Wild Card Series, having been sidelined since mid-September with a heart issue. … Poche left Tuesday’s game in obvious discomfort one pitch after allowing a fifth-inning grand slam to Xander Bogaerts. He said he first felt the oblique “tighten up a little” on the pitch before the homer, and it got worse over the next two. … Pitcher Easton McGee, designated for assignment after an impressive Sunday debut, was claimed off waivers by Boston.

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