BOSTON — Sure, the Rays had some things to be happy about in Wednesday’s 5-0 victory over the Red Sox that pushed their win total to 97, featured Josh Lowe joining the 20-homer, 20-steal club and included Tyler Glasnow having a sharp tune-up for next week’s playoff start.
But afterward, somewhat oddly, they launched a champagne-and-cigars celebration of what they’ve accomplished this season thus far, and all they overcame in terms of extensive injuries and the Wander Franco legal issues, to get there.
The Rays admitted the timing was unusual, since they didn’t clinch anything Wednesday, but insisted the reward worthwhile.
“I know it’s different,” manager Kevin Cash said. “I just told the guys, ‘We’re different. We’re the Rays.’”
After weighing whether to celebrate earning a playoff berth for a fifth straight year or wait to see if they won the American League East, the Rays decided they would pop bottles for the playoffs clinch.
But that came in an unusual way Sept. 17 — the Rays were playing the division-leading Orioles, and both teams actually clinched spots while still on the field when Texas lost. And when the Rays then blew leads in the ninth and 10th innings and lost in 11, team officials made a last-second call to cancel the celebration at Camden Yards.
“Look, (Sept. 17) was challenging,” Cash said. “And when you do it, you’ve got half the participation of guys excited, half pissed off because of a tough loss. I think we’ve got to try to appreciate the mood of the clubhouse a little bit. Right or wrong, we felt like there was going to be a time at some point. I think the (Thursday) off-day helps.”
And they felt they had the right to celebrate.
“It was a weird situation, obviously, when we did clinch the postseason,” Lowe said. “But I think we deserved tonight — to appreciate what we’ve done all year long, what we’ve battled through, what we’ve overcome and what we’re going to do in the future.”
Adding to the oddness, the Rays (97-62) are still technically alive in the division race, as the Orioles (99-59) reduced their magic number to one. (And odder, had the Rays lost Wednesday and been eliminated, they said they would have celebrated anyway.)
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But knowing they had Thursday off to recover before facing the same Blue Jays team they may host starting Tuesday in the best-of-three Wild Card Series, they decided on Wednesday. Logging their 97th win, matching the second-most in franchise history, helped.
“The logistics are weird, yes,” said closer Pete Fairbanks, a part of all five playoff-clinching teams. “But if we weren’t going to do it (Sept. 17), I think this night kind of lines up best with an off day, and we can do it on a win and kind of enjoy the culmination of the year.
“Obviously, the division is what it is. With us being off (Thursday) and (the Orioles) playing, there’s a way that it doesn’t matter. So I think (Wednesday) this is being about us and being able to celebrate with the people in the room and getting to do that with a pretty good group.”
And if by some chance they do end up claiming the AL East, they’ll be happy to party again on Sunday.
“If we win the division,” Fairbanks said. “this will feel very tame.”
Some veteran players were in on the planning, others found out when they got back to the clubhouse, and Cash gathered them for a quick talk. Then the music got cranked up, the 96 bottles of Aubert Et Fils champagne and 10 cases of Budweiser beer got popped and poured, and the cigars lit.
“It’s definitely fun,” Glasnow said. “It’s all been all pent-up, so everyone’s having a good time.”
The way they played helped, taking a lead in the second inning on Lowe’s 20th homer, then adding two in the fourth in a rally started by Randy Arozarena in his first game since leaving Friday with a tight right quad, and two more in the sixth on the 31st homer of the season by Isaac Paredes, who is now three RBIs shy of 100.
And Glasnow, who allowed 14 runs and 17 hits over his previous three starts (citing mechanical issues), looked very much in rhythm, allowing only two hits and striking out nine over five shutout innings.
“I felt really good,” he said. “I’m super glad I could do it now. I think after a couple of bad ones, too, it was nice to end on a good note. ... I’m ready for the playoffs.’'
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