(Photo credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports)
After Manuel Margot's two-out, walk-off single capped a Thursday matinee thriller against the Los Angeles Angels, the pervasive feeling around the Tampa Bay Rays' clubhouse highlighted the importance of winning with eight games left in the regular season.
On Friday night, Tampa Bay will look toride the momentum of that dramatic 5-4 win when it begins a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Currently sitting 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Baltimore Orioles (95-58) in the American League East, the Rays (94-60) waited until the very end against Los Angeles on Thursday, taking the rubber match of a three-game set after entering the series on a two-game skid.
Isaac Paredes hit a soft RBI single into left field before Margot fought off a pitch on his hands, broke the bat he had been using since before going on the injured list on Aug. 15 and plated Yandy Diaz for a win that could be circled when the club reflects on 2023.
"To his credit, he's knocked the cover off the ball (lately)," Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said of his center fielder, who is seeing more time with Jose Siri (fractured hand) out indefinitely. "I'm glad he got rewarded with that hit. Sometimes you need that to happen. It provided quite the jolt."
The Rays' 10th walk-off win of the season was just what was needed with the red-hot Blue Jays (85-68) coming to town.
"We were setting up for another very, very frustrating day," Cash said of the outlook before the ninth-inning heroics.
Right-hander Tyler Glasnow (9-6, 3.53 ERA) will start for Tampa Bay on Friday. He is 0-3 with a 6.88 ERA in eight career starts against Toronto.
In four September starts, Glasnow is 2-2 with a 5.48 ERA. He most recently gave up six runs on eight hits in four innings to take a loss against Baltimore last Saturday.
With the Blue Jays attempting to extend their winning streak to six games, New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole shut them down on Thursday, allowing just one run over eight innings as Toronto fell 5-3.
Cole was perfect through 5 1/3 innings before Alejandro Kirk doubled.
Toronto slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. pinch-hit in the ninth and drove in a run with a fielder's choice. He is listed as day-to-day due to right knee inflammation after an MRI revealed there to be no structural damage.
"I was worried about it, but I found out the results and it was a little bit of relief," Guerrero said through an interpreter. "I'll be OK."
On Wednesday, the Blue Jays called up outfielder Cam Eden, who stole 53 bases and was caught just four times at Triple-A Buffalo this season. He made his major league debut on Thursday as a pinch runner in the ninth.
Toronto right-hander Chris Bassitt (14-8, 3.78) will get the start in the series opener. He gave up two runs on four hits in seven innings against the Boston Red Sox last Saturday. Despite the strong performance, he had to settle for a no-decision.
In four career appearances (three starts) against the Rays, Bassitt is 0-2 with a 2.45 ERA.
--Field Level Media