Amidst the heat of a wild-card race, the Tampa Bay Rays continue to enjoy the moment even though their playoff fate remains undecided.
With their postseason hopes down to the last day of the regular season and maybe beyond, the Rays look to match a season high with a fifth consecutive victory Wednesday night against the AL East champion New York Yankees at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay (90-71) defeated New York 5-3 on Tuesday to continue its improbable run by winning for the 16th time in 24 games. After trailing Boston by nine games in the wild-card race Sept. 2, the Rays caught the struggling Red Sox on Monday. They remain tied with Boston, which held on to beat Baltimore 8-7 on Tuesday.
If the teams are tied after Wednesday’s games, the Rays would host a one-game playoff against the Red Sox on Thursday afternoon.
“Catching Boston was a big thing, but we still haven’t accomplished what we set out to do from the beginning of spring training,” said Rays designated hitter Johnny Damon(notes), who moved past Lou Gehrig into sole possession of 57th place on the all-time hits list with 2,722.
New York (97-64), which will have home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs, plans to play most - if not all - of its regulars Wednesday as it tries to avoid ending the regular season with four consecutive losses.
However, that tenacity may not extend to the pitching staff as manager Joe Girardi has yet to name a starter for the finale. Rookie relievers Andrew Brackman(notes) and Dellin Betances(notes) are possible candidates to get the nod as the Yankees aim to save their staff for the playoffs.
The Rays hope David Price(notes) (12-13, 3.35 ERA) pitches as well Wednesday as he did in a 5-1 win at New York on Aug. 12, when he allowed one run in eight innings. The left-hander is 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA against the Yankees this season.
Price, however, allowed five runs - two earned - in six innings of a 5-1 loss to Toronto on Friday to fall to 0-5 with a 3.55 ERA in seven starts at Tropicana Field since beating Boston there July 15.
Matt Joyce(notes) hit a three-run go-ahead homer in the seventh inning and Zobrist added a two-run shot Tuesday as the Rays rallied to win after blowing an early two-run lead. Zobrist is 8 for 21 with four homers and seven RBIs in his last six games - three of them against New York.
It’s uncertain if Tampa Bay will have first baseman Casey Kotchman(notes) in the lineup after he was taken to a hospital Tuesday as a precaution after experiencing tightness in his chest. Kotchman is batting a team-leading .305.