The Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday defeated the Blue Jays by a score of 7-1 (box score) and in doing so secured a berth in the 2021 postseason. This also means that the Rays will make three straight trips to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
In 2019, they claimed a wild card spot, and in the abbreviated 2020 season they won the AL East title. While at present they’re ensured of nothing more than a wild card berth, they’ll almost certainly clinch a second straight division championship in the coming days. Overall, this is the organization’s seventh playoff appearance.
The win on Wednesday pushed the Rays’ record to 94-59, and they need just four more victories over their final nine regular season games to set the franchise record for wins in a season. Presently, the 2008 pennant-winning club holds that record with 97 wins.
The Rays are also leading the race for top overall seed in the American League. If they fend off the Astros on that front, then they’ll line up against the winner of the Wild Card Game in the ALDS. Given that both wild card teams will likely come from the AL East, that ALDS could present a tantalizing match-up with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, or Yankees. Whatever the specifics, Kevin Cash’s team will be trying to repeat as AL champions and also win the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
This season, the Rays have backed up their AL-best record with a similarly strong run differential of plus-178, and they’ve achieved that success largely because of a strong offense and lockdown bullpen. That offense has been even more potent since the call-up of future superstar Wander Franco, who’s nearing his return from a hamstring injury, and the deadline acquisition of veteran slugger Nelson Cruz. The rotation has been a concern for much of the season, but Cash is nothing if not adept at working around such limitations.
As has been the case over the last half-decade or so, the Rays have enjoyed much success despite owner Stuart Sternberg’s extreme unwillingness to invest in payroll.