The Tampa Bay Rays clinched a playoff berth on Friday night with a 7-3 win versus the Houston Astros (box score), sending them to October for the fourth straight year. The New York Yankees have already clinched the American League East, meaning the Rays will be one of the AL’s three wild card teams.
The Rays entered Friday two games back of the Toronto Blue Jays (who have also clinched) for the top wild card spot. They were also stationed a half game behind the Seattle Mariners. The Baltimore Orioles, the only other AL team besides those three clubs who remained mathematically in contention, lost on Thursday afternoon to the Boston Red Sox, giving the Rays a five-game lead over them with six to play. (The Rays won the season series against the Orioles, giving them the first tiebreaker.)
The Rays had to overcome the third-most days missed to injury of any team this season to reach the postseason, according to Spotrac. The only teams to miss more days are the Cincinnati Reds and the Minnesota Twins, and neither are heading to the playoffs. The Rays have nevertheless been buoyed by strong efforts from Randy Arozarena and Yandy Díaz, as well as the emergence of an impressive starting pitcher trio in Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs.
The Rays have now made the postseason in each of the past four seasons, the longest such streak in franchise history, and that includes their pennant victory during the pandemic-altered 2020 postseason. (The Rays, in case anyone has forgotten, lost that World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers.)
With the Yankees, Houston Astros and Cleveland Guardians having already clinched their divisions, and, with the Rays and Blue Jays locking up wild card spots, only one AL playoff slot is left. The Mariners could secure that spot on Friday night with a win of their own.