Rays clinch the American League East

by Gary Shelton on September 24, 2020

in general

Glasnow won his fifth game of the year./JEFFREY S. KING

Thursday, 3 a.m.

In the weirdest, wackiest baseball season of them all, the most normal sights of them all were the Tampa Bay Rays, celebrating yet another win.

The Rays -- champions.

Tampa Bay clinched the American League East title -- the third in their history -- and lead the league race for the No. 1 playoff seed with an 8-5 victory over the New York Mets.

It must have been surreal, standing on the Met's home turf of Citi Field, with no fans and no noise. There were cardboard cutouts around them,

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and someone had brought confetti streamers, and someone else had brought cigars. But it was a strange celebration of a strong season.

Think of all the injuries, of all of the one-run games, of all the pitchers. Think of all the steals, of all the wins against the Yankees, of winning despite a batting order with holes in it.

“It was pretty exciting," said Rays' manager Kevin Cash. "I don’t know if you can ever prepare for a moment that that. It's pretty special. I told the guys thank you, the many people who have been a part of this club. This is not an easy thing to do. There are not many people in this room who have been part of winning a division."

How did the Rays win this? They won it by winning 13 one-run games. They won it with 12 different pitchers collecting a save. They won it by beating the high-priced New York Yankees eight of 10 games. They won it by going 21-7 in August. They won it by winning 26 games inside the division. They have won 18 come-from-behind victories.

And now...they're in. If the playoffs began today, they would face the Toronto Blue Jays.

Even Wednesday night, it was great planning that led the Rays. Starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow (along with Austin Meadows) came in a heist of a trade with Pittsburgh for Chris Archer.

Then, this year, don't forget the wisdom of trading away Jose Martinez to create a space for Randy Arozarena. Arozarena had two home runs in the 8-5 victory. Joey Wendle and Brandon Lowe also hit homers.

Now, after a weekend series against Philadelphia, the team starts the playoffs.

How can they do?

“We’re capable of celebrating just like this maybe a month from now," said outfielder Kevin Kiermaier. "Being the last team staying and holding up that trophy."

Friday night, the Rays play the Phillies at 6:40 p.m. at Tropicana Field. Charlie Morton will pitch against Philadelphia's Vince Velasquez.

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