Rays clinch post-season for the seventh time

by Gary Shelton on September 23, 2021

in general

Meadows had the key three-run homer./CHUCK MULLER

Thursday, 4 a.m.

Now, this is how a team looks fearsome as it enters the post-season.

After two weeks of spinning their wheels, the Tampa Bay Rays wrapped up another playoff appearance Wednesday afternoon, clubbing the Toronto Blue Jays 7-1. It locked up the team's seventh post-season trip, all since 2008, and their third in a row.

The Rays had been just 5-8 in their previous 13 games a nerve-racking slump that seemed to allow other teams to dream of catching them. But the key to this team this season has been its resiliency; they wobble but they don't fall down.

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Tampa Bay scored six runs in the fifth inning, including a three-run homer by Austin Meadows. It was Meadows' 26th of the season, and it raised his RBI total to 103.

But more important than a single victory was the post-season, a moment that celebrates an entire season of over-achieving.

“It's very special," said Rays' manager Kevin Cash. "I'm so proud of the guys, this staff. this entire organization. We're fortunate that we get to watch really good players go out and compete for six months.

The Rays have 94 wins with nine left to play. They lead the AL East by six games over Boston.

"It’s special to do it here," said center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. "I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else. We made the post-season three years in a row, first time in franchise history, and that’s something to be proud of. This is what its all about -- that’s what you play for all year to be here in this moment. This is why you work the way you do and go through a long grueling season, to lve in this moment right here. It’s an amazing feeling. There is nothing content about this group. We have much bigger things on our minds."

Kiermaier was hit intentionally in the eighth inning by Jays pitcher Ryan Borucki, who was ejected. Kiermaier had picked up a Jays' scouting report after a play at the plate on Tuesday, a play shrugged off by both managers.

“It didn’t hurt at all," Kiermaier said. "I didn’t even feel it. I had a feeling...I thought (it would happen) earlier in the game if they were going to do it. Maybe my first at-bat. I thought we turned the page."

For Kiermaier, that means playing well in the post-season. The Rays lost in the World Series last year.

"We’re able to win that trophy at the end of the year if we come out and execute," Kiermaier said. "We’re capable. We control our own destiny. If it comes down to us, I like our chances. This is a special group."

The Rays have today off, then start a three-game series against the Miami Marlins at Tropicana Field on Friday night at 7:10 p.m. Neither team has announced its starting pitcher. The Rays close out their regular season with series at Houston and at New York.

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