Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Manuel Margo
Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Manuel Margot dives while catching a fly ball by Houston Astros' Jose Altuve during the fourth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Rays vs Yankees, Oct. 1

Kyle Barrette

With no head to head games having direct impact, we will focus on the best game on today’s slate. The Yankees have drawn the short straw in the race for the wild card, as they have the hardest closing series out of all the teams left in the wild card race. The Red Sox end the season against the Nationals, Toronto gets to beat up on the Orioles, and the Mariners get the Angels. Every team gets to close their season against a team that is below .500 except New York. The pressure will be on in the Bronx as their playoff chances will hang in the balance. 

New York
At the time of writing this, the Yankees are one game up in the wild card and will no doubt need a strong performance against the AL East champion Rays. Tampa lead’s the season series 9-7 and could effectively end the Yankees season here. Cortes takes the hill for New York and that is good news for the Bombers. New York is a solid 10-3 in games started by Cortes, and the lefty has had an impressive season to date. Cortes has kept the runs to a minimum this season, only allowing more than three runs in three of his last fifteen starts. The last time he pitched against the Rays, he was highly effective. Cortes only allowed one run through five innings of work. Cortes has been impressive limiting opponents’ runs but his home run numbers are highly concerning. Cortes has allowed a home run in 10 consecutive starts for a total of 12 homers. Cortes has been able to avoid a lot of trouble even with his home runs allowed piling up. The Yankees will need another solid performance here to avoid falling behind in the wildcard race.

This game has no meaning for the Rays; simply a strong performance would likely just ensure that they do not see this Yankee team anywhere in the playoffs. Considering that they have been fairly successful against the Yankees, the Rays may just go through the motions in this game, and maybe allow some guys to make sure they have everything worked out the way they would like for the postseason. McClanahan takes the hill for the Rays and he has been highly productive for Tampa, filling in for the injured Glasnow. McClanahan, like Cortes, has not allowed many runs; in fact he has allowed three runs or less in 14 of his 15 starts. In his last start against the Yankees he allowed three runs off of nine hits over six innings in a Tampa loss. With the Rays already locked in, look for McClanahan to go out there and just try and fine tune some of his pitches.  

Yankees vs Rays: The Pick
I’m on the Yankees money line in this one. Tampa, for all intensive purposes, could care less about this game. The Yankees know they need the win here to stay in front of the wild card pack. Cortes will be pitching for a starting spot in the playoff rotation. The Yankees want to be able to control their own destiny and that means winning out. Expect a hard fought game out of New York.

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