After they won 90 games in 2018, the talk around Spring Training for the Rays was simple: make it to the postseason. With a 6-2 win over the Blue Jays on Friday night at Rogers Centre, Tampa Bay accomplished that goal and is heading to the playoffs for the first
After they won 90 games in 2018, the talk around Spring Training for the Rays was simple: make it to the postseason. With a 6-2 win over the Blue Jays on Friday night at Rogers Centre, Tampa Bay accomplished that goal and is heading to the playoffs for the first time since 2013 as one of the two American League Wild Card teams.
It has been an interesting year for the Rays, one filled with injuries and tough losses, but plenty of good memories. Now that Tampa Bay is officially in the postseason, let’s take a look at the Top 10 moments from the regular season.
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1. Party like it's 2013
Just minutes after the Indians lost, 8-2, to the Nationals on Friday night, the Rays took care of business on their end, topping the Blue Jays to clinch their first postseason berth since 2013. Tommy Pham opened the scoring with a two-run home run and Tyler Glasnow tossed 4 1/3 no-hit innings in his fourth start since coming off the injured list. Fittingly, Emilio Pagán recorded the final three outs of the game before the party continued into the visitors' clubhouse.
2. King of New York
While the Rays struggled against the Yankees in 2019, one of the best memories of the season came July 15 at Yankee Stadium. With two outs in the ninth inning, Travis d'Arnaud stepped to the plate against Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, representing the go-ahead run. d’Arnaud, who had already homered twice in the game, hit a Chapman slider just over the reach of Aaron Judge and into the seats, giving d’Arnaud his third homer of the night and the Rays a 5-4 lead. d’Arnaud became the first catcher to ever hit three home runs against the Yankees. And he picked a good time to do it.
3. Rays get revenge in Toronto
Just a day after blowing a 9-2 lead in the last three innings of the July 27 game against the Blue Jays, the Rays faced an 8-1 deficit, but were able to return the favor before rallying to win, 10-9, to take the series. The win came just a couple of days after learning Blake Snell would miss at least a month due to arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies from his left elbow. It also came just a few days before the Trade Deadline.
“That was a wild series,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash.
4. d’Arnaud walk-off homer against the Yankees
After the Yankees tied up the July 6 game in the top of the ninth inning on a two-out home run by Aaron Hicks, it looked like the Rays were on their way to another heartbreaking late-inning loss to New York. But d’Arnaud, much like he has since being acquired from the Dodgers, showed off his clutch gene, delivering a walk-off home run off Chad Green to give the Rays a 4-3 win.
5. Rally in Los Angeles
On Sept. 18, the Rays trailed, 6-4, heading into the ninth inning against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles brought in Kenley Jansen, who has been one of the top closers in baseball for nearly a decade, and it appeared the Dodgers were headed for a big two-game sweep. But in the ninth, the Rays scored two runs on a Ji-Man Choi RBI single and a d’Arnaud sacrifice fly. In the 11th inning, Austin Meadows hit a go-ahead home run, leading the Rays to an eventual 8-7 win.
6. Walk-off magic
The goal was simple for the Rays as they entered the last six-game homestand of the regular season: win. That wasn’t going to be easy, as Tampa Bay was hosting the Red Sox and Yankees, but there was a certain magic to the stretch, which was one of the most exciting in franchise history.
The Rays finished 5-1 in the homestand, with three wins coming in extra innings. The first walk-off was produced by Willy Adames’ RBI single to give the Rays a 5-4 win over Boston on Sept. 20. The next night, Nate Lowe hit a two-run walk-off home run in the 11th inning to give Tampa Bay another 5-4 win over the Red Sox. On Tuesday, it was Choi’s turn to celebrate at home plate when he launched a solo homer to beat the Yankees, 2-1, in the 12th inning.
7. Lowe and Meadows visit the upper deck
A set of teammates had never hit home runs to the fourth deck at Rogers Centre in the same game, but Brandon Lowe and Meadows changed that in an April 12 win against the Blue Jays. Meadows became the 21st player to ever hit a home run to the fourth deck and just three batters later, Lowe became No. 22. Both home runs were Statcast projected at a conservative 436 feet and landed just a few seats apart. The home runs also drew some hilarious reactions from the rest of the Rays' dugout.
8. Yarbrough’s close call
The Rays haven’t had a complete game in more than three years, the longest streak in the Majors, but Ryan Yarbrough came just one out from ending the drought. On Aug. 11 against the Mariners, Yarbrough allowed just three hits and recorded 26 outs before Cash pulled him in favor of Pagán. The Rays won, but the move caused some outside controversy and it could have resulted in some clubhouse friction. Tampa Bay went on to win the next two games against the Padres. Either way, Yarbrough’s performance was one of the best by a Rays pitcher this season.
9. Garcia’s big blast
When Avisaíl García gets a hold of one, it usually travels a long way, but none traveled farther than his blast against the Marlins on May 14. García’s home run off Caleb Smith cleared the center-field batter’s eye at Marlins Park and was projected at 471 feet. It was the longest home run by a visiting player at Marlins Park and the longest by a Rays player this season.
10. Dome-field advantage
The Rays were one of the best road teams in baseball over the first five months of the season, but they also struggled to get any momentum going at Tropicana Field. That changed when Tampa Bay went 9-1 in the team’s penultimate homestand from Aug. 30-Sept. 8, to tie a franchise best for a three-series homestand. The Rays swept the Indians and Blue Jays during that stretch and won a series against the Orioles. The homestand propelled Tampa Bay to the top of the Wild Card standings with 17 games left in the regular season.
Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.