Rays' magic number at 3 after Ramírez's clutch double

September 28th, 2022

CLEVELAND -- On Tuesday night, the Rays started a regular-season-ending road trip that could ultimately see them coming back to Cleveland to take on the Guardians in the American League Wild Card Series.

If Tampa Bay does end up heading to Progressive Field for the postseason, the Rays spent the series opener showing how tough of a playoff matchup they can be, as they clawed their way to a key 6-5 win in 11 innings that moved them closer to securing a Wild Card berth.

After struggling to generate any offense in the middle and late innings, Tampa Bay finally pushed the go-ahead runs across in the 11th inning on Harold Ramírez’s two-run double down the third-base line.

“It looked like Harold pulled that one from the ground and pulled it down the line for a big double,” manager Kevin Cash said.

The Rays reduced their magic number to clinch a playoff spot to three thanks to the win and Baltimore’s 13-9 loss to Boston. Toronto, which holds a 1 1/2-game lead over Tampa Bay for the No. 1 Wild Card, has the ability to clinch a playoff spot with a win on Wednesday.

Ramírez’s extra-inning double capped a two-hit, three-RBI game, as he also added an RBI double in a four-run fourth inning against his former team.

Part of the reason Ramírez was able to drive in the winning runs in the 11th was because of the heads-up baserunning by his teammates, as Taylor Walls (the inning’s designated runner) advanced to third on a wild pitch, while Wander Franco drew a walk and stole second.

“That was the baserunning play of the game [from Walls],” Cash said. “We’ve learned over time that you’ve got to get two to win most of these extra-inning games.”

While the Rays’ offense was inconsistent, their pitching staff wasn’t, as eight relievers combined to allow just two runs (one earned) on six hits and four walks over seven innings.

Calvin Faucher capped it off by picking up his first career save in the 11th inning, as he set down Cleveland’s Josh Naylor and Oscar Gonzalez after allowing an unearned run on José Ramírez's single. Faucher also earned a postgame beer shower from his teammates.

“It was very exciting,” Faucher said. “I was happy they had the confidence in me to get that out. … You see each guy go in and you realize it could be you, so you try to be as prepared as you can.”

The bullpen was a bit taxed because starter Corey Kluber was only able to go four innings. Kluber, who was making his first career start as an opponent at Progressive Field, gave up three runs on eight hits and one walk to go with five strikeouts. He also had to navigate a 23-minute rain delay in the third inning.

“Yeah I would imagine, that’s fair,” Cash said when he was asked if the rain delay impacted Kluber. “[The Guardians] found hits. They can certainly square balls up, but I don’t think that they squared everything up. … The rain delay had an effect and they drove his pitch count up.”

In that four-run fourth inning, Franco opened the frame with a double and scored on the double by Ramirez, who came across on a groundout by David Peralta. Two batters later, Trade Deadline acquisition Jose Siri clubbed a Statcast-projected 392-foot homer that extended the Rays’ lead to 4-1.

After Cleveland tacked on two runs in Kluber’s final inning, Tampa Bay’s bullpen held the Guardians scoreless until the eighth inning, when Jason Adam surrendered the tying run on an infield single by Myles Straw. But Pete Fairbanks and Javy Guerra a scoreless inning apiece in the ninth and 10th to set up Ramírez’s heroics.

“It could have been a very frustrating day considering how we performed early and then what took place in that [eighth] inning,” Cash said. “Really happy with how we were able to stay positive and find some big hits.”

Now, with the regular season winding down, the Rays are ready to ride that resiliency into the postseason.

“The only thing left is to make the playoffs,” Franco said.