With sights set on AL Wild Card, Rays hoping to go on a run
By Danny Knobler
NEW YORK -- Most teams in baseball look at what the Indians are doing -- they won their 20th straight game on Tuesday -- with amazement. The Rays do, too, but they also look to the Indians for encouragement. They might need a long winning streak to get to the postseason, but they know it can be done.
"It gives us hope," pitcher Chris Archer said. "It's possible."
Perhaps the Rays' run began on Tuesday night with their 2-1 win over the Yankees at Citi Field. Perhaps the Rays will look back on this game, in which five pitchers combined on a three-hitter and Adeiny Hechavarria hit a tie-breaking home run in the eighth inning.
"Maybe tonight's a start," said Kevin Cash, who certainly managed as if he believed this was a game the Rays couldn't afford to lose.
Cash pulled starter Blake Snell after just five-plus innings and 83 pitches and went straight to Steve Cishek, wanting Cishek's strong right arm against the right-handed bats in the middle of the Yankees' lineup.
It looked like the way a manager might operate in October, but in this case, Cash was looking for a chance to get to October. The Rays remain on the fringes of the American League Wild Card race, but with enough games remaining to give them a chance.
The Rays won't win 20 in a row down the stretch, as the Indians have done, if only because they have just 16 games remaining. But to have any real chance, they need to win as many of those 16 games as possible.
"We want to make the playoffs," said Snell, who wanted to stay in the game but understood the move. "Each game is so precious for us. That's how he's managing it."
Cash went to Cishek for five outs, then called on left-hander Dan Jennings to retire Didi Gregorius with two out and a runner on in the seventh. He gave the eighth inning to Tommy Hunter, then was able to go to closer Alex Colome after Hechavarria's home run gave the Rays the lead.
"They're tough decisions," Cash said about pulling his starter so early. "It's not easy. But given how their lineup shaped up, I felt it was the perfect time for our right-handed weapon against their guys. It's was a big time in the game."
And it's a big time in the Rays' season, even if it played out far from home at the Mets' home ballpark, with the series moved because of Hurricane Irma.
The Rays found out on Tuesday afternoon they'll be able to go home after Wednesday afternoon's series finale, which lifted spirits in the clubhouse. Tuesday night's win lifted those spirits even more.
They'll need more wins to have a real shot at October. They haven't had anything more than a four-game winning streak yet this season, and they may well need that and more now.
But why not? Look at what the Indians have done.
"They give you hope," Cash said. "It's possible."
And perhaps it began on Tuesday.
Danny Knobler is a contributor to MLB.com based in New York and covered the Rays on Tuesday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.