Rays-Blue Jays Preview
The Rays look to exact revenge on the last-place Toronto Blue Jays and clinch a share of the second wild-card spot with a win Saturday.
The Rays and Indians fought their way to the top of the race with a pair of seven-game winning streaks.
While Tampa Bay was dealing with fading postseason contenders in Baltimore and the New York Yankees, Cleveland took advantage of a triad of lowly teams in Houston, the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota.
On Friday, however, the Rays (90-70) were cooled of with a 6-3 loss in Toronto (73-87) as they failed to hold an early 2-0 lead and committed a season-high three errors.
"One of those games," manager Joe Maddon said. "We've been on a pretty good run. Go get a good night's sleep and come back tomorrow."
As a result, the Rays are now tied for the top wild-card spot with the Indians, who won their eighth straight Friday.
With Texas still a game behind, even after its 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels Friday, Tampa Bay could clinch a 163rd game at the very least with a victory Saturday.
"We really still are in the driver's seat," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "It's not like we're playing catch-up at this point."
Tampa Bay had allowed four runs or fewer in seven straight leading up to Friday.
The one Tampa Bay pitcher who hasn't had a particularly good September is Chris Archer (9-7, 3.21 ERA), who is 1-2 with a 4.88 ERA in five starts this month. He went 6-2 with a 2.13 ERA in July and August.
"You don't see too many guys who throw in the upper 90s with that kind of secondary stuff," right fielder Wil Myers told the team's official website. "I don't even think he's tapped into his full potential yet."
After lasting seven-plus innings in seven of 11 starts in July and August, he hasn't recorded an out in the seventh since.
Archer's struggles carried into Monday, when he gave up four runs in 4 1-3 innings of a 5-4 victory over Baltimore.
The good news for Archer is that he is facing a Blue Jays team that he has held to two runs and nine hits in 14 innings this year.
Tampa Bay should be happy to see J.A. Happ (4-7, 4.85) again. The left-hander is 1-1 with an 8.44 ERA in four career starts against the Rays, though he did earn a 6-2 victory with 5 1-3 strong innings Aug. 17.
Happ hasn't had many wins since, going 1-5 over his last seven starts. That's due in no small part to the 13 runs the Blue Jays have scored for him over that stretch.
On Monday, he surrendered three runs - two homers - over five innings in a 3-2 loss to the White Sox.
Shortstop Yunel Escobar, hampered by a left ankle injury, is expected to make his first start for Tampa Bay since Sept. 23. He is 3 for his last 29 (.103).
The Blue Jays need to win their final two games to avoid finishing under .500 at home for the first time since 2004.