Rays Sweep Indians, Move Into Top Wild Card Spot

Morton Picks Up 14th Win

The Tampa Bay Rays won their fourth straight game, and thanks to a walkoff homer by Mike Ford of the New York Yankees to defeat the Oakland Athletics, moved into sole possession of the top wild card spot defeating the Cleveland Indians 8-2.

While it’s nice to see Oakland lose, Rays veteran Charlie Morton was quick to say that the focus needs to remain elsewhere. “I think it’s more about what we’re doing.” He said. “It’s September and Wild Card baseball can become too much about what other teams are doing. You’re relying sometimes on other teams to come up short. Naturally, we’re going to pay attention a little bit to what Oakland’s doing and what Cleveland’s doing. But at the same time, we need to keep focus on what we’re doing and what we can control.”

Morton (14-6, 3.07 ERA) picked up the win for Tampa Bay who improve to 80-58 on the season. Morton worked 5.1 innings allowing one earned run on four hits while striking out eight and walking three. He set a season high with 108 pitches with 69 for strikes. His 108 pitches were the third most by a Rays pitcher this season.

Morton departed with one out in the sixth and Mike Freeman at second which was his responsibility. Hoby Milner retired the final two batters stranding Freeman at second.

Peter Fairbanks came into the game in the seventh and walked the first batter he faced on four pitches but settled down to retire the next three batters.

Andrew Kittredge got two outs in the eight allowing a run and departed with a pair of runners on base and the tying run at the plate. Chaz Roe took over and retired Yu Chang on a groundout to short.

With a 8-2 lead heading into the top of the ninth, Kevin Cash went to Ricardo Pinto for the second straight game. Cash was hoping to avoid using Nick Anderson and to give his bullpen a breather. Unlike last night, when Pinto allowed four earned runs in 1.1-inning,s he retired the side in order to bring the game to a quiet ending.

Adam Plutko (6-4, 4.53 ERA) takes the loss for the Indians who dropped to 79-58 on the season. Plutko allowed four earned runs on six hits while striking out two and walking four. The 4.1-innings marks his shortest outing since June 24th against the Kansas City Royals (4IP).

It’s the fifth ime the Indians have been swept by Tampa Bay and the third time in a series of three games or more.

Rays Strike First:

With one out in the home half of the first Austin Meadows doubled and Tommy Pham followed with a walk. Ji-Man Choi smoked a line drive toward the middle but Indians second baseman Mike Freeman made a diving grab for the second out. Adam Plutko was unable to wiggle out of the inning as Joey Wendle delivered a 2-out RBI single up the middle to give the Rays the games first run and an early 1-0 lead.

Indians Answer In Second:

Mike Freeman got the Indians first hit with one out in the second inning with a dribbler between Mike Zunino and Charlie Morton. Zunino fielded the ball but his throw sailed past Ji-Man Choi but fortunately was backed up by Eric Sogard. Charlie Morton then walked Franmil Reyes before giving up a ground rule double to former Rays Jake Bauers scoring Freeman to tie the game. The Rays were fortunate that the ball hopped over the wall, had it not the Indians would have certainly taken the lead. Morton retired Kevin Plawecki on a short fly ball to right and struck out Yu Chang to strand the runners at 2nd and 3rd.

Welcome Back Lowe, Not That One:

While Brandon Lowe (pronounced Lowe like Cow) has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a quad strain, Nate Lowe (no relation, pronounced Lowe as in low) was one of the Rays September callups. He delivered a 2-run homer, his sixth of the season, in the bottom of the fourth to give the Rays a 3-1 lead. It was Lowe’s sixth homer of the season.

“It’s super cool. Being able to put ourselves in a better spot in a playoff race is awesome.” Lowe said. “We just beat a really good Cleveland club. Says a lot to what these guys have done all year and hopefully what we’re going to the rest of the year.”

d’Arnaud Comes Through In A Pinch:

With Ji-Man Choi due up in the bottom of the fifth and two runners on base, Indians Manager Terry Francona went to his bullpen for the left-handed Oliver Perez. Kevin Cash responded by pinch-hitting the right handed Travis d’Arnaud for Choi. The move paid off for the Rays as d’Arnaud doubled to the right field alley scoring Eric Sogard and Tommy Pham. Unfortunately for the Rays, Pham was called out at home on review. Regardless of Pham being out, the Rays extended their lead to 4-1.

Carrasco Returns To The Mound:

Carlos Carrasco was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in June. He had last pitched with the Indians on May 30th. His entrance to the game featured both teams lining up outside their dugouts in a show of appreciation and a standing ovation from the Tropicana Field crowd.

d’Arnaud Extends Rays Lead:

Carlos Carrasco retired the first two Rays he faced in the seventh but gave up a 2-out double to Tommy Pham. Travis d’Arnaud followed with a RBI single to extend the Rays lead to 5-1.

Bauers Trims Rays Lead:

Andrew Kittredge allowed back-to-back singles to Yasiel Puig and Mike Freeman in the eighth. Franmil Reyes flew out to right advancing Puig to third and Jake Bauers drove him home with a sacrifice fly to center. Kittredge hit Greg Allen with a pitch to move Freeman to second and bring the tying run to the plate. Kevin Cash went to Chaz Roe who retired Yu Change on a groundout to short to maintain the Rays 5-2.

Rays Answer Indians, Score Three Times:

With one out Kevin Kiermaier singled, moved to third on Nate Lowe’s single, and scored on a soft single to center off the bat of Mike Zunino to extend the Rays lead to 6-2. Eric Sogard followed with a single to right to score Lowe and push the lead to 7-2. Austin Meadows delivered a fifth consecutive single scoring Mike Zunino capping the inning and running the lead to 8-2.

Roster Move:

Tampa Bay has placed right handed reliever Cole Sulser on the taxi-squad in anticipation of adding him to the roster on Monday.

Sulser, 29, was acquired from the Cleveland Indians in part of last winters Yandy Diaz for Jake Bauers trade. He spent the 2019 season with the Rays Triple-A affiliate Durham Bulls. He finished the season with a 6-3 mark with a 3.27 ERA (24ER/66IP) spanning 49 games (4 starts). He struck out 89 batters while walking 24 allowing just four home runs.

Up Next For The Rays:

Tampa Bay Rays
AP Photo/Jason Behnken

The Tampa Bay Rays welcome in the Baltimore Orioles to Tropicana Field for a three game series beginning Monday night at 7:10. Ryan Yarbrough (11-3, 3.36 ERA) is expected to get the start for Tampa Bay. The Orioles have not announced a starter.

It should be noted, due to Hurricane Dorian, Wednesday’s series finale has been rescheduled as part of a single admission doubleheader on Tuesday beginning at 3:10 pm.

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I am a fan of all sports but am most passionate about baseball. From the fanatical to analytical, nothing about the game escapes me. Being born and raised in Northeast Ohio I'm very familiar with the heartache and pain that sports can bring and hope that I bring some understanding of the other side to my coverage. I will focus mostly on baseball but also cover the Tampa Bay Lightning, one of the most electric franchises in all of sports. Always willing to converse about any sport and have only one rule and that is be respectful at all times.