ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays scored early and often in their 8-2 wild-card series clinching win over Toronto at Tropicana Field on Wednesday.
Tyler Glasnow and the bullpen took care of the rest as the Rays swept the best-of-three series from their divisional foe. They advance to the American League Division Series, which will be played in San Diego against the winner of the Yankees and Indians wild card series.
Game 1 is Monday.
“An opportunity is in front of us,” said manager Kevin Cash. “It’s where we want to be and we are very excited to be heading to San Diego.”
Through two innings all nine batters in the starting lineup reached safely at least once as Tampa Bay built a 7-0 lead, which became 8-1 after three innings.
History was made during a six-run second in which the Rays sent 10 batters to the plate. Hunter Renfroe, who hit only .156 in the regular season, launched the first postseason grand slam in franchise history to make it 6-0 and put an end to the afternoon of Blue Jays lefty starter Hyun Jin Ryu.
“Hunter, what a day,” said Cash. “He is going to play a big role in this and you can wash out what has taken place this season. We valued him in our lineup and certainly against left-handed pitchers we know how talented he is.”
Renfroe, no stranger to grand slams, hit five during his three-plus seasons with the Padres. His first in the postseason, though, meant a little more than the previous ones.
“It was great,” said Renfroe, who will return to Petco Park in San Diego. “I wasn’t trying to hit a home run, but just trying to put the ball in play. Obviously, hitting the ball over the fence and getting four runs were huge. Those four runs really helped, I think.”
The first two runs of the second inning were courtesy Mike Zunino’s home run into the left field bleachers, a blast that followed a single by Kevin Kiermaier to make it 3-0.
Meanwhile, Glasnow allowed only a pair of solo home runs to Danny Jansen — the first of which, in the third inning, went off the D-ring catwalk above the left field stands — in six innings to pick up his first career postseason win.
The 27-year-old right-hander threw 86 pitches, including only seven in the first inning.
“It feels great and we had a bunch of confidence going into this,” he said. “That second inning, to watch the momentum and adrenaline from the grand slam, the home runs, it was a pretty special moment.”
There was momentary concern in the fourth inning after Glasnow struck out Teoscar Hernandez. Cash and trainer Joe Benge made their way to the mound, but it was nothing more than cramping in the hip area, according to the manager.
“It got better as it went on,” said Glasnow, who lost both his starts against Houston in the ALDS last season. “In the fifth and sixth innings I felt fine.”
Randy Arozarena felt fine all day. He reached base safely in his first four plate appearances, including hits in each of the first three innings, two of which were doubles. He walked in the sixth before popping out in the eighth.
Aaron Loup, Ryan Thompson and Nick Anderson combined to allow only one hit in three innings of relief.
Yandy Diaz (right hamstring strain) returned to the lineup Wednesday for the first time since August 31. Diaz started at third base and went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks and a run scored. He was lifted for pinch-runner Joey Wendle after walking in the sixth.