Rays eye magic number, face sinking Mets

MLB

With one more win, the Tampa Bay Rays can celebrate a division title 10 years in the making.

The New York Mets, meanwhile, could win six more games, but any celebrations are likely going to have to wait until at least next year.

The Rays will look to clinch the third division title in franchise history Tuesday night, when they visit the Mets in the middle game of a three-game series. Left-hander Blake Snell (4-1, 3.05 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for Tampa Bay against New York right-hander Seth Lugo (2-3, 4.34).

The Rays inched close to the American League East title and delivered another damaging blow to the Mets’ postseason hopes Monday night, when Nate Lowe homered and scored both runs and six Tampa Bay pitchers combined on a four-hitter in a 2-1 victory.

The win, coupled with the New York Yankees’ 11-5 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, shrunk the magic number for the Rays (36-19). Tampa Bay previously won the AL East in 2008 and 2010.

“We’re getting closer,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said Monday night. “We just have to keep winning. (Create) as much momentum as possible.”

The Mets (24-30) are losing and back-sliding at the worst possible time. New York enters Tuesday leading the majors in batting average (.273) and on-base percentage (.351) but has scored three runs or fewer in six of the last nine games, and lost all six of those games.

The loss Monday not only ensured the Mets of their third non-winning season in the last four years, it also dropped them three games behind the Philadelphia Phillies in the race for the National League’s final wild-card spot and with three other teams — the Milwaukee Brewers, San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies — to hurdle in between.

“We’re not mathematically out of it and we’ve got games left, so now the goal has to be to win all those (and then) scoreboard watch,” said two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, who took a hard-luck loss Monday despite tying a career-high with 14 strikeouts.

“You never want to be in that (situation), and we’ve been in it the last few years. So we’ve got to show up (Tuesday) and go out there and try to win out,” deGrom said.

Neither Snell nor Lugo factored into the decision in their most recent starts last Thursday. Snell allowed one run over 5 1/3 innings as the Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles, 3-1, in the first game of a doubleheader.

Lugo had the shortest start of his career. He gave up six runs over 1 2/3 innings but was taken off the hook when the Mets came back to beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 10-6.

Snell earned the win in his only career start against the Mets on July 7, 2018, when he tossed 7 1/3 scoreless innings in the Rays’ 3-0 victory at Citi Field. Lugo has never faced the Rays.

–Field Level Media

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