Rays step up wild-card push against Red Sox

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The Tampa Bay Rays are in a three-team race for the American League’s two wild-card playoff berths.

But the road for the Rays (90-63) is decidedly tougher than that of their wild-card competitors, the Oakland Athletics and Cleveland Indians. The opponents’ winning percentage for the Rays the rest of the way is .535, while the Indians face teams with a .483 winning percentage and the Athletics’ opponents are playing .441 ball.

The Rays will open a four-game series against the reigning World Series champion Boston Red Sox on Friday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“We’ve got to win,” outfielder Tommy Pham told reporters. “We’ve got to play that right now is important. You never know when you’re in this situation again.”

Pham tied a franchise record with five hits Wednesday, and Austin Meadows hit a deciding home run as the Rays rallied to beat the host Los Angeles Dodgers 8-7 in 11 innings to maintain their hold on the second wild-card berth.

The Rays are two games behind Oakland and are level with Cleveland, which beat the Detroit Tigers 7-0 on Thursday.

“We were playing on the West Coast, so you recognize that Oakland had a day game (Wednesday) and we saw that they walked off Kansas City, and Cleveland, obviously watching that, it looked like it walked off Detroit,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “So we needed to find a way, (and) we did. It’s going to go down to the wire, but it’s nice when the other two teams you’re competing with win, it’s really nice when we win.”

And a victory against the Dodgers, who lead the National League with 98 victories, provided another boost.

“Just shows that we can compete with those guys and we can compete with anybody out there,” Meadows told MLB.com. “We’re going to continue to prove that and go into the homestand with some motivation and get some wins.”

The Red Sox (80-72) avoided playoff elimination with a 5-4 victory at home Thursday against San Francisco, with left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez earning his team-high 18th victory.

Right-hander Rick Porcello (13-12, 5.77 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Red Sox in the series opener against Rays right-hander Charlie Morton (15-6, 3.16). Porcello is 14-12 with a 3.67 ERA in 31 career starts against the Rays but 0-2 in three tries this season. Morton is 5-1 with a 4.26 ERA in eight career starts against Boston, including 2-0 in four games this season.

A day after Red Sox left-hander David Price was shut down for the season, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said second baseman Michael Chavis might be in the same situation.

Chavis was expected to return this weekend, but he experienced more discomfort in his right oblique.

“We’ll talk about it in the upcoming days, but I don’t think that’s moving where we thought it would go,” Cora said. “He was looking good early in the week, and (then) he felt soreness. If that’s the case, we’re probably going to shut him down.”

Chavis hasn’t played for the Red Sox since Aug. 11, first because of a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder and then because of the oblique, which he injured while on a minor league rehab assignment. In 95 games this season, the rookie is batting .254 with 18 home runs and 58 RBIs.

Mookie Betts, who has missed the past week with inflammation in his left foot, should return for the Red Sox this weekend, while J.D. Martinez, who has sat out the past two games with tightness in his left groin, is considered day-to-day.

–Field Level Media

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