Despite competing in a division with four viable postseason candidates, the Rays followed up a World Series trip and a .667 winning percentage in the shorter 2020 season with a 100-win season and another AL East title in 2021. It was even more impressive that this happened after they parted ways with Charlie Morton and Blake Snell, and lone ace Tyler Glasnow was injured 14 starts into the season.

Rays Can Clinch AL East During Homestand; Rasmussen Stepping Up And Franco Eyeing Return

TAMPA, FL. – On Tuesday night in Toronto, the Rays reached the 90-victory mark for the eighth time in their 24-season history. They head into Friday night’s game against Detroit with 91 wins with 15 games remaining.

That puts them in a very good spot with respect to setting a new team mark for wins, which is 97 in 2008.

More importantly, the Rays are seeking to clinch a second straight American League East title, and fourth overall. They lead the Red Sox and Blue Jays by 8.5 games and the Yankees by nine. Their magic number is eight.

Given their magic number, the Rays are all but certain to clinch at home. On Thursday evening they lifted the curtain on the final homestand of 2021, a 10-game homestand with four against the Tigers and three against the Blue Jays and Marlins. ($10 tickets are available for the final homestand. Visit for details.)

The Rays have gotten to this point with contributions from 59 different players, including an eye-opening 36 pitchers. Both are team records. They have had to use that many arms thanks to constant shuffling brought upon by a ridiculous number of injuries. In fact, as of Thursday, 15 pitchers were on the shelf, including a few who went on the IL during spring training with long-term injuries and were not part of the team’s plans for 2021.

Though Nick Anderson made his season debut Monday night in Toronto after missing the season’s first five months due to a sprained elbow, it was during the Rays’ nine-game trip that three more pitchers went on the injured list. Chris Archer (hip, Sept. 12), Shane McClanahan (back tightness, Sept. 10) and Matt Wisler (finger, Sept. 10) were placed on the 10-day IL. McClanahan will be reinstated Sunday when he is scheduled to start against the Tigers while Archer and Wisler are not close to returning.

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Margot And Lowe SOURCE: Tampa Bay rays

Among pitchers who have really helped the cause amid the unrelenting injury bug is Drew Rasmussen. Acquired from Milwaukee along with J.P. Feyereisen in a May 21 trade that sent Willy Adames to the Brewers, the 26-year-old right-hander was inserted in the starting rotation in mid-August and has since shined.

Used out of the bullpen in Milwaukee and with the Rays upon his arrival in St. Pete, Rasmussen has thrown as many as 74 pitches while stretching himself out. He threw five innings at Toronto on Tuesday night and, with help from his defense, blanked the powerful Blue Jays on two hits.

It was the third time in his last four outings that Rasmussen, who was twice used as an opener earlier this season, went five innings. Since joining the rotation on a regular basis August 12 at Boston, the product of Oregon State has allowed only four runs (all earned) and has an ERA of 1.33.

“Things are going really well right now,” he said after beating the Blue Jays. “It is hard to complain with how I have been throwing the ball over the last month or so. I am really happy with how things are going.”

He should be. Rasmussen has been getting it done with a fastball that is consistently 96-97 mph and around the plate. He has walked five and fanned 18 in 27 innings as a starter while exhibiting outstanding control.

“I think Drew, maybe as much as anybody, commands the fastball,” said manager Kevin Cash. “That is what allows him to throw it so much. When you are executing pitches and throwing them where you want, it presents challenges (for opposing batters).”

It also keeps the defense loose. With his command, it is all about trusting the players behind you.

“There is confidence in the defense we have, so it is just throw the ball over the plate and give our guys a chance to make a play,” said Rasmussen. “Just work ahead in the count and hope for the best.”

The Rays hope for the best when it comes to the return of shortstop Wander Franco, who went on the IL September 11 with hamstring tightness and is due to come off it Tuesday. While a Tuesday return might be ambitious, the sensational rookie has been on the field working out and could be back by the end of next week.

“We have to be really pleased with where he is at in his rehab,” said Cash. “I think we all anticipated he would take a turn for the better and he has.”

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