ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. - A year ago with six games remaining, the Tampa Bay Rays sat tied for first with the New York Yankees in the American League East.
Two years ago with six games left, the Rays were 201/2 games back of the first place Yankees.
And three years ago with a six-pack to go, the Rays sat first, leading by three games.
The on-the-bubble Rays went into Thursday’s night’s finale at Yankee Stadium 21/2 games behind the Red Sox in the AL wild-card race.
Tampa Bay has dropped the first three games of its series in New York and has lost six of the previous nine.
It’s not a wild-card race, but a wild-card stagger as the Red Sox are 5-16 this month, while the Rays are 11-9.
“We’re definitely not out of it,” outfielder Matt Joyce told reporters Wednesday night after the Rays were swept in a doubleheader by identical 4-2 scores.
“We’re not playing terrible baseball. We’re putting up good games. The Yankees are tough. We have to come back, we understand what we have to do. Right now our backs are against the wall, so we’re really going to see what the team is made of.”
The Blue Jays arrive at Tropicana Field on Friday for a three-game weekend series, the next to-last set of the season and then it’s on to Chicago and get away day after Game 162.
Lefty David Price will start Friday, despite taking a line drive off his chest in his previous start on Sunday, despite not being able to due his side sessions between starts.
Ben Zobrist didn’t play in the opener on the day-night doubleheader as he was at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg with his wife, Julianna, as their new- born baby, Kruse had minor surgery Wednesday morning. Zobrist arrived in time to pinch-hit in the opener and on the day had four strikeouts and grounded in a double play.
The Rays are hoping reliever Kyle Farnsworth and his tender right elbow can return soon. Farnsworth last pitched Sept. 10.
DH Johnny Damon is tied with Bill Buckner for 59th on the all-time hits list at 2,715 going into Thursday’s game. He’s one behind former Montreal Expos right fielder Rusty Staub, six back of Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig and nine behind Blue Jays Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar.
A weekend highlight for J.P. Arencibia, the Jays catcher and country music aficionado, may come Saturday when singer Miranda Lambert gives a post-game concert.