Ahead of making their fourth consecutive postseason appearance, the Tampa Bay Rays will conclude the regular season — if weather permits — against the host Boston Red Sox on Wednesday afternoon.
Drew Rasmussen (11-7, 2.84 ERA) originally was scheduled to start for the Rays (86-75), but he was taken off that assignment to ensure he’s fully ready for the best-of-three American League wild-card series against Cleveland beginning Friday.
Following a rain-shortened, 6-0 win by the Red Sox (77-84) on Tuesday, left-hander Josh Fleming (2-4, 6.23) was announced as Tampa Bay’s starting pitcher instead for Wednesday, with rain still in the forecast.
Shane McClanahan and Tyler Glasnow are lined up to start the first two playoff games, but the plan beyond that is undetermined. Rasmussen is a prime candidate to throw a potential deciding game.
“I don’t think we’ve got anything finalized yet, but certainly know that Drew is going to be on our (playoff) roster and want to make sure that he is as fresh as possible,” manager Kevin Cash said.
The Rays, who have lost four games in a row, will try to avoid a fifth consecutive loss for the first time in 2022.
Fleming is slated to make just his third start and 10th appearance. He pitched eight innings over two relief outings against the Red Sox in July, giving up a combined seven earned runs.
The Rays have made several roster moves this week, calling up catcher Rene Pinto and pitcher Jimmy Yacabonis from Triple-A national champion Durham.
Pinto takes the spot of Francisco Mejia (paternity list), while Yacabonis follows Kevin Herget, who was designated for assignment after throwing 4 1/3 innings on Monday.
Another recent addition from the minors, Vidal Brujan, could be an asset to the playoff roster.
“He’s so versatile that he can help in many ways,” Cash said. “Facing lefties, that’ll be one. Pinch running. Late-game defensive replacement — second, outfield, he can play all over the place.”
It is fitting that the consistent Nick Pivetta (10-12, 4.56) will pitch Boston’s final game, looking to lead the way to the team’s sixth consecutive home win.
Pivetta has made 30 or more starts for the third time in his career. Wednesday will mark his 33rd of the season, passing his high mark from 2018 with Philadelphia.
It has been an up-and-down season for Pivetta, who is 0-7 with a 7.78 ERA against the Yankees, Tampa Bay and Toronto but 10-5 with a 2.93 ERA in his other 20 starts.
“This year has been up and down against (Toronto), but mostly negatives against the AL East all year round,” Pivetta said. “But it doesn’t change my approach, doesn’t change my belief in myself. Go out there and compete the best I can every single time.”
Most recently, he allowed four runs on six hits in his five-inning Friday start at Toronto.
Pivetta’s last start against Tampa Bay was his best of three starts this year. He allowed just one run and two hits over five innings on Sept. 7, but the Red Sox lost 1-0.
Boston looks to be finishing on a high note, allowing just two hits in the penultimate game and setting up the opportunity for a series sweep.
Xander Bogaerts broke a personal 0-for-12 slump with a monstrous grand slam as part of a five-run fifth inning for the Red Sox on Tuesday.
“It’s been a while. He had been searching and not swinging at the right pitches,” manager Alex Cora said. “It was good to see him doing that.”
–Field Level Media