Manoah, Merrifield lead Blue Jays to 3-1 win over Rays

Sep 24, 2022, 6:50 AM | Updated: 7:55 pm
Toronto Blue Jays' Whit Merrifield hits a three-run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the ...

Toronto Blue Jays' Whit Merrifield hits a three-run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the seventh inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Scott Audette)

(AP Photo/Scott Audette)

              Tampa Bay Rays' David Peralta smiles as he is caught in a rundown, between Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., foreground, and another player during the second inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Peralta was tagged out. (AP Photo/Scott Audette)
            
              Tampa Bay Rays' Kevin Kiermaier gestures to fans after a video tribute to him, during the second inning of the team's baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Kiermaier is out for the season. (AP Photo/Scott Audette)
            
              Tampa Bay Rays' Randy Arozarena walks toward the dugout after striking out against the Toronto Blue Jays during the sixth inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Scott Audette)
            
              Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Drew Rasmussen walks into the dugout after being removed during the seventh inning of the team's baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Scott Audette)
            
              Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Brooks Raley walks off the mound after giving up a three-run home run to Toronto Blue Jays' Whit Merrifield, behind, during the seventh inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Scott Audette)
            
              Toronto Blue Jays' Whit Merrifield circles the bases on a three-run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the seventh inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Scott Audette)
            
              Toronto Blue Jays' Whit Merrifield hits a three-run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the seventh inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Scott Audette)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Toronto interim manager John Schneider is willing to go all in trying to get the top AL wild card and the home playoff series that goes with it.

Alex Manoah and Whit Merrifield helped the Blue Jays move closer to that goal.

Manoah pitched seven shutout innings, Merrifield hit a three-run homer and the Blue Jays regained the first wild-card spot with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

“Love it, man,” Manoah said when asked about pitching in big games. “We’ve got a great team. Being able to come to battle with these guys, it’s what I dreamed of my whole life right here. Being on that mound, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

The Blue Jays lead Tampa Bay by one game. The top wild card finisher will host all games in their best-of-three opening-round series, while the other two wild cards play strictly on the road.

Schneider said Thursday he would use Manoah in the final regular-season game if home field was at stake. Hosting in Toronto would mean a great deal after the Blue Jays spent 2020 and part of 2021 playing home games away from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Rays could also have a real home-field advantage at Tropicana Field, where they are 51-29. Tampa Bay’s road mark is 33-39.

“This is an interesting place,” Schneider said. “I think guys say that, whether it’s from the roof, the lighting, the turf, the dirt in the infield. Their mound seems high. Their acoustics are weird. It seems like their players embrace it a little bit, and use it as an advantage at times. It’s something you’ve got to work around the best you can.”

Manoah (15-7) scattered four hits, walked two and struck out eight while throwing a season-high 113 pitches. The righty worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth by striking out Randy Arozarena and getting a flyout from David Peralta.

Jordan Romano replaced Tim Mayza with two on and two outs in the eighth and allowed pinch-hitter Harold Ramirez’s RBI infield single but avoided further damage by striking out Manuel Margot. Romano finished the game to get his 35th save in 41 chances.

Tampa Bay starter Drew Rasmussen (10-7) gave up one run, three hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five.

The teams combined for 31 runs, with the Rays accounting for 20, in the first two games of the series that were both won by Tampa Bay.

Arozarena got the Rays’ first hit with a two-out double in the fourth. He became the first Tampa Bay player and 20th big leaguer to have 40 doubles, 20 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season.

Teoscar Hernández ended Rasmussen’s night with a double in the seventh. Brooks Raley entered and, after a walk to pinch-hitter Danny Jansen, Merrifield made it 3-0 on his 10th homer of the season.

“It’s two teams just absolutely duking it out for spots in the playoffs,” Raley said. “They played hard tonight, we played hard tonight. They had a good pitching performance, Ras did a heck of a job. This is playoff baseball.”

Merrifield homered twice in Thursday night’s 10-5 loss to the Rays.

Alejandro Kirk opened the second with a single before Rasmussen retired 12 in a row until Merrifield’s leadoff double in the sixth.

Plate umpire Corey Blaser took a hard foul ball by Margot on the mask in the eighth but remained in the game.

HONORING KK

The Rays posted a thank you on the message board for CF Kevin Kiermaier, who is out for the season following left hip surgery. Kiermaier is in the final season of a $53.5 million, six-year contract that includes a club option for 2023 that is expected to be declined.

TEAM AWARDS

Rays ace Shane McClanahan was voted the Don Zimmer MVP award winner by members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. CF Jose Siri was selected as the outstanding rookie. 3B Yandy Díaz received the Paul C. Smith Champions award as the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (lat strain) allowed three runs and three hits over two-thirds of an inning for Triple-A Buffalo.

Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe (lower back) is done for the season.

UP NEXT

McClanahan (12-6), pulled from his start Tuesday in the fifth inning due to neck tightness, will face Blue Jays RHP Ross Stripling (8-4) on Sunday.

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero shoots.a free throw against the Los Angeles Clipper during ove...
Associated Press

Magic beat Clippers 116-111 in OT, snap 9-game losing streak

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Rookie Pablo Banchero scored 10 of his 23 points in overtime and the Orlando Magic snapped a nine-game losing streak with a 116-111 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night. Banchero, the top overall pick in the NBA draft, made all six of his free throws in the final […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Rosner scores 24 as Western Illinois defeats Iowa Wesleyan

MACOMB, Ill. (AP) — Alec Rosner had 24 points and Western Illinois beat Iowa Wesleyan 84-73 on Wednesday night. Rosner shot 9 for 11 (3 for 5 from 3-point range) and 3 of 3 from the free throw line for the Leathernecks (5-4). Trenton Massner scored 21 points while going 7 of 17 from the […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Andrews, No. 19 Baylor women cruise past UT Arlington 91-36

WACO, Texas (AP) — Sarah Andrews scored 20 points, Darianna Littlepage-Buggs had a double-double and No. 19 Baylor coasted to a 91-36 win over UT Arlington on Wednesday night. Jana Van Gytenbeek added 15 points and Caitlin Bickle had 13 for the Bears (7-2). Littlepage-Buggs had 11 points and 10 rebounds. The Bears were 11 […]
19 hours ago
Philadelphia 76ers' Tyrese Maxey, left, tries to get past Phoenix Suns' Chris Paul during the first...
Associated Press

Paul back in lineup for Suns after 14-game injury absence

PHOENIX (AP) — Chris Paul is back in the starting lineup for the Phoenix Suns after missing a month with a sore right heel. The 12-time All-Star guard returned Wednesday night against the NBA-leading Boston Celtics. The 37-year-old was listed as questionable for the game but did some work during the team’s morning shootaround. The […]
19 hours ago
FILE - Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper watches during warm ups before an NFL football game bet...
Associated Press

Panthers owner settles tax fight over failed practice space

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina county where Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper started building and then abandoned a new practice facility has reached a settlement over $21 million in sales tax money given to the NFL team. Tepper will pay back the money, and York County agreed its dispute was totally resolved with […]
19 hours ago
FILE -  New York Yankees' Aaron Judge gestures as he runs the bases after hitting a solo home run, ...
Associated Press

Judge goes back to Yankees as Giants, Padres examine options

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Farhan Zaidi got a text message from Aaron Judge’s representatives early Wednesday morning. And just like that, it was over. It was time to move on. With Judge returning to the New York Yankees on a $360 million, nine-year contract, the San Francisco Giants are mulling over their next move after […]
19 hours ago
Manoah, Merrifield lead Blue Jays to 3-1 win over Rays