The Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday defeated the Marlins by a score of 7-3. That win in tandem with the Yankees' thrilling win over the Red Sox earlier on Saturday means that the Rays are American League East champions for 2021.
Here's the out that clinched it in front of a season-high announced crowd of 23,783 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg:
The Rays also won the AL East in the abbreviated 2020 season, and overall this is the franchise's fourth division title. Earlier in the week, the Rays clinched their seventh postseason appearance overall and third in a row.
Presently, the Rays are 96-59 on the season, which means they're one win from tying the franchise record for wins in a season (97 set by the 2008 pennant-winning team) with seven games left in the regular season. The Rays also have a hefty 5.0-game lead over the Astros in the race for top seed in the AL playoffs. Assuming the Rays clinch that top seed, they'll play the winner of the AL Wild Card Game in the best-of-five ALDS. At things stand now, the division-rival Yankees and Red Sox would meet in that Wild Card Game.
Kevin Cash's club this season thrived thanks to a powerhouse offense and one of the AL's top bullpens. Overall, the Rays have spent 90 days and counting in first place, and they went an 49-24 against teams within the division. The Rays did go 18-1 against the lowly Orioles, but they also posted winning records against the Red Sox, Yankees, and Blue Jays -- contenders, all.
As has been the case throughout recent history, the Rays have contended and thrived despite the unwillingness of owner Stuart Sternberg to invest in the payroll. The Rays will be trying to repeat as American League champions and win the the World Series for the first time in franchise history even though they rank 26th in MLB in payroll.