ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays clinched their second straight American League East title, with Mike Zunino hitting a go-ahead homer and Brandon Lowe later adding a pair of RBI doubles to defeat the Miami Marlins 7-3 on Saturday night.
Reliever Pete Fairbanks retired Lewis Brinson on a foul popup with the bases loaded for the final out, giving the Rays the chance to celebrate on the field. Earlier in the day, Tampa Bay’s magic number was cut to one when the New York Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 5-3.
There was a standing ovation from the season-high announced crowd of 23,783 at Tropicana Field when the Yankees’ victory was announced after the top of the sixth inning. Indeed, while the Red Sox, Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners fight and scrap for wild-card positioning, the Rays are in the clubhouse, waiting for October and another chance to play for that elusive World Series title.
Tampa Bay improved to 96-59 and won its fourth division title since becoming a major league team for the 1998 season. The club debuted as the Devil Rays then and wore jerseys with that name during Saturday’s clinching victory.
The Rays, who lost the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games last season, have never won the championship.
Shane McClanahan (10-6) allowed one run and six hits over five innings on Saturday. The lefty worked out of several jams, holding the Marlins to 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
Tampa Bay’s Brett Phillips reached to begin the fifth on a fielding error by second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr., and Zunino then hit his 32nd homer, connecting off Sandy Alcantara (9-14) for a 3-1 lead.
After the Marlins twice got within one, Lowe’s RBI double in the seventh gave Tampa Bay a 5-3 lead. Phillips had a sacrifice fly, and Lowe, who was nearly hit by Yandy Diaz‘s foul while in the on-deck circle, extended the lead to 7-3 with another run-scoring double.
Alcantara gave up five runs — three earned — and nine hits over six-plus innings. He became the third major leaguer to reach 200 innings this season and the first Marlins pitcher to do so since Mark Buehrle in 2012.
Alvarez was ejected after slamming his helmet to the ground following a called third strike in the eighth. Marlins manager Don Mattingly came out of the dugout to argue and also was tossed.
After Diaz put Tampa Bay up two again on a sixth-inning RBI single, Bryan De La Cruz got the Marlins within 4-3 on a run-scoring single off McHugh in the seventh.
Austin Meadows had a one-out triple in the fourth and scored on Joey Wendle‘s double. Soon after, there was a second reaction among some in the crowd when Giancarlo Stanton hit an eighth-inning grand slam to put the Yankees up 5-2 at Fenway Park.
Miguel Rojas put the Marlins up 1-0 on a leadoff homer in the third.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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