Tampa Bay Rays land wildcard spot; Houston Astros secure home-court advantage despite loss

HOUSTON — The Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros both had reason to like the way things turned out Friday night.

Drew Rasmussen and the Rays were the only ones celebrating, however.

Rasmussen threw seven effective innings and the Rays clinched a playoff berth for the fourth straight season, posing on the court for a team photo after beating Houston 7-3. Despite the loss, the Astros found themselves with home-court advantage throughout the AL Playoffs.

The Rays (86-71) started the day in the third and final wildcard AL spot, behind Toronto and Seattle.

Tampa Bay extended the longest postseason streak in franchise history and earned a playoff berth for the eighth time, all since 2008. The Rays have never won the World Series.

“They’ve weathered some bad news and some bad performances, but they’ve come through with some really good performances to stay afloat here,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “It feels like right now we’re blossoming a bit. These guys are still young, and we’re getting a taste of some really cool stuff.”

Houston (102-55) secured home-court advantage throughout the AL Playoffs when the New York Yankees lost earlier in the day. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers have a better record than the Astros.

“It’s hard to celebrate when you feel the pain of losing,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We’ll deal with that later.”

Rasmussen (11-7) held Houston to two runs and five hits in seven innings. He entered Friday on a three-game losing streak, the longest of his career.

“I had a really bad outing against those guys the other day so to be able to come back and attack the strike zone like I know how to do and get quick takedowns and allow the defense to play was absolutely amazing,” Rasmussen said. “There’s a lot of excitement in the playoffs now, and we’re officially there.”

Yandy Díaz doubled and singled twice, making two runs and scoring two. Taylor Walls homered and scored twice for the Rays.

Tampa Bay scored three times in the sixth, taking a 6-2 lead and chasing Framber Valdez (16-6).

Valdez, who had his MLB-record streak of 25 consecutive quality starts undone in his previous start, had a tough second straight outing. In 5⅓ innings, he allowed six runs, nine hits and three walks.

Valdez has been scored for 10 points in his last two starts after allowing just eight runs in the month of August.

“He didn’t get his breakup ball too much tonight,” Baker said. “He actually threw more fastballs than he threw breaking balls. No, I have no concerns for Framber. Framber is fine.”

Former astro Jose Siri hit an RBI double, and Díaz doubled home Siri and Walls to open it.

Walls homered in the eighth, his eighth of the season.

The Rays are 4-0 all-time in the playoffs as a wild card team. They won the 2013 wild-card game at Cleveland and the 2019 wild-card game at Oakland, and also swept a 2020 wild-card series against Toronto.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.