I can finally breathe. The Tampa Bay Rays are moving on to the American League Championship Series! That said, the Divisional Series was a true test for this young team.
The Divisional Series
The Tampa Bay Rays did not get off to the start they wanted to in the ALDS. In Game-1, the Yankees put buzzsaw Gerrit Cole on the mound, and he was lights out. Cole allowed three runs in his six-inning outing, but he also whiffed eight batters in the same time span.
To counter Cole, the Rays called upon Blake Snell. He had a solid start, but things started falling apart for him early. Through five innings, Snell allowed four earned runs. The Rays’ bullpen got roughed up in the ninth via a Giancarlo Stanton grand slam while the Yankees’ pen locked things down. Rays lose Game One by a score of 9-3.
Game-2 wouldn’t go the same. Tyler Glasnow took the mound and pitched exceptionally well. He struck out 10 batters over five innings but surrendered a pair of jacks to the Yankees’ hottest batter, Stanton.
The Yankees attempted to pull a ‘Tampa Bay Rays’… on the Tampa Bay Rays and opened the game with Deivi Garcia, who departed for J.A. Happ. The move didn’t work out as both Garcia and Happ were pounced on, as the Rays hit four homers en route to a 7-5 win.
Game-3 saw a matchup between two veteran starting pitchers in Masahiro Tanaka and Charlie Morton. Tanaka only lasted four innings and gave up five earned runs. Morton, on the other hand, had one of his best outings of the shortened year. He discovered his repertoire again, tossing five innings with six strikeouts.
The Rays bats, namely Randy Arozarena, the breakout star of the series, had a field day. The team put up 13 runs, and five batters had multiple hits in the game. Rays win 8-4.
Game-4 did not go to plan for the Rays. Hoping to close out the series, the Rays attempted a tried and trusted strategy. Open the game with a reliever, give the ball to Ryan Yarbrough and let him work. The Rays opened with Ryan Thompson, and let Yarbrough eat up innings.
However, the Yankees’ staff stymied the Rays’ bats, only allowing one run. Jordan Montgomery and Chad Green had outstanding days on the rubber. The pair went six innings and had six strikeouts. Yankees tie the series at two, winning 5-1.
Game-5 was an absolute thriller. Both teams got outstanding pitching performances. The Yankees leaned on Cole on short rest, and he performed. The Rays had a plan, and they executed to perfection. Not allowing the Yankees to see any one pitcher more than once, the Rays let each pitcher get through the order once before switching.
Tied at 1-1 in the eighth inning, Aroldis Chapman was on the mound; Michael Brosseau was at the dish. After grinding out a long at-bat, the tension in the air was electric between the two. On a fastball in, Brosseau turned on the ball, rifling it into the left-field seats, giving the Rays a one-run lead in poetic fashion (remember this?). Diego Castillo struck out two in the top of the ninth and the Rays took the game 2-1! Series over, Rays win in five!
Tampa Bay Rays Batter of the Series
.421/.476/.895, 8 H, 3 HR
There can only be one man for this distinction. While Arozarena struggled in the final two games of the series, he was the best player in the world the rest of the time. It seemed as though no matter who was pitching to him, he’d work the count and find a way on base or back to home plate. Really incredible stuff to watch. Expect major contributions from Randy against the Astros.
Tampa Bay Rays Pitcher of the Series
1 W, 4 IP, 6 K, 0.75 WHIP, .077 AVG
Now I know that Tyler Glasnow was the most important pitcher to the Rays during the Divisional Series, but hear me out, Castillo was dominant. He appeared in three games, pitched more than he usually does, and completely shut down the Yankees whenever he was on the mound. Castillo allowed zero runs against a stacked lineup. Hell, against this Yankees team, he only allowed a singular hit! Glasnow can have the spotlight, but Castillo was DEALING in this series.
The Rays now prepare for a matchup against one of the hottest teams in baseball: the Houston Astros. Houston has had no problems getting to this point in the playoffs.
The Astros took on the Twins in the Wild Card Round. They swept that series in two to move on to the Oakland A’s. The A’s put up a valiant effort, but could only take one game from Houston. The Astros won in four.
The Astros certainly have enough power in their lineup to score runs, but I’m unconvinced by the depth of their pitching staff. Where the Tampa Bay Rays have three out and out starters, I only see one or two for Houston.
Even with that in mind, the Rays only get one day’s rest before starting the next series. That will certainly change the pitching scheme and gameplan for Kevin Cash and the Tampa Bay Rays. I see the Rays taking this in six or seven. Rays Up!
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