For the first time in franchise history, the Tampa Bay Rays will play in three consecutive postseasons as the reigning American League Champions look to finish what they began last season. For the second consecutive year, the Rays are on pace to lead the AL in wins as they’ve succeeded with a rather unique approach at the plate.
The Rays improved to an AL-best 94-59 with their 7-1 win over the Blue Jays, taking two out of three in the series. JT Chargois won his sixth game of the season as veteran David Robertson induced a groundout to shortstop Taylor Walls off of the bat of George Springer to finish the ballgame. Robertson, a late season pickup, encapsulates how the Rays find bargains. Robertson, a 2014 All-Star closer for the Yankees, had last pitched in 2019 for the Philadelphia Phillies. Following his recovery from Tommy John Surgery, the 36-year-old pitched for the High Point Rockers in the Atlantic League before winning a silver medal as a member of Team USA in the 2021 Olympics. It was his performance in the Olympics that landed him deal with the Rays in August and ultimately a call-up back to the Majors at the beginning of September.
Yandy Diaz started the scoring with a sacrifice fly that scored Brandon Lowe. Diaz has had an excellent second half, hitting to a 112 OPS+. Austin Meadows followed it up with a three run homerun, his 26th of the year. Meadows has now driven 103 on the season, sitting eighteen RBI shy of the 121 franchise record set by Carlos Pena in 2007. The Rays lineup is loaded with producers top-to-bottom. Randy Arozarena had the greatest offensive postseason in MLB history in 2020, 20-year-old phenom Wander Franco set an AL record for most consecutive games on base by a player 21 or younger and 7x All-Star Nelson Cruz has 448 career homeruns.
As for the pitching, the Rays once again have mixed and matched all season. Andrew Kittredge, a first-time All-Star in 2021, has led a lights out bullpen. The Rays have 13 pitchers to record a save in 2021, an MLB-record. That includes Mariners’ Diego Castillo, who they traded at the deadline and Trevor Richards, who was traded for another player on the list (J.P. Feyereisen). Dietrech Enns, a 30-year-old lefty, is the most recent to record their first save. Enns hadn’t pitched in the Majors outside of a 2017 cup of coffee with Minnesota. They’ve used a total of 41 pitchers, including outfielder Brett Phillips. Top prospect Shane Baz was excellent in his MLB debut on Sunday night, but he was the 14th different pitcher to start a game this year. The Rays have been hoping to find a top-of-the-rotation arm since it was revealed that ace Tyler Glasnow required Tommy John Surgery in June. Rookie Shane McClanahan made his MLB debut in the 2020 World Series and has stepped up in a major way for the Rays since Glasnow’s injury. Since June 15th, McClanahan has a 3.09 ERA in just over 81 innings of work, complimented by a 2.95 FIP and .660 OPS against.
For the Rays, it’s very difficult to explain their success and perhaps I’ll try to break it down in a future piece. But for now, it’s time to pop champagne because they are October bound. The Rays currently hold a 6.5 game lead over the Red Sox and 8.5 game lead over the Blue Jays and Yankees.
Follow me on Twitter: @TheJameus.
Like me on Facebook here.