The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Oakland Athletics 5-1 Wednesday night as Charlie Morton and the bullpen were able to silence Oakland’s massive home crowd.
Over 51,000 people showed up to a sold-out RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland, CA to cheer on their hometown A’s, but were instead treated to the Rays pitching taking the bats out of the Athletics’ hands.
Oakland was held to just eight total hits on the night, and after loading the bases up in the 1st inning against Rays starter Charlie Morton, failed to re-create a better scoring chance all night. Morton wasn’t particularly great Wednesday night, lasting only five innings and uncharacteristically walking three batters, but fought through early adversity and continued to make pitches when the Rays needed it most.
Morton ended the night with four strikeouts and 94 pitches thrown, but he had done enough to set the tone for the rest of the game. Rays manager Kevin Cash went to Diego Castillo and then Nick Anderson, both throwing more than one inning of work, combining for only three hits and seven strikeouts. And finally, closer Emilio Pagan entered the game and got the final two outs of the game on just six pitches, five of which were strikes.
Oakland ended the game going 0-4 with RISP and stranding nine men on base, as their power bats were completely neutralized by Tampa Bay’s arms.
The Rays moved their way through Oakland’s lineup with poise, completely unaffected by the record-setting crowd in Oakland, and thanks to some timely hitting from Yandy Diaz, they are advancing to the ALDS to face Houston. And with the way they are pitching, Tampa Bay can beat any team on a good night.
The Rays offense will have to continue to make the most of their opportunities, actually being out hit by the Athletics Wednesday night eight to seven, but their rotation gives them a shot to win every game. Tyler Glasnow will get the nod in Game One of the ALCS with reigning AL Cy-Young winner Blake Snell to follow, but in a three-game series the Rays pitching becomes even more dangerous.
They’ll be up against a formidable lineup in Houston that also has elite starting pitching in Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke slated to start Games One through Three. But in a shortened series all it takes is a few dominant performances to steal momentum and possibly a series.
Factor in the Rays’ bullpen, which lead in the league with a 7.6 fWAR, and Tampa Bay is built to last in the postseason. Facing a battle-test club like the Astros will test this young Rays club but in the postseason great pitching will always give a team a chance to win – and the Rays have plenty of it.
The Rays are currently the underdogs with FiveThirtyEight giving them only a 29 percent chance against Justin Verlander and the Astros in Game One. But for a team like the Rays, essentially a roster compiled of players who personify the term “underdog”, they should feel comfortable in that role.