The Rays beat the Yankees 2-1 in Game 5 of the ALDS to book a date with the Astros in the ALCS.
The strength of the ALCS-bound Tampa Bay Rays is that, on any given night, you never know who’s going to be the hero. On Friday against the New York Yankees, in a win-or-go-home moment, it was an undrafted 26-year-old utility man.
Mike Brosseau got his sweet revenge on Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning of the decisive Game 5 of the ALDS at Petco Park. A month ago, Chapman nearly decapitated Brosseau with a high fastball directly at his head that Brosseau was barely able to take cover from. Fast forward five weeks later, and Brosseau fouled off four two-strike pitches from the hard-throwing left-hander before sending a 100-mph fastball into the left-field seats to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 series-clinching victory.
The Rays now advance to face the Houston Astros in the ALCS beginning on Sunday. The Astros are everything the Rays are not: they have All-Stars at nearly every position and a bloated payroll. The Rays, with the 28th-ranked payroll in the league, do things a little differently. There is no obvious star player, no perennial MVP candidates.
What they do have is a roster full of solid, hard-working players who know their roles. One night it could be Brosseau, who has less than 100 games in his big-league career and wasn’t drafted coming out of Oakland University in 2016. Or it could be Randy Arozarena, who could barely get on the field during the Cardinals’ run to the NLCS last season but hit .421 with three home runs against the Yankees. Brandon Lowe, their top run producer in the regular season, went 0-18 against the Yankees, but the Rays are so deep that didn’t seem to matter.
The strength of the Rays, though, lies on the pitching mound, where manager Kevin Cash is able to call upon a plethora of hard throwers. The four Rays pitchers on Friday — Tyler Glasnow, Nick Anderson, Pete Fairbanks and Diego Castillo — threw 64 fastballs; 39 of them were 97 mph or faster. Five of the Rays pitchers who’ve appeared in the postseason averaged more than 95 mph with their fastballs this season.
The Rays bullpen had the third-lowest ERA in the league during the regular season. Anderson, an unheralded right-hander when the Rays acquired him from Miami last season, gave up five hits and one earned run all year. It’s a full team effort. Twelve different relievers recorded a save in their 40 wins in 2020, a Major League record. Cash isn’t concerned about establishing roles for his pitchers. He was even prepared to bring in Blake Snell and Charlie Morton, their starters in Games 1 and 3, respectively, in the ninth inning.
They were able to get past the Yankees. Next up is the Astros, appearing in their fourth straight ALCS. But the Rays don’t care about how much star power you have or how much money who spent. The Rays do things their own way, and this October, that’s translating to a whole lot of wins.