America is finally getting a closer look at the Tampa Bay Rays during the 2020 World Series, and what baseball fans are witnessing looks like nothing like the game they’re used to. Tampa Bay does things differently and it often isn’t pretty, but damn if it isn’t effective.
The Rays played to their script Wednesday night and turned in a winning performance. The unconventional American League champions topped the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-4 in Game 2 of the World Series and proved they can go toe-to-toe with their juggernaut of an opponent. The Rays won by playing their way, which includes an unconventional style of handling pitchers, fielders and an offense without any big names. Regardless of how crazy it may seem from the outside, the formula has been tremendously successful in 2020.
Tampa’s Game 2 starter was Blake Snell, a former Cy Young Award winner many viewers probably expected to go deep in the contest as long as he was effective. That’s not how this team operates. Snell was pulled after 4.2 innings despite striking out nine Dodgers and only throwing 88 pitches. That’s not abnormal, Snell didn’t pitch six innings in any start this season. That’s pretty standard for Tampa Bay. The Rays’ average starter threw 71 pitches this season and was typically pulled in the fifth inning. That seems nuts, considering their roster includes guys like Snell, Tyler Glasnow and Charlie Morton.
Rays manager Kevin Cash is quick with the hook for his starters because he’s got one of the finest bullpens in baseball, and arguably the deepest. The Rays’ pen finished the 2020 season with a 25-11 record, a 3.37 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. When the team’s bullpen door opens, it can feel like a clown car loaded with guys who can hit the mid-90s, come from all kinds of angles, and have different types of movement. When starters leave early, they’re usually replaced with someone even more effective at getting outs.
On Wednesday, Snell departed a 5-2 game, and four relievers finished the final 4.1 innings, allowing two runs and three hits while striking out six and not walking anyone. That kind of performance is what the Rays expect every night. Given how good those relievers are, Tampa feels fully comfortable going with bullpen days often. There also isn’t a specific order guys arrive in. Everyone chips in, there is no definitive closer either, as 12 Rays recorded saves during the regular season.
The Rays aren’t just unconventional when it comes to the bullpen.