The Rays Are Not Intimidated

Series tied.

Jim Rome
October 09, 2019 - 12:40 pm
Tampa Bay Rays

USA Today

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I said it before the start of the series and I will say it again now: You cannot intimidate the Tampa Bay Rays. They’re not afraid. Of anyone or anything. No, they don’t match up with Houston on paper. Pretty much no one does. But the Rays couldn’t give a damn. 

Couldn’t give a damn that Houston has a killer lineup, a clubhouse of killers and a rotation stacked with CY Young candidates? Doesn’t matter to the Rays. Didn’t matter that Houston jumped on them early to take a 2-0 series lead thanks to dominant performances by Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole? Tampa’s not backing down.

Then they roughed up Zack Greinke in Game 3. Houston knew they were in a fist fight so the Astros responded with Verlander on short rest in Game 4.

Houston rolls out the best starter in baseball, and Tampa responds WITHOUT a starter. They went with Diego Castillo as their opener. And he opened the hell out of the game by giving up a leadoff single and then striking out Michael Brantley, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman in order.

That brought the dome to life. And Tommy Pham nearly tore it down when he did this in the bottom of the first.

Second batter of the game, first run of the night. A few batters later, it was 3-0. And the Trop was rocking.

Verlander didn’t look like his usual self, not even close. He was working really hard, but he was grinding. It wasn’t vintage Verlander, not by a long shot, but he was keeping Houston in the game.

The problem for Houston, who averaged nearly 6 runs per game in the regular season, is their bats never got going.

And that 3-0 lead for Tampa felt like it was 10-0. Then, in the top of the fourth, Houston final got going. Jose Altuve led off with a single. And then with one out, Yordan Alvarez came to the plate. Roll it.

That was incredible. Kevin Kiermaier to Willy Adames to Travis D’Arnaud. A laser off the bat, a laser from center and a laser on the relay throw. Straight laser show all around.

That wasn’t textbook. Better yet, that was an instructional video. The instructional video that gets results. 

The GOAT of defensive drills, professional scout and instructor Tom Emanski would be proud.

We’re talking arm strength, quickness, agility, and body control. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say those were the same techniques that produced Baseball World’s back-to-back-to-back AAU national titles.

I saw that play and I was about to call a 1-800 number with my credit card at the ready.

That wasn’t a run saving play, that was a game changing play, and a series changing play. Houston scores there, it’s 3-1, they’ve got a runner on and everything changes.

Instead, Altuve is nailed at the plate. And then in the bottom of the inning, who should come up first? Willy Adames.

The oldest cliché in the book is that a player makes a huge play in the field and immediately chases it with a huge hit at the plate. But that’s not a cliché, that’s science

421 feet later, it was 4-0 Rays. You think that fourth inning had anything to do with the outcome of the game? Save at least one run in the top of the inning, knock one out in the bottom of the inning.

And that ultimately led to Verlander leaving the game. And the way Tampa using its bullpen,…AGAIN…4-0 lead might as well have been 14-0. Even when Houston made good contact, it was right at someone.

Again, that was a three and four run game for most of the night and it still felt like Tampa Bay was lapping them. Houston just could not get going.

And then they got it going in the ninth, Tampa Bay turned to their Cy Young winner, Blake Snell, to make his first relief appearance ever. And he did it.

Game 5. Houston. Tomorrow night. One game to decide it all. Just don’t come around Kevin Kiermaier with that David and Goliath stuff. He’s not interested. "People mentioned David and Goliath to me and some of the other guys before this series and I just had to cut 'em off before they even went on with that. Because I don't want to hear that. I know Houston is probably better on paper and all that, but anything can happen when you step on the field at the same time."

It’s not David v. Goliath. The Rays won 96 games. They handle pitching differently, but they’re still nasty. And in this series, when Verlander and Cole haven’t been on the mound in Houston, Tampa Bay has been the bully. They’ve dominated. Houston, on the other hand, has struggled. Overall, they’ve pretty much been outplayed. But it may not matter because they’re going back home and they putting Cole on the mound to win the series.

If you want to second guess, AJ Hinch for starting Verlander on short rest, you can. He knows you probably will. And he’d probably tell you that Wade Miley wasn’t an awesome option and neither was running out a rookie in Game 4 on the road. And he’d also tell you that if you’ve got the two CY Young favorites, you might as well use them.
Again, the issue last night wasn’t so much Verlander not being Verlander, it was the Astros hitters not being the Astros hitters. And the Rays pitchers definitely being the Rays pitchers.

Tomorrow night. Game 5. Tyler Glasnow v. Gerrit Cole. Nobody knows what will happen, but I know Tampa Bay will not be scared.