Rays Advance to ALDS, Instill Fear in Red Sox

By Peter M. Gordon

Oct 2, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher

Fernando Rodney

(56) and catcher

Jose Molina

(left) celebrates after defeating the Cleveland Indians in the American League wild card playoff game at Progressive Field. Tampa Bay won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

I said the keys to a Rays victory was for Cobb to pitch well and the Rays to get out early. They did both. Cobb shut out the Indians through the 7th inning. The Rays got a lead on a homer by Delmon Young and a double by Desmond Jennings. This put pressure on Indians batters, who failed to get key hits in the clutch. And in the field, Indian errors allowed a fourth run in the top of the ninth to give the Rays’ an additional cushion.

Once again the Rays came through with their backs to the wall. We have to hope they will perform as well on Friday in Boston, which is not a must-win game. The Rays have their top pitchers ready for the first three games–Matt Moore on Friday, David Price on Saturday, and Alex Cobb on Monday, and can go to Chris Archer on Tuesday if necessary. Once again, the keys for the Rays will be getting strong starting pitching and getting out to an early lead. I like Delmon Young as the DH in Boston, and will enjoy watching him put some dents in the Green Monster.

Before we start breaking down the Rays’ roster moves and ALDS matchups, there is one big points to remember from last night’s game: Joe Maddon is not afraid to try anything.

Sending Jose Molina to steal with two outs in the fifth was a brilliant move. Molina is far from the faster runner on the team, but he caught the Indians completely by surprise and he actually had stolen stole two bases already this year. Even though Molina didn’t make it, it allowed James Loney to start the next inning with a fresh count. It was a calculated risk–if Molina was caught, it cost the Rays a baserunner, but they had a thre-run lead anyway and Molina was behind in the count.  Even though it didn’t work out, it was a worth worth taking. Just knowing that Maddon is willing to try anything keeps opposing teams on edge and can lead them to make mistakes.

The Rays remain unbeaten when Kevin Kiermaier plays center field. They say he’s great defensively–I’m glad we haven’t had to test that ability in the late innings of a close game. However, this also shows Joe Maddon isn’t afraid to do anything that he thinks can help his team. Doesn’t matter if you’re a rookie or a ten-year veteran–if you’re a player on his roster, he will use you. Between his decision-making and the players on his roster, Maddon utilizes everything in his favor to give his team an edge.

The Rays’ strong pitching, balanced attack, and strong defense will make them a tough opponent for the Red Sox. Maddon’s decision-making will make the Rays an even tougher team to play.