Tampa Bay Rays’ playoff loss comes despite ‘playing better than they played’
By George Curcio
There is much consolation when looking at the Tamp Bay Rays‘ ouster from the American League playoffs.
Sure, they were beaten three games to one by the Boston Red Sox, but it took everything the Red Sox had to earn the victories. After splitting the first two games, the Rays battled the Red Sox through 13 innings in Game Three.
It was not until a walk-off in the bottom of the ninth inning that the hometown Red Sox were able to eliminate the Rays. Amazingly, the Rays played much better than they played.
That last sentence may seem difficult to decipher, but it does actually make some sense. It means that, given how silent the Rays’ bats were for much of the playoffs, they were nonetheless fiercely in the battle, matching the Red Sox inning by inning until falling short.
A look at each team’s batting throughout the playoffs is almost a comparison of opposites. With few exceptions, Red Sox players — 10 of them — hit .294 or better. For the Rays, it was an opposite story.
Except for Wander Franco (.368) and Randy Arozarena (.333), performances were lacking, none more so than Brandon Lowe’s. After leading the team in the regular season with 39 homers, Lowe went 0-for-18 in the series against the Red Sox, striking out in nine of those at-bats.
Consider that two rookies outperformed a squad of veterans. That may not be far from what regularly occurred in the regular season. but there was a key difference: The assortment of Rays usually provided a “hero” who rose to the occasion on any given day.
There was little evidence of any such thing in the playoffs. Designated hitter Nelson Cruz went 3-for-17 (.173), although one of his hits was a home run.
Pitching did not save the Rays in the ALDS
The rallying cry all season that “our pitching will save us,” which was normally true in the regular season. But a funny thing happened at Fenway Park: the Red Sox bullpen actually outperformed the Rays’ relievers.
Of course, that can be tied to the Red Sox higher offensive performance, but one is directly related to the other. The Red Sox pitching staff had a WHIP of 1.077. For the Rays, their staff WHIP was 1.615. The Red Sox ERA was 4.62, compared to 6.00 for the Rays.
Nine Rays’ pitchers (including starter Shane Baz) gave up home runs, many of them critical in deciding the outcomes of the games. That was more than double the number allowed by Red Sox pitchers.
So the Rays head into the offseason sooner than expected. Many decisions are waiting to be made.
Do you bring back any free agents, such as Nelson Cruz, Mike Zunino, Collin McHugh, Chris Archer, Michael Wacha, and David Robertson?
Based on past performance, the 2022 Rays can be expected to have a different look but, hopefully, not a loss in ability.