SAN DIEGO – The folks on Madison Avenue have no interest in lining them up for endorsements. National TV stations have snubbed them all year round.
The Tampa Bay Rays don’t care what anyone thinks of them.
All they know is you’re going to see a lot more in October, on baseball’s biggest stage.
The Rays have qualified for the World Series for just the second time in franchise history, knocking out reigning AHL champion Houston Astros 4-2 on Saturday night in Game 7 of the ALCS.
“We don’t really care what people say on the outside,” Rays outfielder Austin Meadows said. “We know how good we are. We can compete with anyone. “
So go ahead and criticize their style of play, but the Rays are going to keep winning the only way they know how, playing spectacular fundamental baseball.
“Regardless of what opinions are out there,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash, “the point and the goal is to win games. We made it to a really good clip. Our players create a viewing environment. which I think fans would love to watch.
“If you watch us play day in and day out, we have a special group of players and personalities who really enjoy playing the game and playing with each other. ”
The Rays don’t have any big name stars, although Randy Arozarena quickly grew to be one, reaching his seventh homerun in the playoffs in the first inning and becoming the first rookie player to win the ALCS MVP.
“He’s the best player on the planet,” said Rays center-back Kevin Kiermaier, who played his first game since he suffered a wrist injury in Game 4. “It’s amazing.
And their payroll is the third lowest in all of baseball at $ 27.4 million, with the smallest fan base playing in an outdated stadium.
Nobody’s ever going to mistake them for the 27 Yankees or the Big Red Machine or the Atlanta Braves of the 90s, but, man, can they play baseball.
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The Rays may be baseball’s poster boy for the analytical world, with their openers, four-way outsidefields, no traditional rapper, and their field at almost every position, but they are winning the old-fashioned way.
Their starters can stop anyone, as veteran Charlie Morton once again proved, winning his major league record for a fourth straight win-win game, stifling the Astros’ hope of becoming the No. 2 baseball team in the world. the story to overcome a 3 games. -to-0 deficit. He shut them out for 5 ⅔ innings, giving up just two hits. He is now 4-0 with a 0.47 ERA in the playoff games.
He was only the second pitcher in history to win Game 7 for one team – the Astros in the 2017 World Series – and then face the same team in another Game 7, joining Roger Clemens who did so with the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees. .
“He’s amazing,” said Rays shortstop Willy Adames. “Every time he’s on the mound, we have a lot of confidence in him. We trust him. He’s a real professional. ”
Morton, 37, barely sweated in that game. He gave up a single with two strikeouts to Michael Brantley in the first inning and struck out 14 straight batters. Yet after a walk and a single on the field, Cash turned to his vaunted enclosure.
Their enclosure, with a record 13 relievers producing saves, is deep and talented. Nick Anderson, who has given up just five hits all season, picked up where Morton left off, pitching two blank innings. Pete Fairbanks came in with two outs and two runners in the eighth, and finished them.
And, oh, how they play defense better than anyone in the game, making 10 double plays in the ALCS.
When the Rays were eliminated in five games by the Astros a year ago in the AL Division series, they knew they would be back in the playoffs, with nothing less than a World Series championship in sight.
“We learned a lot from playing five games against Houston,” Cash said. “There were things about these experiences and playing in this environment that made our guys believe that we can really be in the thick of it as we approach the 2020 season.
And they’ve really taken that approach throughout the season and the playoffs. ”
Yes, and as painful as it was eliminated by the Astros, it at least gave them experience playing in game-winning games all in all, beating the New York Yankees in the Division elimination game. Series, and now the Astros.
Now, with just the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Atlanta Braves standing in the way of their World Series premiere, they’ve got a train of believers.
“They’re playing baseball the right way,” said Carlos Correa, Astros shortstop. “They play hard. Run the basics hard. They play excellent defense. And they throw.
“It’s a recipe for winning championships. ”
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