A few weeks after Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash described his relievers as a “stable of arms” that throw 98 mph, the Rays began sporting blue T-shirts that read: “The Stable — Throwing 98 since ’98.”
The Rays, who also possess a stable of potent hitters, can close out the New York Yankees on Thursday in Game 4 of the American League Division Series at San Diego.
Cash made his infamous remark Sept. 1 after Aroldis Chapman threw a 101 mph fastball up and in at Michael Brosseau’s head in New York. Three weeks later, the Rays clinched the AL East at Citi Field and wore blue T-shirts with the words.
The Rays will use side-arming right-hander Ryan Thompson as their opener Thursday, and it is possible left-hander Ryan Yarbrough will be their bulk guy. New York will counter with Jordan Montgomery with the hopes of getting to use Gerrit Cole in Game 5.
The Rays can secure their second appearance in the American League Championship Series and first since getting to the World Series in 2008 thanks to an offense that has produced 15 runs, 21 hits and seven homers in the past two games, following a 9-3 loss in the opener.
“This is Rays baseball at its finest,” Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier said. “We sit here and we talk about never depending on one person each and every night. We have our guys, don’t get me wrong, but you never know who’s going to be the hero or who’s going to step up.”
Tampa Bay hit four homers in Game 2 and followed it up by getting homers from Kiermaier, rookie Randy Arozarena and Michael Perez in an 8-4 win Wednesday. Of those hitters, nobody is hotter than Arozarena, who is 8-for-12 (.667) with three homers, 17 total bases and a 2.109 OPS in the series.
“He’s incredible,” Kiermaier said. “He’s very unique in so many ways. Everyone loves him. He’s the man. What he’s doing is incredible.”
The Yankees have scored 40 runs in their six postseason games, and Giancarlo Stanton has six homers and 13 RBI in the postseason, but in the ALDS, Aaron Judge is 2-for-14, Luke Voit is 1-for-11 and Gio Urshela is 2-for-12.
“We know what we need to do,” Stanton said. “It’s going to be a tough battle, but we know there’s no other option. We know what’s in front of us.”
The Yankees are facing a 2-1 deficit in the division series for the ninth time since 1995. They overcame that deficit twice — in 2001 against the Oakland A’s and in 2017 against the Cleveland Indians, when they lost the first two games.
“We have a great opportunity ahead of us,” New York manager Aaron Boone said. “We’re still in control of things. We just have to get a W and force this to a Game 5.”
Montgomery, who last pitched Sept. 24, will make his postseason debut after he went 2/3 with a 5.11 ERA in 10 regular-season starts. Montgomery allowed seven runs over his last two starts and also gave up four runs in two-thirds of an inning against Tampa Bay on Sept. 2, including homers by Arozarena and Brosseau.
Montgomery’s only professional postseason experience was three starts in 2016 for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre. He had a 2.84 in those outings and helped his team win the Triple-A National Championship over El Paso. Catcher Kyle Higashioka is optimistic about Montgomery because of that experience.
“I know nothing compares to the major leagues, but when we were together in 2016 in the minor leagues and we won the national championship, and I know for a fact his game definitely elevated when it really counted, so I’m expecting some good stuff from Monty (Thursday),” Higashioka said.
Thompson is making his third appearance of the postseason, having yielded no runs in 3 1/3 innings. He worked around three hits in two innings Monday against the Yankees.
After Thompson, Yarbrough could see extended work in hopes of getting the ball to high-leverage relievers Pete Fairbanks and Nick Anderson, who did not pitch Wednesday.
–Field Level Media