All hands on deck for Rays in crucial Game 3

Tampa Bay excited for loud, supportive Tropicana Field atmosphere

October 7th, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays haven’t shied away from being aggressive with their bullpen all season, and they don’t expect that to change even with on the mound Monday in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Astros.

Morton is exactly who the Rays want on the mound in an elimination game, but they’re always going to be conscious of the fact that they have one of the best bullpens in the Majors. Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said that it’ll be an all-hands-on-deck approach on Monday, and the team will go to Emilio Pagán and Nick Anderson with a lead, even if it comes earlier in the game.

“Charlie’s workload is very well noted,” Cash said. “If we get the opportunity to get to Pagán and Anderson with a lead, we’ll go to them.”

While the focus is solely on Game 3, the starter for a potential Game 4 on Tuesday afternoon will depend on who gets used on Monday. Ideally for the Rays, they would avoid using Yonny Chirinos so he can get the Game 4 nod. Of the 12 pitchers on the roster, Chirinos is the only one who has yet to pitch in the ALDS.

If Chirinos enters for a relief appearance on Monday, the Rays could opt to go with a bullpen day for Game 4. Ryan Yarbrough and Brendan McKay could provide length before turning it over to the bullpen. Those options remain flexible.

“We’ll worry about tomorrow if we’re fortunate to get there,” Cash said.

Trop advantage

After winning 51 home games in 2018, the Rays struggled to get going at home in ‘19, going just 33-31 in their first 64 home games. Tampa Bay, however, turned it around in September, winning 15 of its final 17 regular-season games at Tropicana Field.

The Rays are hoping to continue their home dominance over the next two days, and they’re expecting a sold-out crowd for the first time since Opening Day.

“I think I’m speaking for everyone, we’re all excited about this opportunity,” said outfielder Kevin Kiermaier. “We know our back’s against the wall, but, man, driving to the Trop for a playoff game, it’s hard to beat that. And we hope to drive again here tomorrow.”

Tampa Bay is opening up parts of the upper deck, which have been closed this season. The expectation is that there will be close to 35,000 fans in attendance, which should create a good atmosphere in an elimination game.

Cash, who was a member of the Red Sox in 2008 and played against the Rays in the postseason, remembers how loud Tropicana Field got during the AL Championship Series.

“It was not fun as an opposing player,” Cash said. “Hopefully, we can create that atmosphere again.”