ST. PETERSBURG -- It's no secret that the Rays have been built on elite pitching for much of their first two-plus decades. The organizational philosophy is to prioritize run prevention, and there’s a great emphasis on helping pitchers develop in the Minors.
Because of that, the Rays have had their fair share of spectacular single-game pitching performances, even if their franchise only dates back to 1998. With that being said, let’s take a look at the top five in Tampa Bay history.
1) Matt Garza: July 26, 2010, vs. Tigers
The Rays have had a lot of great pitching performances over the past two decades, but Garza is the only pitcher in franchise history who has thrown a no-hitter in a Tampa Bay uniform. Facing Max Scherzer and the Tigers, Garza knew that he needed to bring his 'A' game, and he did just that.
Garza threw 120 pitches, 80 for strikes, while striking out six, including Miguel Cabrera, who was hitting .347 at the time. Garza kept the Tigers' offense quiet the entire day, issuing only one walk, which was quickly erased by a double play. The game ended with Ramon Santiago flying out to right field, and Garza was mobbed by his teammates near the mound.
2) Chris Archer: June 2, 2015, at Angels
Archer is one of the top pitchers in franchise history, and the right-hander was at his best on this night in Anaheim. He needed only 105 pitches and eight innings to strike out 15 Angels hitters in the Rays’ 6-1 win. Those 15 strikeouts tied a franchise record. (Spoiler alert: the other person to accomplish the feat will be No. 3 on this list.)
Archer threw only 25 balls and recorded 19 swing-and-misses. His only mistake came against Albert Pujols, who launched a solo home run in the fourth inning. But there’s no shame in giving one up to a future Hall of Famer.
3) James Shields: Oct. 2, 2012, vs. Orioles
We’re all suckers for strikeouts, which is why Shields is third on the list. "Big Game James" had a lot of huge pitching performances for Tampa Bay, but his 15-strikeout showing against the Orioles was extremely impressive.
Shields allowed only two hits and recorded 21 swing-and-misses on 106 pitches. However, his complete-game performance wasn’t enough for the Rays, who lost, 1-0.
4) Alex Cobb: Oct. 2, 2013, at Indians
It wasn’t all pretty for Cobb on this night, as the right-hander gave up eight hits against a solid Tribe lineup. However, he tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings in Cleveland to help Tampa Bay secure a 4-0 win in the 2013 American League Wild Card Game.
Cobb’s gutsy showing is one of the best in Rays history, and it’s certainly the best single-game pitching performance in their postseason history.
5) Ryne Stanek and Ryan Yarbrough: July 14, 2019, at Orioles
It wouldn’t be a Rays pitching list without a mention of the opener, and this was the perfect illustration of how well the strategy has worked for Tampa Bay in recent years. Stanek, who became a primary opener, started with two perfect innings. And as was usually the case, Yarbrough was set to come in after Stanek to pitch the bulk of the innings.
Yarbrough was perfect over the next six innings, getting the Rays within three outs of the first combined perfect game in Major League history. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, Hanser Alberto beat the shift with an opposite-field single to right to lead off the ninth, ending the Rays’ bid for baseball history. But Stanek and Yarbrough still combined for 8 1/3 impressive innings.