Minutes after Aroldis Chapman threw a 101 mph fastball over the head of Mike Brosseau earlier this season, manager Kevin Cash reminded the Yankees that the Rays had a “whole damn stable” of pitchers that throw 98 mph or harder on the roster.
Cash’s speech became national news and it’s something the Rays have since had fun with. The pitchers on the roster often wear a T-shirt with multiple horses on them and the position players usually refer to the bullpen as “The Stable.”
On Tuesday, the Yankees got a firsthand look at The Stable as the Rays set a new postseason record with 18 strikeouts in a nine-inning game to even the American League Division Series with a 7-5 win at Petco Park. The win also shifted the odds ever so slightly in the Rays’ favor, as teams that lost Game 1 in a best-of-five series but won Game 2 have advanced 28 of 53 times (53 percent).
“We needed a win today, we needed to find a way to win today and we did," Cash said. “Those guys, pretty gutsy performances.”
The Rays got home runs from Randy Arozarena, Mike Zunino, Manuel Margot and Austin Meadows on Tuesday, but most of the credit for the win goes to the Tampa Bay pitching staff. Tyler Glasnow got the start, allowing four runs over five-plus innings of work, but he was better than those numbers might indicate.
Glasnow began his outing with some added adrenaline. The right-hander threw a 101 mph fastball to Aaron Judge and a 101.4 mph fastball to Aaron Hicks in the first inning, the fastest recorded pitches of his career and the fastest recorded by a non-opener starting Rays pitcher since data became available in 2008. His eight pitches of 100 mph or faster are the third-most by a starter in a postseason game since ‘08.
The right-hander used his powerful fastball and his wipeout breaking ball to strike out 10 Yankees hitters, surpassing teammate Blake Snell to set a new franchise postseason record. Snell struck out nine in the Game 1 win over the Blue Jays in the Wild Card Series. The Rays have won each of Glasnow’s past 10 starts.
“With Glasnow, I mean he was just locating his fastball,” Hicks said. “By doing that, it just makes his curveball that [much] more effective. That’s pretty much throughout their whole pitching staff tonight.”
Glasnow’s outing appeared to set the tone for the Rays’ pitching staff. The fact that the right-hander was able to give the Rays five-plus and exit with the lead allowed Cash to shorten the game with the team’s best bullpen arms. Diego Castillo took over in the sixth inning and began his outing with back-to-back strikeouts of Luke Voit and Giancarlo Stanton.
Castillo ran into some trouble in the seventh by walking the first two batters, but Nick Anderson, the top horse in the stable, came in and shut the door. Anderson, who allowed just one of his 14 inherited runners to score this season, struck out Gary Sanchez, DJ LeMahieu and Judge to quell the threat. Anderson pitched a clean eighth inning and was efficient in the process, needing just 22 pitches, which should keep him available for Wednesday’s pivotal Game 3.
“He’s been pretty special for us,” Cash said. “He doesn’t let the intensity of the environment get to him. I think that’s what you see up there with the strike-throwing. It’s just attack, the entire time. He has a knack for attacking the top of the zone, which is tough to get to and it’s really tough to lay off because they are strikes more times than not.”
After Anderson, the Rays went to Pete Fairbanks, who has been the third-best option out of the bullpen this season, to close out the game. Fairbanks immediately ran into some trouble, walking the first two batters of the game. With trouble brewing, the Rays had Ryan Thompson warming in the bullpen, but Cash stuck with Fairbanks -- and the right-hander responded.
Fairbanks struck out Clint Frazier swinging on a 99 mph fastball on the outside corner for the first out, following it up with another punchout against Sanchez before getting Judge to ground out to help the Rays even the series.
“I thought we gave ourselves a chance offensively with a lot of heavy at-bats, a lot of quality at-bats,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “Tonight, it just resulted in some strikeouts, which the Rays are gonna have those nights every now and then against you, even when you’re at your best.”
Despite allowing five runs, the Game 2 win was the blueprint to success for the Rays in this series. The offense scored five early runs, allowing the starter to go at least five innings before turning it over to the bullpen, shortening the game. Combining the regular season and postseason, the Rays are 31-1, 28-0 and 34-0 when leading after six, seven and eight innings, respectively. Tampa Bay is going to need two more wins just like Tuesday’s in order to advance.
“For us to be able to bounce back today was huge,” Meadows said. “Especially for our pitching staff, give the credit to them. It was a huge game tonight. We obviously don’t want to go down 2-0, so for us to even up the series and build that momentum into tomorrow, I think was huge.”