‘Secret Weapon’ leads Rays in win over Yankees

by Gary Shelton on October 7, 2020

in general

Anderson shut down the Yankees in victory./CHUCK MULLER

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

He will never lead the league in wins. Given the way he is used, he won't lead it in saves, either.

But when you're measuring big moments?

Then Nick Anderson has to rank.

Anderson helped the Tampa Bay Rays to a 7-5 victory over the New York Yankees Tuesday night, evening their American League Division Playoff Series at a game apiece. Along the way, the Rays had huge numbers -- four home runs, 18 strikeouts of Yankee batters.

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But make no mistake. This was Anderson's moment. It was time for the Rays' Secret Weapon.

Can a guy be the best closer in baseball when, technically, he isn't a closer? The Rays have always used Anderson in the highest leverage moments, which often is not the ninth inning, which explains why he has just seven saves in his major league career.

Ah, but go back to the seventh inning on Wednesday night's game, and you'll get a hint of Anderson's value. Diego Castillo had had an impressive sixth inning, but he gave up a single and a walk to start the seventh, and the muscle of the Yankees' lineup was approaching.

Enter Anderson. In order, he struck out Gary Sanchez, then he struck out D.J. LeMahieu, and then he struck out Aaron Judge.

If that wasn't enough, Anderson then came out again in the eighth. He got Aaron Hicks on a fly out to center, struck out Luke Voit and got Giancarlo Stanton on a liner to left.

Just that.

“He doesn’t let the intensity of the environment get to him," said Rays' manager Kevin Cash. "I think that’s what you see. He threw (22) pitches and (3) balls or whathever it was.  It’s just attack the entire time. He’s got a knack for pitching at the top of the zone the way he does. It’s tough to get to --and it's tough to lay off of because they’re strikes more times than not. He’s been pretty special for us.”

You could make an argument, in other words, that for all the stars on this team, Anderson may be the Most Valuable Player.

"I know who's in the box, but it doesn’t matter," Anderson said. "I've told you guys before, I try to strike everybody out."

The Rays usually do. Starter Tyler Glasnow, who got the win, struck out 10 batters in five innings. Castillo struck out two in one inning, and Anderson four in two innings.

Then came Pete Fairbanks in to close, and frankly, things got a little rocky. Fairbanks walked his first two batters, then rallied to strike out Todd Frazier. He then settled down and finished the save.

"Pete’s been huge for us," Cash said. "We’ve got to have confidence in our guys that they’re going to be able to find a way to get through it. We’re all really happy he did. Once he got the strikeout from Frazier, we were hoping it was going to settle him a little bit and it looked like he did.”

The Yankees tried a play out of the Rays' playbook and went with an opener strategy, but it didn't work. Deivi Garcia started and gave up a run in his only inning. J.A. Happ came in and gave up four runs in 2 2/3 innings.

Those who homered for the Rays included Austin Meadows, in his first start of the post-season, Manuel Margo, Mike Zunino and -- of course -- Randy Arozarena.

"Arozarena has to be the best baseball player on earth right now," said Glasnow. "To sit back and watch him do what he does is phenomenal."

Said Meadows: "He's unbelievable, man. We need to follow Randy around and do everything he does. He’s really impressive."

The Rays play the Yankees again today at 7:10 p.m. in San Diego. Charlie Morton will start for Tampa Bay against Masahiro Tanaka.

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