Rays’ depth evident in win over Yankees

by Gary Shelton on October 8, 2020

in general

Kiermaier's three-run homer led the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

Thursday, 4 a.m.

Who do they hate?

When your average New York baseball fan goes to sleep at night, whose face keeps him awake. Once they grow weary of blaming the umpires, which is happening a lot, and turn their focus toward the Tampa Bay Rays, which profile haunts them the most?

Is is Randy Arozarena, who has turned these playoffs into a personal highlight show? Arozorena had three more hits Wednesday, and another home run, and continued to treat major league baseball like it was a slo-pitch tournament.

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Is it Keven Kiermaier, the guy who pointed out how much the Rays disliked the high-priced Yankees? Kiermaier had the big blow in Wednesday's 8-4 victory that put the Rays to within one game of winning their American League Division Playoff series, a three-run homer.

Is it Michael Perez, who failed twice to get a bunt down in the fourth inning. No problem. He then hit a two-run homer to widen the gap?

Was it Charlie Morton? Was it Joey Wendle? Was it John Curtiss, who was roughed up so badly in Game One by New York but bounced back to throw a scoreless inning.

Maybe... was it all of them?

“This is Rays baseball at its finest," 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. It’s just…you never know who’s going to be the hero, who’s going to step up. The big strikeout, the big hit, the big defensive play. We showed that tonight."

The Rays took a 2-1 Series lead over the Yankees with another big offensive night. In their past two games, the Rays have scored 15 times and have seven home runs. And, aside from the marvelous Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees' bats have been relatively quiet.

"What makes us good is that we have so many guys who can help us win games on both sides of the ball," said Rays' manager Kevin Cash. "Depth is something I guess everyone has. We have talented depth. It's got us to this point."

For the Rays, Morton got the win by going five innings. But his biggest test was the third, when Brett Gardner's single forced him to pitch out of the stretch for the first time. Morton fought with his rhythm after that, and the Yankees ended up loading the bases with one out. Aaron Judge drove in one run with a sacrifice fly, and Aaron Hicks walked to re-load the bases. But after starting 3-0 to Luke Voit, Morton came back to get him out and get out of the inning.

"I got in some trouble out of the stretch," Morton said. "That’s something I was worried about. I felt I was making really good pitches out of my windup. I found myself pretty frustrated out of the stretch."

The Rays found plenty of muscle in their bats, though. In Kiermaier's first at bat, he looked at a first pitch strike from Masahiro Tanaka. His second at bat, in the fourth, he swung at that first pitch and drove it over the right field wall.

"He certainly has taken on a leadership role," Cash said. "The energy he provides on a day-to-day basis is pretty impressive. What he does on the field speaks for itself. He’s learned a lot along the way that makes him just as impressive in the clubhouse.”

Cash poked fun at himself for trying to bunt Perez in the sixth before Perez homered. "Pretty dumb on my part," Cash said.

And, yes, it was another big night for Arozarena.

"I don’t recall (a player who has been hotter)," Cash said. "There have been some guys who have done some special things. But when your’e sitting there and watching it first-hand, it’s pretty remarkable what’s taken place.”

The Rays can close out the series tonight when Ryan Thompson will open for the Rays against Jordan Montgomery for the Yankees.

“We show up every day expecting to win," Kiermaier said. "The sooner, the better. We’ve got a little momentum on our side now. Whenever we play, we get a lead early we’re so much better. i think we’re going to take that demeanor into tomorrow. If we show up and play the way we can, we might be celebrating tomorrow. But we know they'e going to throw everything at us. We’re going to do the same."



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