Rays flash leather to go up 3-0 in ALCS

by Gary Shelton on October 14, 2020

in general

Wendle drove in the Rays' go-ahead runs on an 0-2 single./CARMEN MADATO

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

When it is time to give the Tampa Bay Rays their plane tickets for the World Series -- and by now, it seems inevitable -- there is no reason to hand-deliver them.

Just throw it to them.

They'll catch it.

Once again, the Rays' excellent defense was the difference in a 5-2 victory over the Houston Astros in Game Three of the American League Championship Series, a win that put the Rays up 3-0 in the series and within one win of the World Series.

Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the GarySheltonSports.com blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on GarySheltonSports.com.

What's Wee Willie Keeler's old line? Just hit it where they ain't?" Well, what if there isn't any ain't?

It must have felt that was to the Houston hitters, who ran into a defensive highlight reel Tuesday night. Time after time, the Rays saw potential singles and doubles die in their gloves. When Astros' manager Dusty Baker closed his eyes in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, how many replays of great Rays' catches did he see?

The sliding catch by Hunter Renfroe with the bases-loaded in the eighth? The ball Kevin Kiermaier make a leaping catch on in the first? The deep-in-the-hole play that Willy Adames made in the fifth (with help from a scoop from first baseman Yandy Diaz)? The diving catch on a chopper that pitcher John Curtiss made in the sixth. The diving catch that Kiermaier made in the third? The diving catch that Renfroe made in the seventh? The smash that Joey Wendle caught in the sixth?

"Taking a run away is just as valuable as driving one in," Kiermaier said.

For the Rays, it has been the difference in three close games. The Astros have been, well, a little leaky (Jose Altuve has three errors), while the Rays have made every play.

"My opinion is that the highlight was the defense again," said Rays' manager Kevin Cash. "The plays that Renfroe made, that Willy made, that Joey made. It was just unbelievable."

Those who watch the Rays play probably weren't surprised, but nationally, can you imagine someone seeing this team play for the first time?

"I think our defense is just good," Cash said. "We played tremendous defense all season long. It's a credit to the guys and how hard they work at it, whether it's the outfield, the infield or the catcher. Even John Curtiss got involved in a play today.

"The defense can wear you down. They’re hitting some rockets, and for whatever reason, we’re right there so far where their balls are going. That can wear you down. That’s a relentless approach."

The Rays, who haven't hit much during the series, were handcuffed again early by Astros pitcher Jose Urquidy. They didn't score through the first give innings of the game.

But in the sixth -- with the help of Houston -- they scored five runs on four hits, two hit batters and an error. The highlights were Wendle taking an 0-2 pitch to left field for a go-ahead, two-run single. Later in the inning, Hunter Renfroe blooped a double down the right field line to score two more runs.

But Renfroe's biggest contribution was his defense. He made his diving catch in the seventh, then charged and caught a sinking liner with the bases loaded in the eighth.

"Off the bat, I didn't think there was any way he was going to make it," Cash said of the first catch.

Said Renfroe: “I think the first one was probably the hardest one. The ball was too my left. It was a tough play, a real tough play. If I didn’t get a glove on it or catch it, it probably would have went for two or three (bases). Obviously the second one was a bigger situation. I think the first one was harder, but the second was a bigger spot."

Kiermaier had to leave the game when he was hit on the wrist by a fastball in the sixth. X-rays were negative, but he is listed as day-to-day.

“My hand is feeling like I got hit by a 99-mph (pitch) right in the wrist, but x-rays are negative, so I'll take that. Some pain, some soreness, are going on. We’ll try to get it as good as we can get it as soon as we can.”

Ryan Yarbrough got the win for the Rays. He gave up a first-inning home run to Altuve, but he gave up only three hits (and two runs) in five innings. The Rays used six pitchers and the last one, Diego Castillo, got the save.

The Rays will start Tyler Glasnow tonight in an effort to close out the series. Houston will counter with former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke. The game begins at 8:40 p.m.

Previous post:

Next post: