2019 Tampa Bay Rays
2019 Tampa Bay Rays / Franchise: Tampa Bay Rays / BR Team Page
Managed by Kevin Cash
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2019 Tampa Bay Rays were coming off a season in 2018 which they stunned the baseball world by winning 90 games while most experts had expected them to finish near the bottom of the standings, and did this while pioneering the use of the bullpen game as a regular part of their starting rotation. This year, there would be no element of surprise, as everyone realized that the Rays were a good team in spite of their unconventional approach to a lot of strategy. The question was whether they would be good enough to keep pace with the two traditional juggernauts in the AL East, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. They were certainly poised to make a run, as contrary to their recent practice, they added a marquee player in the off-season, inking starter Charlie Morton as a free agent, to work alongside defending Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell and promising youngster Tyler Glasnow.
The Rays got off to a great start, taking advantage of the Yankees' injury issues and the Red Sox's unexpected stumble out of the gate. Only the Seattle Mariners had more wins after two weeks (13-5 compared to Tampa's 12-4), but no one seriously expected them to keep up that pace. Whereas in Tampa's case, they were gaining more converts every day. They already had a lead of 5 1/2 games on the next-best team in the division, had the best ERA in the majors at 2.44 (with the starters even better at 1.47). But it wasn't just pitching: they had stolen 16 bases in 17 attempts, and they were getting huge contributions from a pair of second-year players. OF Austin Meadows was batting .357 with 6 homers and 17 RBIs, while IF Brandon Lowe was at .302 with 4 homers and 10 RBIs.
On August 17th, the Rays defeated the Detroit Tigers, 1-0, in 13 innings. In that game, their pitchers set a record by recording 24 strikeouts without walking a single batter; the previous record of 22 had been set only a few months earlier, by the Red Sox, in a 12-inning game. The only other instances of a team striking out 20 or more batters without a walk before that had been single-pitcher efforts, by Roger Clemens (twice), Kerry Wood and Max Scherzer, who all tied the mark of 20 K's in a nine-inning complete game.
On September 27th, the Rays clinched a postseason slot for the first time since 2013 when their 96th win of the season, 6-2 over the Toronto Blue Jays, assured them of one of the league's two wild card slots. Tyler Glasnow was the winner in the game, having returned on September 8th from and injury that had waylaid him since early May after being the AL Pitcher of the Month in April.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Brandon Lowe, Austin Meadows and Charlie Morton
- AL Gold Glove: Kevin Kiermaier (CF)
- 2019 Topps All-Star Rookie Team: Nick Anderson (RP)
- Associated Press: "Rays poised to build on last year's surprising success", USA Today, March 20, 2019. 
- Mark Didtler and Dick Scanlon (Associated Press): "Young Rays confident they can stay in AL playoff chase", USA Today, July 11, 2019. 
- Richard Justice: "How the Rays quietly built a great team: Development of rare finds fuels Tampa Bay's run to the postseason", mlb.com, August 25, 2019. 
- Mike Petriello: "AL's best (and anonymous) pitching staff is ... Tampa Bay leads American League with 3.63 ERA", mlb.com, September 12, 2019.