2021 Tampa Bay Rays
2021 Tampa Bay Rays / Franchise: Tampa Bay Rays / BR Team Page
Managed by Kevin Cash
History, Comments, Contributions
Coming off the second World Series appearance in team history, the 2021 Tampa Bay Rays were preseason favorites to repeat, at least as division champions, even though once again they had a busy offseason, trading away two of the starting pitchers who had got them to the World Series in Blake Snell and Charlie Morton. But if there is one thing the Rays are famous for, it's their ability to find winning ballplayers in the unlikeliest of places. Among their off-season additions were 41-year-old starting pitcher Rich Hill, and he seemed to have made a detour by Ponce de Leon's fountain of youth on his way to Tampa.
Their month of April was so-so, as they went 13-14 with the surprising Boston Red Sox taking an early lead in the division, but they turned on the burners in the second half of May, reeling off a string of 16 wins in 17 games to move into first place. This included a four-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays in the Jays' temporary home in Dunedin, FL, in which they trailed in all four games only to win twice in extra innings, and another time in a 9th-inning comeback. In the middle of that streak, on May 21st, they did a very Rays thing, trading their starting shortstop, Willy Adames, to the Milwaukee Brewers in return of a pair of relief pitchers, then ducking expectations by promoting not the top prospect in baseball, Wander Franco, to take his place, but unheralded AAA player Taylor Walls, who stepped right into the breach like a grizzled veteran. Meanwhile, one the relievers obtained from Milwaukee, J.P. Feyereisen, picked up his first save two days after being acquired, and added a win and another two saves before the end of the month. Other big contributors included C Mike Zunino, who had slugged 12 homers by the end of the month, 3B Joey Wendle, whose OPS+ was 150, and OF/DH Randy Arozarena, the hero of the previous year's postseason, who was still technically a rookie, but was having a quietly excellent season with an OPS+ of 130. As a result, they were 35-20 as May ended, with a two-game lead on Boston.
Awards and Honors
- Adam Berry: "Rays' pitching secret? It's surprisingly simple", mlb.com, April 3, 2021. 
- Sterling Bright: "Rays doing everything right in 15-1 run: Zunino homers, Phillips goes deep on birthday and AL East leaders win 4th straight", mlb.com, May 30, 2021.