SAN DIEGO—When Rays manager Kevin Cash issued his infamous “I’ve got a whole damn stable of guys that throw 98 mph” statement, this isn’t quite what he meant.
Still, his words were accurate. That stable kept the Rays afloat as they suffered a cavalcade of injuries throughout the regular season. In Game 2 of the American League Division Series, the Rays showed that stable off on the postseason stage.
Rays pitchers combined for 18 strikeouts against the Yankees on Tuesday night, a postseason record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game. Starter Tyler Glasnow struck out 10 in five innings, a Rays franchise record for most strikeouts in a postseason game. Diego Castillo entered in the sixth inning and struck out the first two batters he faced. Nick Anderson struck out four of the six batters he faced over two perfect innings, and Pete Fairbanks secured the record with a pair of crucial strikeouts in the ninth after he walked the first two batters to bring the tying run to the plate.
The Rays needed every one of their strikeouts in a tight, 7-5 victory. Seven of their final eight punchouts came with the tying run at the plate in the sixth inning or later. On the strength of that performance, the series is now tied 1-1.
“It’s a credit to our stuff,” Cash said. “That’s saying something for the group over there because they (the Yankees) are selective. They’re just a very talented, very thick, very deep lineup, but it does speak volumes to the amount of stuff on a given night we can feature.”
The Rays stuff was on full display at Petco Park. As a staff, they recorded nine strikeouts on fastballs—all between 96-100 mph. The two sliders that got swings and misses for strikeouts, both by Castillo, checked in at 89 and 90 mph. The remaining seven strikeouts all came on power curveballs, ranging from 83-86 mph.
Glasnow’s fastball averaged 98.5 mph, per Statcast. Castillo’s averaged 97.5. Anderson’s averaged 96.2. Fairbanks averaged 99.2.
The slowest fastball thrown by any Rays pitcher in the game was 94.2 mph.
“I think we’ve been doing that all year long, really,” Anderson said. “We got a lot of velo in the pen. Everybody in the pen is nasty. Everybody gets a lot of strikeouts. It’s just something cool to hold the record.”
The Yankees, meanwhile, tried to emulate an old Rays strategy but didn’t have the horses for it. Rookie righthander Deivi Garcia started the game as an “opener” and served up a home run to Randy Arozarena in the first inning to put the Yankees behind immediately. J.A. Happ followed and surrendered five hits and four runs in 2.2 innings, including a pair of two-run homers to Manny Margot and Mike Zunino. Adam Ottavino and Jonathan Loaisiga each allowed another run in relief, the latter coming on a solo home run by Austin Meadows. In all, Yankees pitchers had nearly as many home runs allowed (4) as strikeouts (6).
“We know the gameplan,” Meadows said. “…To be able to get their opener out early and then do our work off of Happ was big.”
That the record-breaking performance came from Glasnow, Castillo, Anderson and Fairbanks was very much appropriate for the Rays. Glasnow was acquired as a reclamation project in one of the most lopsided trades of the last decade. Castillo signed for just $64,000 as a 20-year-old amateur free agent in the Dominican Republic, four years older than when most top international free agents sign. Anderson was an undrafted former independent league player acquired in a trade with the Marlins last year. Fairbanks is a two-time Tommy John surgery recipient who had a 9.35 ERA in the majors when the Rays acquired him from the Rangers last season.
Three trade acquisitions and one low-cost international signee—an unlikely group to break the single-game postseason strikeout record from a pedigree standpoint, but very much indicative of the Rays and their formula for success.
The end result is a “stable” that can now lay claim to a piece of postseason history.
“I think it’s been kind of our theme all year,” Glasnow said. “…This is definitely the crew to do it, so it’s just nice to enjoy it with everybody. It’s definitely a good feeling.”