The Houston Astros struck quickly on Thursday, ultimately showing why they are the best team in baseball. Houston got key hits from their first four batters, and five of six, while scoring four first-inning runs en route to a 6-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. To the victors go the spoils, as Houston won the American League Division Series three games to two to end Tampa Bay’s postseason run, and advance to meet the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
Many will dissect and/or recap the fifth game of the 2019 ALDS, and in all honesty, I’m pretty worn out from the month-and-a-half long spread of heart attack inducing ballgames, down the stretch, by the cardiac kids. For tonight, it’s okay to feel sad because of the outcome, but let’s make sure to celebrate OUR team for their onfield accomplishments, of which there were many.
Suffice it to say, this wasn’t our year. Sure, there was a ton of opitimism following their 90-win 2018 campaign, but with such a young core of relatively inexperienced players, a World Series run ultimately wasn’t in the cards. However, the Adames’ and Choi’s of the world proved that the 2019 Rays were a formidable opponent, so much so they won 99 games overall (96 regular-season games) in the same division as the Yankees and the Red Sox.
The Rays entered Oakland for the AL Wildcard game as the underdogs and defeated the Athletics to earn the privilege of playing against in the ALDS against the best squad in the game. That squad, the 107-game winning Astros, were predicted to shut down Tampa Bay in three games, and yet the Rays went toe-to-toe with Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, and a pair of immensely talented hurlers — one of which Tampa Bay knocked out of Tuesday’s game before the final out of the fourth inning.
What an impressive run. They were a fun team to be around, fun team to watch for 6-1/2 months. Can’t deny the fact that we came up short. You get a taste of this, you want to keep going. Today we kind of got outpowered — outpowered on the mound and obviously at the plate. But really, really proud of the guys.— Kevin Cash
This season we watched guys like Willy Adames and Ji-Man Choi blossom into all-around solid players.
Besides Avisaíl García, Travis d’Arnaud, and Eric Sogard — all of whom are set to enter free agency — Tampa Bay will have the majority of its roster back in 2020. More importantly, this young core is now better because of the postseason experience. They should be around for a while. While 2019 was great, 2020 promises to be even better.
Rays outfielder Austin Meadows spoke to that after the game:
Something Dave Wills (Rays Radio) mentioned over more than a few occasions, the window of opportunity for this special group should be open for much longer than with previous rosters.
His radio partner, Andy Freed, reiterated that idea in a tweet referencing Winston Churchill.
They may not have shocked the world, but they are now certainly worthy of respect.
While I’m thinking about it, I’ve got to say, it was wholly refreshing to hear someone in the national media, namely AJ Pierzynski, acknowledge the WE are a great fan base. We get plowed over by so many people (including folks from the local media) so often, that an acknowledgment by someone with a far larger platform than, say, Marc Topkin was reaffirming. That’s really saying something when the local beat writer is more angsty toward the fan base than one of the most unbeloved former players in the game.
The New What Next
So what’s next? We here at X-Rays Spex will be pulling for Houston to first defeat the Yankees, then win it all. Who knows? Maybe one of us will whip together a series preview as we’ve done in the past.
Then, after a little time away, we’ll start crunching the numbers to see where the Rays fared well this season, and where they can improve moving forward. I’m sure we can expect some non-news news to come out of the Rays camp regarding Stu Sternberg’s cockamamie (his words, not mine) proposal, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
At any rate, the blog will be updated regularly with applicable news among other things, so keep on reading!