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A look back at the 2020 Tampa Bay Rays

A look back at the 2020 Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays had a magical run in 2020. (Credit: Tim Heitman/USA TODAY/Sports via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (BVM) — The Tampa Bay Rays came into the 2020 season with high expectations for themselves and the shortened season didn’t alter their vision of winning a World Series title for the first time in franchise history. They certainly had the roster makeup to do so; well-rounded in defense, offense, starting pitching, bullpen arms, and bench depth. 

The starting rotation the team ran out on the mound proved to be one of the best in the American League (AL) in terms of ERA and strikeouts. The ace of the staff was Charlie Morton, a veteran who had discovered a new life in his fastball.

 It was his 12th season in the league, and he was pitching as good as he had ever. Morton started Opening Day and anchored a rotation that also had fellow power pitchers Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell behind him along with the soft-tossing lefty Ryan Yarborough.

The bullpen was balanced when it came to having a plethora of different pitch arsenals and arm angles to match up with for high leverage situations late in the game. Diego Castillo, Andrew Kittredge and Pete Fairbanks were some of the main guys who took care of the middle innings with the occasional start in bullpen games. The most dominant arm they went to though was Nick Anderson, a 29-year-old right-hander who was acquired in a trade with the Miami Marlins the prior off-season. Appearing in 19 games, almost a third of the whole regular season, he pitched to the tune of a 0.55 ERA in 16.1 innings with 26 strikeouts and an opponent batting average of .091. He was virtually unhittable in the regular season and emerged as one of the premier relievers in baseball in only his second full season.

Offensively, the Rays mixed and matched with right and left-handed platoons. Brandon Lowe and Austin Meadows led the charge in terms of power hitting. While Yandy Diaz and Joey Wendle provided more of a contact-based approach that focused on getting on base and putting the ball in play. Diaz and Wendle also provided highly valued versatility on the defensive of the bad, having the ability to play all infield positions with the occasional appearance in a corner outfield spot.

But it was a thunderous introduction by newly acquired left fielder Randy Arozarena that many fans remember from the 2020 Rays. After being called up from Triple-A in late August, Arozarena played in 23 games and hit seven home runs in 64 at-bats while hitting to a .281 average. It was in the playoffs where he made history; playing in 20 games, he had 10 home runs, 29 base hits, a .377 average, and 8 walks. He was seemingly impossible to get out and he was doing this against some of the best pitchers in the game in the most important games of the season. The Rays rode the cape of Arozarena’s bat throughout the entirety of the postseason that year.

After defeating the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, and Houston Astros in the first three rounds of the playoffs, Tampa faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. Many deemed it a “David vs. Goliath” matchup since the payrolls for each team were stark comparisons of each other. 

Los Angeles had much more star power in their lineup and rotation with bigger names while the Rays relied upon younger players with upside. In the end, it was a back and forth series between the two; the Rays were able to tie the series at two games after hometown outfielder Brett Phillips hit a walk-off single in game 4 to keep hope alive for Tampa. The Dodgers were able to come back and win the next two games to earn their seventh title in franchise history, defeating the Rays in six games. While they came up short, the 2020 Tampa Bay Rays should be remembered for their roster makeup and the way they were able to battle arguably the best team in baseball in the World Series.

Originals

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