HOUSTON (WFLA) – It’s do-or-die for the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday as they look to continue their postseason.
The Rays are on the road for Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Houston Astros. The Astros took an early lead and won the first two games at Minute Maid Park but the Rays were able to bounce back and win two games at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay had a workout day on Wednesday. Pitcher Blake Snell and manager Kevin Cash spoke to reporters about the team’s chemistry and the pitching situation ahead of Thursday’s game.
On the Rays bullpen
Kevin Cash: “I think it’s a combination. Their stuff is really, really good. Now saying that, I don’t know if you’re going to see two bigger contrasts from Diego Castillo to Ryan Yarbrough, and then you bring in Nick Anderson. There’s a lot of opposites in there. Diego does it with the sinker slider, Yarbs kind of mixes speeds and doesn’t break 90 but can really pitch, and then Nick comes in there with kind of the high fastball that we can really get on hitters quick.
Everybody will be available (tomorrow.) All of them. We’ll be ready, yes.”
Blake Snell: “Yeah, I’m excited. It’s good to see that everyone can go.
But, I mean, everyone is excited. It was a very calm flight over. We left at noon. I watched a movie and passed out. Other guys were playing dominoes. It was just very chill. And then the bus ride was very calm as well.
We’re ready to play. And I think this moment is where we thrive best. But we’re very calm and relaxed, and I think that’s what makes it even more exciting for us.”
Blake Snell: “I look at – we’re playing in Houston. They’re really good in Houston. Their fans are going to show up. And I don’t look at it as momentum or anything like that, I think it’s just who wants it more. And I think that’s the exciting part for us is we’ve played an elimination game already. We’ve been doing it, actually. So for us, it’s just another game that we’re excited to play.
And honestly, we just enjoy playing with each other a lot. And I think that’s the coolest part is that we don’t want to stop. And with the way – Houston, they’ve had their team and they’ve been able to continue to string it off. And I think that’s what’s amazing. But for us, we don’t know if everyone is going to be back or that core will be. So we want to make this a moment we’ll never forget together.
And that’s the goal is to get to the World Series. We have to beat Houston. We’ve got to beat New York and then whoever in the World Series. But we don’t want to stop, and I think that’s the coolest part because all of us really do love playing the game with each other.”
Kevin Cash: “I’m impressed with the way the guys – I’m impressed with the way the guys responded in Game 3. There’s no – we can’t deny that after you saw Justin and Gerrit in Games 1 and 2, we did a lot of things right in those games and came up really short, and we got beat. They didn’t hang their heads, which didn’t expect them to do that.
I think Charlie Morton had a big, big role in that knowing that we were getting our version of those guys to pitch for us in Game 3, and he certainly went out and did that. And that momentum kind of carried over from Charlie’s outing to the bats waking up a little bit. And then yesterday the fans, everybody getting involved.
Now, carryover. We’re back in this atmosphere again, which is as good as ours was. Theirs was very similar in Games 1 and 2.”
On Willy Adames:
Kevin Cash: “Yeah, he’s really stepped it up. It’s been awesome to sit and watch what he’s done briefly in a young career.
Two sides of it, defensively we were comfortable, thought that he could play shortstop. Wasn’t sure if he was going to be elite level, championship-caliber shortstop. He certainly is. The player gets all the credit. I do give Rodney Linares a lot of credit for the work he’s put in. He’s given Willy a routine, and they stick by that routine day-in and day-out.
We heard coming up through the Minor Leagues, Willy kind of always rose up. The brighter the lights, the better he played. We’re certainly seeing that now. But he’s playing with an all-time confidence right now. He’s had some ups and downs throughout the season. He seemed to really have gotten hot in this postseason. But he’s been a lot of fun to watch.
And we talk about Willy, he’s one of those guys that have that ‘it’ factor. He carries himself really, really well in the clubhouse. He carries himself really, really well on the field. You can’t knock the smile off his face. And his No. 1 priority is winning.”
Blake Snell: “From last year to this year it’s been a lot. I mean, I can honestly say last year I thought Willy – honestly I thought he was probably going to go to second base because his throws were pretty bad all the time. And fielding-wise he was just okay. But he can make the spectacular play here and there.
And then he came to Spring Training and he looked pretty good. I still had my doubts. And then to see what he did throughout the season and then every day, I mean every day this man takes ground balls and he wants more, and he wants Cash to hit them harder. He’s working with Rodney all the time. I mean that dude is dedicated now. His routine is so good and so good with what he’s doing. And then to see how it’s translating on the field and how he is hitting. His whole game has turned around just because he wanted it that much. [I] would say when he got here he was just enjoying the moment and he finally learned how to make take the moment and make it his. I think that’s the most special thing about him. Now he can enjoy the game, but he knows what he has to do the best him he can be. He’s grown probably the most I’ve seen out of anyone.”
On team chemistry:
Blake Snell: “Usually you have like a bump in the road, somewhere there’s a guy that makes someone else mad. There’s always that one guy. And on this team, there’s not like that one guy. There’s like multiple guys that everyone – like Heredia, that guy is hilarious, and he’s always bringing it. And it’s contagious. And then the whole team is doing it. And that’s kind of been the thing.
I don’t think it’s – I think it’s just like everyone enjoys everyone. And I think that’s what makes us so special and so dangerous because once one thing happens, I feel like after – it just leads to where we can get hot pretty quick. And then the dugout is going insane and then the bullpen is locking it down. And that’s kind of how it happens, honestly.
So I would just say it really is that simple: We just really do love each other.”
On navigating the Astros lineup:
Kevin Cash: “We’ve got really good pitching. That’s the biggest key. I like the fact that, for the most part, we have attacked them in the strike zone. They’re an offense that if you – I think we saw a little bit with Emilio, if you mess around and don’t establish strikes, they’re going to get you and they’re going to find their way on base, and that’s when they really get the big hit.
Every little opportunity they’ve created, it seems like they have found a way to score runs from. Whether it was a miscue on defense, an infield single or a walk, it seems like they’ve capitalized on it. But the more that we can just stay in control of the count as much as possible has allowed us to have some success.”
On a hitter’s advantage in a series:
Kevin Cash: “If you’re asking me personally, I believe it goes into the hitters’ favor at that point. But the same to be said with our hitters facing Gerrit Cole. I don’t think anybody wants to go up too many times against him. You have to keep in the back of your mind that all these guys just saw the same guy four or five days ago.
I generally think that it goes that way but certainly both pitchers that are going to be pitching tomorrow night are totally capable of making that comment not make sense.”
Blake Snell: “If a hitter is hot, he’s hot. If he’s cold, he’s cold. And there’s no way around that. If there are pitchers in your bullpen that are hot, they’re probably the hottest in the game because that’s how good they are.
I think, yeah, the familiarity – that plays a part. But I don’t think in the postseason, I don’t know – I just think if you’re hot, you’re hot, if you’re not, you’re not. I don’t think there’s any way around seeing a guy or not. I just really believe that whoever is better is going to win. And then you’ll get the mix and match if they’re hot and they’ve got something going or if they don’t.”
On Ji-Man Choi:
Kevin Cash: “Well, he worked. And I think a lot – there was a lot of unknown with him at first base. He hadn’t played – he’s played enough over there. Hadn’t played a ton. Never really played a full season. We got in the middle of the season and there were concerns, like he was logging a ton of at-bats, a lot of innings on his feet. Is he going to be able to hold up through a long season. Other than one nick I think with his calf or something, he’s certainly done that. And I think he’s grown comfortable playing first.
And look, I think as good as our defense is, it elevates everybody a little bit. Ji-Man recognizes how talented we are defensively. You don’t want to be the odd man out. He’s saved, whether it’s Willy, whether it’s Duff, whether any of our second basemen, you want to be able to as an infielder feel confident that if I don’t make that perfect throw, that guy at first has got my back. And I think Ji-Man has done a tremendous job of that.”
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