The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays played each other 19 times during the regular season, making it difficult for the American League East rivals to keep secrets from each other.
One facet of the game stood out to Kevin Cash, however, when the Rays manager was asked Monday night after Boston’s 6-5, walk-off win over Tampa Bay whether anything about the Red Sox’s AL Division Series victory surprised him.
“Well, look, I think they had a pretty relentless approach at the plate. We just could not create that swing and miss that we’ve done so well throughout the regular season,” Cash told reporters, as transcribed by ASAP Sports. “They really had a good approach. It felt like there was constant pressure. There were no easy outs.
“For us being a team that seems to strike a lot of guys out, we did not rack up the strikeouts like we typically do.”
Boston had an excellent offense all season, ranking third in hits (1,434), third in average (.261), third in OPS (.777), fifth in runs scored (829) and sixth in wRC+ (107). But Tampa Bay’s pitching staff typically has been able to neutralize high-powered lineups, largely because of its strikeout prowess, and the Red Sox struck out just 11 times over the final two games of their four-game ALDS win.
The Red Sox, whose offense ranked 20th in strikeout rate during the regular season, consistently made solid contact against Rays pitching. Only two hitters in Boston’s lineup struck out in Game 4 — Christian Vázquez twice and Hunter Renfroe once — and both produced hits, as well, with Vázquez’s leadoff single in the ninth inning ultimately paving the way for Kiké Hernández’s walk-off sacrifice fly.
“It’s huge because at one point during the season, we were chasing 38% of the pitches, and we were swinging and missing at a horrible rate,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters after Monday’s win. “Even 10 days ago, when we went to Baltimore and then we went to Washington, we were striking out a lot. We were chasing a lot of pitches.
“I think playing (the Rays) 19 times, it helped. It helped. We played the Yankees. We knew them. They know us. Same thing with (the Rays). We did a good job staying humble, staying humble. I think that’s the word. Stay humble. Stay humble with your approach. Don’t try to do too much, and good things happen.”
The Red Sox stayed humble. And now they’re moving on to the AL Championship Series, where they’ll face either the Houston Astros or Chicago White Sox for the right to play in the World Series.
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