Tampa Bay Rays: Here’s why this underrated powerhouse can win it all

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Pete Fairbanks (29) throws a pitch in the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Pete Fairbanks (29) throws a pitch in the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports /

We are winding down the 2021 MLB regular season, and all eyes are set to be fixated on the Tampa Bay Rays as they look to defend their American League crown come playoff time.

The Rays, as we all know, play a brand of baseball that prominently features their bullpen. And after a handful of years seeing similar teams, and the Rays themselves, lose steam coming down the stretch of trying to secure a championship, I waited pretty much all of 2021 for this team to gas out.

Tampa Bay Rays can win their first championship

But now that we’re a little over a week until playoff baseball begins, I have to say I think the defending AL champs can seal the deal this season and win it all.

Here’s the revelation I’ve had…

The Rays have either brilliantly managed their pitching staff this year, which isn’t so much out of left field considering we’re talking about one of the most innovative franchises in all of sports, or the Rays have gotten the biggest stroke of luck imaginable and the stars have aligned for them to coast to a championship.

The pitching assembly line keeps on going. light. More Rays

This is not a team that has burned out the last bit of usage of its bullpen in the slightest from what I’ve seen. They hit a groove after Tyler Glasnow went down and they have not slowed down one iota since. Now they’re going to be ramping up their relievers’ workloads at the perfect time as most of the relievers they’ve bene without all season long are returning one-by-one as the postseason approaches.

Pete Fairbanks came back on August 30th after a month’s layoff and is slowly working his way back to form.

Nick Anderson came back on September 13th after missing the entire season and will have probably the freshest arm in that Rays bullpen come playoff time- which bodes huge for this team being that Anderson is their bets reliever.

Matt Wisler was really good for the Rays this season until he went down. Now he’s supposed to be back at the end of the month. The same is true for Ryan Thompson.

And finally, the Rays’ best reliever this season and surprise All Star, Andrew Kittredge, is out right now with a neck injury and is due back any day now.

The Rays have gotten back and/or are getting back four guys who have had a long time to sit on the shelf and not tax their arms, and their hottest arm this year will be back after a short hiatus (I’m going to assume rest also played a factor in Kittredge’s case).

The stars are aligning for the Tampa Bay Rays as we come down the stretch. They are going to be full strength very soon and their horses they’ve notoriously used to finish off games the past couple of seasons are presumably going to be rejoining the team fresh and ready to hit the playoffs hard.

As we’ve come to the end of this regular season, I’ve had a hard time trying to figure out who in the American League (and MLB in general) is going to stand out when postseason baseball begins. And I think the reason for that is because the team who I’ve been putting off all year under the guise of “they’ll burn themselves out soon” actually has a lot left in the tank now that we’re at the climax of the 2021 season.

I don’t know if it’s going to be the Astros whose pitching does not stack up without a Verlander or Cole to carry the load. I don’t know if it’s going to be the White Sox whose star players in the bullpen are shaky. My gut tells me it has to be the team that has been in front of me this entire time and I’ve foolishly looked elsewhere under the notion that they’re not built for a full season yet.

Next. Rays keeping front office mastermind. dark

This team is going to win 100 games and they’ve laid lower than any power team I can remember. The Rays’ pitching staff is coming back fresher than ever at the perfect time and I think this team can very much prove to everybody why they still own the American League when the tournament begins.