ST. PETERSBURG -- While the resurgent bats have been the most obvious storyline in the Rays rallying back from a 2-0 deficit to force Tuesday night's Game 5, the bullpen has quietly gotten one big out after another for manager Joe Maddon.
In this American League Division Series, Tampa Bay relievers have a 1.93 ERA and have held Texas to a .170 batting average.
Aside from a three-run homer by Michael Young against Chad Qualls in Game 2 and an inconsequential solo shot by Nelson Cruz in Game 3 vs. Rafael Soriano, the Rays' bullpen has been virtually flawless in this series.
"We talked about [Game 3 starter] Matt [Garza] a lot and we've talked about [Game 4 starter] Wade [Davis] a lot, but the whole bullpen has been fabulous," said Maddon. "Yesterday, I didn't talk enough about Grant Balfour. What he did yesterday was tremendous. The day before, that role was played by Joaquin Benoit.
"They got, I think, four or five outs each, and actually the way Grant did it in that second inning against the very meaty part of the batting order and did it within, I don't even know, five to 10 pitches -- it was wonderful. You always like to get those outs quickly, man. Get them in and get them out. He's done a great job."
All year long, the bullpen has been a strength of the Rays, and that has again proven to be the case in the ALDS.
"Again, our bullpen throughout the course of the year has had the ability to shorten the game," said third baseman Evan Longoria. "When you have that ability as a bullpen, it gives you a lot of confidence throughout the whole team. We feel if you're able to maintain that lead, and once it gets down to those later innings, you've got a good chance of winning a ballgame."
Day off beneficial for Longoria's quadriceps
ST. PETERSBURG -- While a rebound performance in Game 4 restored third baseman Evan Longoria's confidence, the break leading into Tuesday night's Game 5 should make his ailing left quadriceps feel better.
The first four games of this series have all been day games. The finale will be in primetime -- 8:07 p.m. ET -- and following Monday's off-day.
"It's definitely more time to recover and get treatment and do all the things that I need to do to get myself ready," said Longoria. "Playing a day game is always tough, no matter what time of the season it is. But at this point, it's particularly tough to play a game as intense as we played the evening before and then come back and play a noon game. It's pretty taxing on everybody's body. I think everybody is going to feel a little bit more fresh [Tuesday] night than we have in the past couple days."
While Longoria clearly isn't running close to full speed, he refuses to make any excuses. He sure looked fine in Game 4, breaking out of a 1-for-12 drought by going 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs.
"I think everybody's legs feel bad," Longoria said. "Nobody feels 100 percent, and it's definitely not something that I'm pointing my finger at. I'm going to go out there and give everything I have for this next game."
Maddon not planning big lineup changes
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays were stifled by Cliff Lee in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, a 5-1 victory by the Rangers. But that result doesn't sound as if it's going to be force any dramatic lineup shifts from manager Joe Maddon for Game 5.
Maddon typically goes with one set lineup against lefties and another against righties. Though the lineup against the righties produced wins in Games 3 and 4, Maddon doesn't think it would be prudent to stick with that group against a nasty southpaw like Lee.
Kelly Shoppach will likely be behind the plate instead of John Jaso. Jason Bartlett will probably be back at the top of the lineup and playing shortstop. Though the left-handed-hitting Carlos Pena did sit against C.J. Wilson in Game 2, he will be in there against Lee, just like he was in Game 1. Rocco Baldelli was the designated hitter against Lee in Game 1, but he was taken off the roster for health reasons the next day. That could put an additional lefty such as Dan Johnson in the lineup for Game 5.
"There's different things we could consider, but I'm really much a believer in what's ever gotten us to this point you want to stay with it for the most part," said Maddon. "I'm definitely willing to tweak things and make adjustments if I feel the information is good, and just reading our situation, if it's the appropriate thing to do at that time. I'm debating a couple little things quite frankly for tomorrow, but more than likely you're going to see a very similar lineup for us vs. a left-handed pitcher. I do have a lot of confidence in this group."
And despite Lee's gem in Game 1, the Rays still have some confidence stemming from the fact they went 3-0 against the lefty in the regular season.
"We've had decent success against him," said third baseman Evan Longoria. "Obviously not as of late, but you know, throughout the course of the year we've had some good battles against him. Obviously he's had good postseason success, but at the same time, I mean, we're in a good spot. We've been able to bring the series back home, and we have our horse [David Price] on the mound, too, and that's the biggest thing for us -- is giving Dave another chance to go out there and do what we know he can do."