Rays-Rangers Wild Card question: Can Tampa Bay's bullpen continue to be in lockdown mode?
As I mentioned in this article over the weekend, Tampa Bay had a sneaky good pickup during the season in reliever Robert Stephenson, who has helped transform the Rays bullpen into one of the best back ends in baseball.
How good have the Rays relievers been lately? This article from MLB.com details a lot of the reasons why, but here's the key stat: Tampa Bay put together one of the highest-strikeout months for any bullpen in recent MLB history (since 1969) in September. Rays relievers weren't just shutting down the opposition this year. They weren't even letting them hit the ball the vast majority of the time.
Yes, Texas has to get off to a hot start for its mental sake, but it also can't let the Tampa Bay bullpen get in control of the game. As much firepower as the Texas offense might have, the Rays relievers have arguably been better. That gives the edge to the home team if the games are tight heading into the final frames.