There has been growing impatience in Tampa Bay, especially from the fans and the media, to see the team’s historic turnaround from a 106-loss season of 2015 to this season’s ascension to the World Series. But Friday night’s Game 5 thriller against the Indians certainly lived up to its billing as an emotional roller coaster. Down 4-0 in the fourth, the Rays mounted a quick rally as Steven Souza Jr. hit a bases-loaded triple and James McCann delivered a two-run double. Carlos Gomez finally broke through when he homered to center field in the fifth, cutting the lead to 4-3.
But Cleveland struck quickly again in the top of the sixth, with Brad Miller’s sacrifice fly scoring Yan Gomes to make it 5-3. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Austin Pruitt, the Rays starter, tossed a devastating 92-mph fastball and an errant curveball to Brandon Guyer, which sent the crowd wild, and Perez homered to right field to put the game out of reach.
“All around, it was a great game,” said Manager Kevin Cash of his team. “Not too many teams have gotten that far in the postseason, and everybody has contributions. It’s just great to be able to experience it.”
Cash was noncommittal on the starting rotation for Game 1 next Friday, or the removal of Archer, who was placed on the disabled list during the regular season due to an uncertain injury. But he made it clear there is no secret about his plans for Opening Day: The No. 1 starting pitcher will be reigning AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer.
“You’ve seen what Max can do,” Cash said. “He can win a championship. This is not a non-issue.”
Derek Jeter, who purchased the Rays in 2002, agreed with his general manager. “I think our expectations are the same,” he said. “We’re looking to do something special. You have to play 162 games to get there, and we do all of those things, and so we expect to be back here.”