Virtually flawless 'pen a strength for Rays

Virtually flawless 'pen a strength for Rays

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."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.