In Thursday's 6-2 loss to the Orioles, Chris Davis' seventh-inning solo homer against Burke Badenhop snapped a streak of 21 consecutive scoreless innings for the Rays 'pen. The group racked up 33 strikeouts during the stretch, which dated back to July 18.
"You're not going to go to the final game of the season and win it without strong starting pitching and a great bullpen," Maddon said. "We have a nice balance back and forth, they seem to be relatively well and healthy. I think going into the last two months of the season for me, as a manager, I know that it's important to keep these guys frisky and fresh. If there's anything I agonize over on a daily basis, it's the bullpen. I don't agonize over anything else. I promise you that."
Maddon said his task of keeping the 'pen in top shape has become significantly easier since Kyle Farnsworth returned to action on June 30 after missing the start of the year with an elbow injury.
By using Farnsworth in eight games, Maddon has been able to give his other relievers rest when they need it.
"It's always about taking care of the bullpen," Maddon said. "And if you take care of the bullpen, you can play the last game of the year and win it."
Fernando Rodney has earned most of the headlines for converting 28 of 29 saves and posting a 0.81 ERA, but Maddon has been pleased by the contributions of many others.
Wade Davis and Jake McGee have both posted sub-three ERAs, while J.P. Howell hasn't surrendered a run in 17 innings since June 14.
Even Joel Peralta, whose 4.15 ERA is one of the 'pen's highest, has impressed Maddon. Removing Peralta's worst two outings, his ERA is just 2.61.
"People are going to be absolutely confused by [Peralta's ERA]," Maddon said. "That's just a couple bad outings. This guy has been unbelievably lockdown for us."