Red Sox

MLB Notebook: More than pitching needs upgrading for improved Red Sox’ run prevention; ranking the managerial openings

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In time, the goal for Chaim Bloom is to build a deep, hard-throwing talented pitching staff -- like the one that's already been constructed by his former organization, the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rays boast a strong Big Three in their rotation -- Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow and Charlie Morton -- and augment that with at least a half-dozen bullpen arms that can be trusted in both the middle and late innings. Or, as Kevin Cash immortalized them in September: "A whole damn stable of guys who can throw 98 mph. Period.''

The Rays' staff boasts both quality and quantity, because, as we've learned, it takes a conga line of reliable arms to navigate through a long season.

But there's another element to the Rays' excellence when it comes to run-prevention, a second nearly equally important part of the equation: air-tight defense.

Tampa Bay's defense has played a huge factor in reaching Game 7 of the ALCS.

Some plays have been spectacular, led by Manuel Margot's catch in Game 2 which saw him tumble over a wall in foul territory, fall to the concrete floor and come up with the ball. Meanwhile, in Game 3, the Rays seemed to turn in a highlight play every inning, with Kevin Kiermaier and Hunter Renfroe contributing both leaping and diving plays in the outfield, taking extra-bases away from Houston hitters.

The strong defensive play didn't come out of nowhere: the Rays finished second in defensive WAR during the 60-game season.

But the postseason has shone a light on just how important defense can be, and by comparison, served as a reminder that it's just the pitching that has to improve if the Red Sox are to challenge the Rays in the American League East.