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Rays’ Unbalanced Lineup

With the Rays sending second baseman Brandon Lowe to the injured list, the team is down to three left-handed batters. Ben Rortvedt, Austin Shenton, and Richie Palacios are the only south paw batters on the team. Injured shortstop Tyler Walls was the only switch-hitter on the team until the recent call-up of second baseman Niko Goodrum from Durham. Switch-hitters are a rarity in today’s game.

Left-handed hitter Richie Palacios was acquired by trade with the Cardinals and has played both corner outfield positions but can fill in at second base. Recent call-up Austin Shenton plays first and third base. Manager Kevin Cash has a difficult decision to make to get Shenton playing time. Does he sit the reigning batting champion Yandy Diaz at first base? Or the Rays’ 30-home run hitter Isaac Paredes at third base? Although the team does not have a balanced lineup, there is a possibility of Shenton not playing. There is no way Erik Neander, President of baseball operations, could have foreseen these injuries ahead of time make a trade from the left-handed batter catcher Ben Rortvedt. The trade is working out. Rortvedt is getting more playing time and is batting .333. As a catcher, he will not be able to play multiple games in a row.

These scenarios place the Rays in a unique situation. Cash might have no choice but to fill out an all-right-handed batting lineup. It is a unique situation and nothing is preventing lineups of only right-handed batters from winning games. The possibility is there. With over 150 years of baseball history, I am sure teams have played with only right-handed batters but in my research, I found one occurrence. In 2021, the Yankees struggled with a comparable situation. Lefty Brett Gardner was platooning in left field against right-handed starters. Switch-hitting Aaron Hicks was the lone everyday player capable of batting lefty. Strangely, the opposite occurred a year earlier.

In 2020, Rays’ manager Kevin Cash created a lineup with only lefties. It was a game against the Red Sox. Right-handed pitcher Andrew Triggs took to the mound to face nine left-handed batters. This unusual and historic lineup marked the first time in modern baseball (after 1901) that a team started nine lefties in the same game. The Rays’ lineup did not include a single switch-hitter. The previous record was eight lefty batters with a lone righty and the MLB has seen that occur 26 times.

Cash did not create this all-lefty lineup to get into the history books. He did for a reason. At this point in the 2020 season the Rays were struggling to score runs. In the previous nine games, the team was scoring five or less runs per game. It was a strategic move to keep as many right-handed batters as possible available for when Triggs is replaced by a left-handed pitcher.

The experiment worked and the Rays beat the Red Sox. The all-lefty lineup scored 11 runs on 12 hits. Triggs faced only five batters before he left the game with a neck injury. The Rays’ offense was powered by a homer from Yoshi Tsutsugo and two from Nathaniel Lowe.


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