MINNEAPOLIS -- The Rays made history on Saturday night, but given their recent history, it's almost becoming old hat to rave about their starting pitching.
With their 7-0 victory over the Twins, the Rays tied their franchise record of 15 shutouts in a season. The record is only a year old -- they posted 15 shutouts last year, too -- and with 30 shutouts in the last two years, they have one more than the Dodgers to lead the Major Leagues in that span. They're only the second American League team with at least 15 shutouts in back-to-back years, joining the 1989-90 Oakland A's.
On Friday, Sean Archer threw six scoreless innings to get the ball rolling in an eventual 3-0 win over the Twins. On Saturday, Matt Moore struck out five in three innings, before a two-hour rain delay ended his night. Not to worry -- five Rays relievers combined to blank the Twins over the final six innings.
The franchise's track record of excellence with their starting pitching is no accident. Rays manager Joe Maddon said it starts with the Draft and determining the type of pitcher who'll be a good fit in the system.
"I'm a big believer in research and development. So I think you have to have a schematic regarding who you want to get, the kind of pitcher you're looking for," Maddon said. "You look at the Matt Moores of the world -- they're not necessarily No. 1 Draft choices all the time. So it begins with great scouting.
"After that, developmentally, we don't rush anybody. The fact that the guy's had an opportunity to learn his craft a bit -- now, they're not totally polished sometimes. We still have some things to work on with these guys. But overall, the number of innings is decent to the point where when they get here, at least they've got that under their belt. And I think once we get them here, [pitching coach Jim Hickey] and the boys do a great job. I think our preparation is good. So there's a lot of people that contribute to that."
It hasn't gone unnoticed around the league, either. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire complimented the Rays as a whole, but focused his highest praise on the team's starting rotation.
"They're a team that can do a lot of different things. They have a lot of versatility with their players and when it doesn't work, they find players who fill in nicely," Gardenhire said. "But more than anything, it's starting pitching. They've been dominant with that the last few years here. They have a mold, and they keep bringing guys out [of] this mold."
Maddon reminds Rays to 'Be present' with T-shirt
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Rays are a pretty loose group in general. Informal pregame warmups often include pitchers throwing footballs in the outfield, and it's not unusual to see a soccer ball volleyed between teammates as well. The vibe in the clubhouse is one of relaxed confidence.
They are a group of players that seem to enjoy living in the moment, a key part of manager Joe Maddon's philosophy. To underscore the point, Maddon designed a T-shirt that Rays players and field staff have been wearing this weekend. The shirt features two of his favorite phrases -- "Be present" on the front and "Fuh gedda boudit" on the back.
"We were playing about a month ago, and I noticed that somebody was having a hard time at the moment and I just yelled, 'Forget about it!'" Madden recalled. "I thought, 'Well, that's what being present is all about.'"
Maddon consulted with a graphic artist who incorporated the team's sunburst logo into the design on the front. He said he didn't specify how to spell "Forget about it" on the back, but was pleased with how authentically it captured his Northeastern/Italian dialect.
As for the idea of being present, Maddon elaborated on the significance of the concept that he's been preaching to his team since Spring Training.
"I think that's the biggest problem in any professional sport, when you lose sight of what's happening right now and you start worrying about what the other teams are doing, or maybe a negative moment from the day before," he said. "You can't worry about that stuff and get to the promised land. So I've been trying to put that message out there all year, and I thought, 'What better time to do it than at the end of the season, to be present?"
The lesson seems to have sunk in, even with the Rays' younger players. Rookie Wil Myers is going through his first playoff race, but he sounded like an old pro when he talked about resisting the temptation to keep an eye on the scoreboard and the standings rather than taking care of the Twins on the field.
"I just know we need to go out and take care of business. If we go out and handle our business, we won't have to worry about anybody else," Myers said. "It's not like we're not paying attention to what else is going on. We understand what's going on in other games, but we just need to go out and focus on our business and take care of it."
Maddon acknowledged as much in his postgame comments Friday, but he did thank Boston's Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the grand slam he hit to beat the Yankees -- also seeking an AL Wild Card spot -- earlier in the day, which was shown on the Target Field scoreboard. It's impossible to ignore other developments that affect the Rays' future, but in the end, it's all about what happens when the Rays take the field.
"I did watch the scoreboard. I saw the big homer by Saltalamacchia -- nice going, in a perverse way," Maddon said with a chuckle. "So I watched all of that tonight. But even though you're watching all of that, you're really just focused on your game. If we win, we'll take care of our own business. That's all we really need to do."
Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.