You know, the longer this season went on, the more I thought that I wasn’t going to have to write this post. I thought that this was our year. I suppose, in many ways, it still has been our year.
But take nothing away from the Phillies. They played better than the Rays all through the World Series, and they are fully deserving of their championship. Well done Philadelphia. Perhaps we’ll make it to a rematch next year.
To be honest, right from game one I wasn’t quite as sure of a Rays win as I had been going in to it.
(And before you draw any conclusions, no that’s not why I wasn’t blogging – I’ve had a ridiculously busy couple of weeks. And that combined with staying up all through the night has meant that I probably couldn’t have written a coherent sentence even if I did have time to… Truth be told I probably still won’t get back to something like normal service for another week or so yet, and then you can expect a proper set of season reviews, as well as the much anticipated (by me at least!) RAPAs – the Rays from Across the Pond Awards).
As for the series – well, we didn’t perform. We were out of form in pretty much every area, starting pitching, relief pitching, hitting and defense. And though we kept it close even through all that, you can’t expect to win against a quality side like the Phillies if you’re not playing at your best.
And it’s true, that after the amazing first 173 games of this season, not ending the year as World Champions is a disappointment.
But I just want to think about that statement for a second. We can actually have a sense of disappointment that the Rays are not the Champions. The Tampa Bay Rays. A team that’s highpoint in its whole existance before this season was winning 70 games.
What a year it has been.
And every single player that has pulled on a Rays uniform is a hero. What they have achieved, even having fallen short of the biggest prize, will not be forgotten quickly by anyone in Rays-world. By anyone in the baseball world come to that.
And even before I have the time to write a proper tribute to them all, I just wanted to take the opportunity to say that. These Rays have nothing to be disappointed about. They should feel only pride at what they have achieved. They have done the impossible. They have dispatched the Yankees and the Red Sox. They have won games that they never should have won, and won series that they never should have had a chance in. They have gone from nobodies to household names.
And more than any of that – they have put Tampa Bay on the baseball map.
Don’t get me wrong, I would have liked the big one. But come February when pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training, the 2009 season will start and the defending American League Champions will have the word RAYS emblazoned on their chests.
I’ll settle for that.
Say it slowly.
Say it again.
The 2008 American League Champions are the Tampa Bay Rays.
Playing for the 2008 World Series title will be the Tampa Bay Rays.
Seven outs away, and coasting to a five-game win, to a game 7 decider against the defending World Champion Red Sox. I cannot begin to tell you how nervous I was last night. As it turns out, I was far more nervous than anyone wearing a Rays uniform…
I just don’t know how we are doing this. I mean, I know this Rays team is good – very, very good – but still, this is the first ever postseason for most of them, and they’re playing at Fenway against the been there, done that, got the t-shirt Red Sox. The defending World Champion Red Sox.
But man, are we playing some good baseball. And while the Sox are most definitely not out of it yet – their ALCS comebacks of recent years are still fresh in the memory – if we can carry on pitching, hitting and fielding like we have in the last few games, then there is no reason why the first pitch of the World Series couldn’t be thrown at Tropicana Field. We need one win in the next three games to get there. That is a scary thought.
Now I am stupidly tired this morning (game finished at 4.18AM, I went to bed and set my alarm for 8AM…), but I don’t care. Last night’s game was totally worth it. Three hours and seven minutes of pure Rays-world joy…
I’m not even sure why I still get surprised at games like last night’s. I mean, this is just what the 2008 Rays do. They take a situation where they’re supposed to fold, supposed to be overwhelmed, and they come right out swinging their bats, making their pitches, and generally taking the game right to the opposition. And they keep winning. Its a crazy, crazy thing that these Rays have got going on.
With Jon Lester making the start for the Sox, the prospects for a Rays win weren’t exactly promising. Not only had Lester not been beaten at Fenway since April, but he had never lost to the Rays (indeed, Boston had never lost a game to the Rays in which he pitched) and he was working on an impressive 20+ inning streak of postseason baseball without allowing an earned run.
But its the Rays. The 2008 Rays. So you can throw all that out the window.
It all started fairly innocuously. After a first inning that Lester sailed through 1-2-3, Evan Longoria led off the second with a walk…
The old football (soccer!) cliche says that it’s a game of two halves. Judging by game 2, baseball may need to adopt it as well.
The game was almost ridiculous in its pattern. So much so that I don’t really know where to start. I guess the best thing is to start at the beginning, but you have to understand that by the time the game finished, 5 hours and 27 minutes after Scott Kazmir threw the first pitch, I was already struggling to remember back to that first inning. A (sleep-deprived) day and a half later, and I’m still not that much clearer. But start at the beginning I shall.
Top of the First. 2-0 Red Sox.
Scotty K actually got off to an encouraging start. Unfortunately for him, the Red Sox had an at-bat with 2 outs…
The Rays and Red Sox have played a lot of games since 1998. The Red Sox have won most of them. There’s been some important ones (mostly for the Sox). There’s been some controversial ones. And there’s been some fighting ones.
But there has never been one as big as tonight’s game.
8.37 EST, Tropicana Field, St Petersburg. The Rays will start playing for a place in the World Series.
It is almost unbelieveable…
Andy Sonnanstine over Edwin Jackson?
I think it would be fair to say that there are not many managers in the big leagues that would make that call. Fortunately for the Rays, Joe Maddon is one of them.
So it was Sonny who went last night in Chicago for game 4, and by the time he left with two outs in the 6th, Joe Maddon was once again looking like the smartest man in baseball. Ok, so 5 2/3 innings isn’t the longest outing of the season, and he did give up 2 homeruns. But the way he was pitching, it was almost as if those homers were peace offerings so the White Sox hitters didn’t feel too bad about getting totally out-played by a man who doesn’t trouble 90 on the radar gun…