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’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 recipe was almost the same. An early deficit. A battling comeback. All that was missing was the happy ending.
Winning at the Trop against an experienced Chicago team is one thing. Doing so at a raucous US Cellular Field is quite another. Yet, that being said, the Rays made another good go of it last night in a rain-delayed, must-win game for the Sox.
We actually got on the board first thanks to an RBI-infield single from Aki Iwamura in the second. Perhaps a sign of things to come had already been shown at that stage however, as we left two men aboard in each of the first two innings against an impressive John Danks…
Rainout last night. Day/night doubleheader today, with the first game starting in about an hour and a half. James Shields will be pitching game one, and Matt Garza in the nightcap. Thats a pretty good 1-2 punch right there.
But, if that is good, then what about the trio of arms that the Rays added to the bullpen last night.
Joining the team on Monday will be Mitch Talbot and Jeff Niemann. Not bad. I think there are many teams who would be happy enough to have that pair of arms in their ‘pen.
But, and no disrepect at all as they are quality pitchers both, their recall is hugely outshadowed by the guy who has joined up with the teams ahead of today’s contests in The Bronx.
He is here.
David Price has arrived.
He’ll be available from the ‘pen today, and with the doubleheader I would not be surprised to see him make his Major League debut. Exciting.
Also rejoining the Rays in New York is Jonny Gomes, and he’s gone right into the lineup for game one against Mike Mussina. You know how big a fan of Jonny I am, and I would like nothing better than to see him play a big role for the team down the stretch.
Oh yeah, and theres the small matter of Evan Longoria being back in the lineup.
With a Rays-Yankees doubleheader and a Boston-Toronto twin bill, today is going to be a big day. I could not be more excited.
Joe Maddon’s lineup for the opener (according to the St Pete Times) is stacked with righties to face Mussina – Bartlett (SS), Zobrist (2B), Pena (1B), Baldelli (DH), Longo (3B), Gomes (LF), Perez (CF), Hernandez (C) and Ruggiano (RF).
What a miserable sporting weekend.
Six major events/sports that I followed, and a positive outcome in two of them. Andy Murray beat Rafael Nadal to make the US Open final, and the Alabama Crimson Tide beat Tulane, despite a pretty unimpressive display.
But the Seattle Seahawks opened with a miserable loss to Buffalo. Lewis Hamilton won the Belgian F1 Grand Prix, only to be demoted to third because of a steward’s decision that can only be described as abysmal. And while the English football team did record a win in their opening World Cup 2010 qualifier, they managed just a 2-0 margin against Andorra, a country with a population (about 70,000) that is barely two-thirds as big as Basingstoke. Impressed I was not.
And then there were the Rays.
Hmmm, its almost a whole week since my last post, and for once its not because I’ve been terribly busy. Rather, its because of the particularly unispiring run of performances that have been put in. A four-game series split on the road in Kansas City, and the first two in Toronto also shared.
Its all been the same old story to be honest. Solid pitching, dazzling defense, and no hitting worth speaking off. Actually, a couple of bits, such as a couple of homers from Carlos Pena, and a 2-triple game from Carl Crawford (who added another last night), were pleasant moments, but by and large its been a struggle. The highlight of the trip so far has without question been in the field – Jason Bartlett returned…
The question? You have two pitching duels, AJ Burnett against James Shields, and Roy Halladay against Matt Garza. Who is going to come out on top?
I’m betting most people would pick the Jays’ hurlers to get the better of things nine times out of ten. Well, not this week. This week, two out of two have gone to the Rays.
Friday night, it was James Shields on the hill, looking to end our 7-game losing skid, and get the second half off to a good start. And boy did he ever do it…