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…
I’m willing to bet that there’s not many people out there who had remembered that Gary Gaetti hit homeruns in each of his first two postseason at-bats.
Something tells me that you’re going to remember that Evan did it.
Because this 22-year-old rookie is a bit special. I mean, he missed a whole month of the season through injury, yet still led all rookies in homeruns. He hit three longballs in one game, just a couple of weeks after his return from a fractured wrist. And now this.
First pitch – homerun. Third pitch – homerun. Then an RBI single, a walk and just for good measure a stolen base. Just your average sort of day when your name is Evan Longoria…
I hope that no-one will mind that I am only mentioning last night’s defeat to the Angels in passing – I didn’t watch it live (with a 3am start time, I think I am excused that), and I won’t have the chance to watch it tonight. But its another road loss for James Shields, and it sounds like a tough one, where he was making his pitches, but just got beat by good hitting a couple of times. Thems the breaks.
Monday night’s game, on the other hand, I did watch, and so saw all the breaks going the Rays way. Actually thats underselling things a little, because against the in-form Joe Saunders our hitters really found their swing…
Just a quick note on games 2 and 3 of the Rangers series, as I was rather doing other things while I had the two games on, and while Tuesday’s loss was very disappointing, Wednesday’s was extrememly encouraging.
On Tuesday, Andy Sonnanstine made his second poor start in a row, giving up 7 runs…
For most players, an inning like Jonny Gomes had in the second yesterday would pretty much set the tone for the entire game. Within the space of ten minutes, Gomes had been embarrassingly thrown out at second while in his home run trot – believeing his line drive to right had cleared the wall, not bounced off the top of it – and then missed a routine fly ball, losing it in the wind and shadows. You would have excused him for thinking that it was going to be one of those days.
But Jonny is not really one of those sort of players. Next inning he came back to the plate, and delivered a sacrifice fly to give the Rays the lead for the first time at 2-1. Next time up in the fifth, he found another Andy Pettitte pitch to his liking and belted another line shot, this time to left, and this time clearing the wall by inches for a 3-run homer ad a 5-1 lead. That would be extended in the eighth with a solo-shot by Willy Aybar, before the Yanks completed the scoring in the bottom of the frame.
On the hill, Edwin Jackson struggled early on, but ended with a fine line of 6IP, 5H, 1ER, 2BB, 4Ks and the win. It really was very encouraging to see him work through the first couple of innings without giving up the big runs, and then settle down – he breezed through the last 9 hitters he faced with relative ease. He was followed by another perfect 7th from Dan Wheeler, a shaky 8th resulting in two runs given up by Trever Miller and requiring Al Reyes to get the third out. Troy Percival then came in for his first appearance of the year, and earned his first save since 2005 with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Other good news yesterday was that Scott Kazmir had a strong mound session as he works back from injury. If everything goes well there is a chance he could be back with the Rays at the end of the month – which would obviously be great news all round.
Today’s matchup is James Shields against Chien-ming Wang. So you may want to watch this one!