This Rays team has continued winning at home and setting new records by the week. After this weekend’s series victory over the White Sox, they finished this ten game homestand at 8-2, the best three series homestand record in franchise history. Now it’s up to Boston on Tuesday night to begin a critical three game series with the Red Sox. The Rays have done a great job holding on to first place, but to cement their status, they’ll have to beat the enemy in their house. After seeing the great pitching of James Shields and Scott Kazmir, along with the walk-off home runs from Cliff Floyd and now Gabe Gross, I think it’s an attainable goal. The Red Sox have played very well too, so it’s just a matter of who runs out of energy first. Boston plays in Baltimore tomorrow, while the Rays have a travel day. Advantage: Rays.
One Boston player should be congratulated here: Manny Ramirez, on his 500th home run. He hit it in Baltimore off Chad Bradford deep into the right center field seats. He hit number 501 today, but I think he’s due for a cold streak. Through the Boston series and beyond, go first place Rays.
After some back-and-forth baseball over the last week, culminating in a big win by Matt Garza over the Rangers (and more free 10 strikeout pizza) and a series-opening loss to the Chicago White Sox, I attended last night’s Rays-White Sox game at Tropicana Field. James Shields pitched against a resurgent Jose Contreras, and as could be expected, it was a pitcher’s duel to the very end. Actually, both pitchers ran up high pitch counts and allowed runners on base in most of their innings pitched, but managed to escape with one earned run. The Rays scored in the third inning on a two-out single by B.J. Upton; the White Sox tied it two innings later on a home run by, yes, ninth hitter Alexei Ramirez. Both teams left runners on base one time after another, and only strong rebounds by relievers Al Reyes, J.P. Howell and Dan Wheeler left the score tied. After all of the close calls, the game was tied going to the bottom of the ninth inning. Cliff Floyd, who had been 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a double play, led off for the Rays against new White Sox pitcher Scott Linebrink. After a called first strike, Floyd smashed a fastball deep into center field…back at the wall…and just barely out of the reach of Dewayne Wise. Walk-off home run, Rays win 2-1. I’ve never been in a more celebratory, adrenaline-rushed stadium atmosphere than that one. It sounded like more than 14,679 people (though we really do need more fans at the games) and it was one giant party all the way out beyond the walls of Tropicana Field. We all pointed up at the screens and celebrated as they showed the standings, complete with the Rays still on top and the Yankees at the very bottom. The world is finally in order.
Some game notes: The guy on Fox Sports Radio doing the National Sports Report let “Devil Rays” slip out at least once last night, so somebody needs to inform him of his one dollar “donation”. At least they played the radio call from WHNZ Rays broadcaster Andy Freed, which I listened to several times on the way back home. I finally got a new Rays mini-helmet with my Dipping Dots ice cream, which I highly recommend. We had the best seats I think any of us have ever had at a Major League game–Section 131, Row G, which is the very first row right behind those party tables around the visitors’ bullpen. This made White Sox bullpen heckling an easy task–I took pride and enjoyment in telling Jose Contreras he couldn’t cut it with the Yankees and graciously informing Scott Linebrink that he’s past his prime. This game was my dad’s first Rays game since 2000, and it was well worth the drive and the money. Finally, I have posted my load of MySpace pictures from the game, which can be viewed here. My camera’s batteries were dead at the end of the game, but there are still some good quality pictures.
Scott Kazmir returns to the mound after he gave me a free pizza last time out, going up against Javier Vazquez. It’s time to finish off the White Sox and knock them out of their first place spot while we keep our stranglehold on ours. Then I don’t really care what the White Sox do, but the Rays need to keep winning every time out. We have to continue thinking victory every game and playing at this pace, and positive things will happen. Maybe everyone in the national media will get our team and player names right. That would be a great start. Until next time, go first place Rays.