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2008 "Magical Summer of Baseball"

Congratulations TB RAYS! You are awesome!

St. Pete Celebrates the RAYS


Game 5: RAYS 3, Phillis 4

The Philadelphia Phillies have won Game 5 and their first World Series since 1980 - Congratulations!

... And thank you to the Tampa Bay RAYS for the effort, determination and wonderful memories!

We are proud of you, The Tampa Bay RAYS!

Game 5 will resume ....

Rain delays Game 5 in the middle of the sixth inning!

Because more than 4 1/2 innings were completed and the score is tied, the game would be treated as a suspended game and would resume with the Phillies batting in the bottom of the sixth inning.

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RAYS down 3-1 in World Series

The Rays lost two straight games to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park

Game 4: RAYS 2, Phillis 10

Carl Crawford said: "We definitely don't want to lose a series like this. We want to make it a better series than what it was. We're going to all come ready to play tomorrow. We haven't been playing our game -- the timely hits haven't been there, the defense has been shaky, the pitching has been shaky. Everybody knows that's not the way we play." more ...

Game 3: RAYS 4, Phillis 5 - but what a Great Game it was!

Game 3 at Citizens Bank Park was delayed one hour and 31 minutes due to rain.

World Series tied 1-1

Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg

Game 2: Phillis 2, RAYS 4
James Shields,  "Big Game James", held the Phillies scoreless for 5 2/3 innings to lead the Rays to a 4-2 win in Game 2 of the 2008 World Series on Thursday.

Game 1: Phillis 3, RAYS 2
Cole Hamels, cool and focused, was the winning pitcher in Game 1 of the 2008 World Series on Wednesday night.

10.22.08 Game 1: Phillies 3, Rays 2
10.23.08 Game 2: Rays 4, Phillies 2


RAYS 3 Red Sox 1 - TB RAYS going to World Series

Scott Kazmir said: "I knew we were going to be good, but never in a million years would I ever have expected this. I don't think anyone did, until we got halfway done with the season. After that, we knew, we knew we had something."


RAYS 7, Red Sox 8

"They're a great lineup over there," Wheeler said. "Just boil it down to we weren't able to execute and they were. It came a lot at once. That's the thing, they're very capable of doing that. You know, we come back on Saturday, if the same situation arises, I've got 100-percent confidence in all of us to go back out there and get the job done."

RAYS 13, Red Sox 4

David Ortiz about Tampa Bay Rays .... "This team is a surprise. Everybody is raking in their lineup. Everybody pretty much is locked in. I've been in a lot of playoffs and you don't see that too often. You might see three or four guys hot, you know what I mean? Everybody doing it, that's crazy. Man, taking pitches, swinging at strikes. It doesn't get better than that."

RAYS 9 , Red Sox 1

B.J. Upton, left, has a right to bask in the moment after he and Evan Longoria — bumping arms with Joe Maddon — both homered. They have combined for nine this postseason.

10/14/08 12:40 AM ET

Longoria, Upton making Red Sox pay

Fearsome twosome slugging way into history books in ALCS

"Don't be deceived -- he's very good," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Lester after his club pounded the Red Sox starter's pitches for four earned runs over 5 2/3 innings. "We just had a relatively good night. We had some good at-bats at crucial moments."

The stats back up the skipper. Over the second- and third-inning stretch that decided this game, Lester actually struck out four of the 10 batters he faced. Yet of the six Lester pitches the Rays put in play in that span, five of them went for base hits. Two left the field, and another hit high off the Green Monster.

The Rays' game plan against Lester worked.

"We made him throw a couple more balls over the plate that obviously he didn't want to," Upton said.

But, as Longoria also suggested, "It might be that we're getting good pitches to hit and we're not missing them."

In Upton's case, his good pitch cleared the Monster and left the stadium entirely. In Longoria's case two batters later, his shot landed in the record books.

Longoria's solo homer in that third inning was his fourth home run of the postseason, tying former Florida Marlin Miguel Cabrera's rookie playoff record. Cabrera homered four times during the Marlins' run to the World Series in 2003, covering 17 games. Longoria, the favorite for the AL Rookie of the Year Award, needed just seven games to enter Cabrera's territory.

After getting a head start with a two-homer debut to start the AL Division Series against the White Sox, Longoria has homered in the last two games of this ALCS. The latest came off of a two-strike cutter from Lester.

It's the same pitch that Lester usually can unleash to dominate hitters, but Longoria didn't see it working with its usual bite on this night.

"He's usually able to throw that cutter underneath the hands pretty consistently," Longoria said. "The two balls that me and B.J. hit out were kind of just backup cutters that just went over the middle of the plate."

The game plan had been to watch out for that pitch and make Lester beat them with something else. But not only was Lester never able to establish the cutter in the first place, he left it over the plate.

"From the beginning, he wasn't able to establish that pitch," Longoria said. "And when you don't establish it, as a hitter, you don't really have to worry about it. He didn't throw one for a strike on me, except for the one that I hit out. And I don't think he threw many, except to the lefties, that were for strikes."

The one to Upton was also a strike over the plate, and not inside where Lester wanted it. Upton put it in a less desirable place for Red Sox fans, clearing the Green Monster with it altogether. The three-run shot pulled Tampa Bay ahead.

"B.J.'s was big," Maddon said. "You have second and third, nobody out, you're looking even a ground ball to second base right there, but the way this guy pitches, he did the appropriate thing and just tried to hit right there, and obviously the three-run homer is a nice result."

It was Upton's fifth homer of the playoffs, and it kept him climbing up the leaderboard for home runs in a single postseason. Barry Bonds and Carlos Beltran share the mark with eight each, Bonds in 2002 and Beltran in '04.

Even if Tampa Bay somehow doesn't win another game, Upton has at least three more games to close in on that mark. The way the Rays are hitting, they could have a lot more than that coming their way.

If Upton has many more homers, though, he'll als obe closing in on his regular-season total of nine home runs. Considering the distances he's reaching on some of his shots, it's hard to explain.

"You can't," Upton said. "They're perfect swings, and they happen every once in a while. That's what's going on right now."

They're perfect swings coming off the right pitches. They laid off Lester's good cutters and punished the bad ones. And they're forcing the Red Sox into a tough position.

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Now, "9=4"

Tampa Bay Rays "9=8"


"Magical Summer of Baseball"

The Tampa Bay Rays and their fans celebrate after winning the game against the Twins.
                                     The Rays had clinched a playoff spot!!!



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Tampa Bay Rays - AL East Champions!!!

09/27/2008 3:25 AM ET

It's all about the team for Rays
Club returns to Comerica Park, celebrates AL East title together

DETROIT -- Shortly after midnight ET, Rays players began to trickle back into the visiting clubhouse at Comerica Park. Grins were on each face, and they had the look of little boys sneaking out from a slumber party.

The scent of an American League East title hung in the air.

Hours earlier, these players had lost to the Tigers in a game that, had they won it, would have earned the Rays their first division title. So the next best thing was to watch the rain-delayed Red Sox-Yankees contest that, with a Red Sox loss, would determine if the Rays clinched their division early Saturday morning. Instinctively, they returned to the clubhouse. They were a team, and the lure of celebrating the moment drew them back.

Some peeled off their street clothes in the corridor as they approached the clubhouse, ready to exchange them for party wear to be doused with champagne. At approximately 12:52 a.m. ET on Saturday, Sean Casey of the Red Sox hit a fly ball at Fenway Park. Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner camped under the ball and squeezed it for the final out of New York's 19-8 win, setting off a roar from the Tampa Bay players.

And just like that, the Rays were champions of the AL East. Champagne corks popped and beer showers rained from one side of the clubhouse to the other. Another chapter of Tampa Bay's improbable 2008 ride to the top of baseball's toughest division was logged, and the second victory celebration within a week -- even more raucous than the first -- appeared headed hours away from its completion.

"Winning the division means a lot," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's a very powerful moment for the organization. To get into the playoffs is one thing. To do it as a division winner is entirely different, playing in the strongest division in all of baseball -- in all of the world, actually. It's a great feeling."

Carl Crawford, at age 27, is one of the team's elders. He has experienced much of the losing in the past, so the Rays' new stature could not have been sweeter to him.

"Oh, it feels good, man, to be on top of the AL East, I don't know if all the guys understand how big this is," said Crawford, currently disabled with a finger injury. "This is big for us, man. This is an historical division, this is real big."

James Shields also experienced a lot of the tough times and marveled at the turnaround.

"It's amazing, it's amazing," Shields said. "There are a lot of doubters out there. There are a lot of people who doubted us this year. But we got here and now we're here to stay.

"The whole season was a team effort -- a team effort, a Cinderella story. Every single game was won by a different person. It's unbelievable how it happened that way. It was a team effort."

A team effort and a team celebration, which explained the team's spontaneous return to the ballpark.

"We're all a team, we wanted to celebrate together, that's what it's all about," Shields said.

At first, there were the chants of "9=8! 9=8!" -- the team slogan coined by Maddon, who told his club in the spring that if nine players played hard for nine innings, they would come away with one of the eight available playoff spots. At one point, Maddon left the celebration only to return with a decanter of tequila, which players shared in the middle of the celebration.

"It's a team thing, us not coming back to have this celebration wouldn't have been a team thing," said Cliff Floyd, a pair of orange swim goggles resting on the top of his clean-shaven head. "We've done everything else as a team the whole year, so we had to do this as a team. [This is] a great ending to what we've worked so hard for from the beginning of Spring Training."

Carlos Pena danced in the middle of the clubhouse, executing a ritual normally reserved for the team prior to games.

"This is history," Pena said. "And every single guy in this clubhouse has something to do with us being here. This is unbelievable; everyone needs to enjoy this. This is just unbelievable."

Rookie third baseman Evan Longoria, who has played an integral part in the turnaround, smiled when asked if it had soaked in yet that the Rays indeed were the AL East champs.

"It's crazy, to come from what we've been to where we are at now," Longoria said. "And this [celebration] has been amazing. There was indifference in what everybody wanted to do, but I'm glad everybody made it back as a team. This is really cool."

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09/20/2008 9:17 PM ET

Rays clinch club's first playoff spot
Franchise climbs from basement in '07 to postseason

Few words could better describe the feelings of Rays fans, who saw their team bust out from the basement in 2008 and make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history after never winning more than 70 games in a season, which they did one time during a fourth-place campaign in 2004.

Tropicana Field had a soul Saturday afternoon, and every time one of Joe Maddon's Mohawk militia did something right, the echoes of the sellout crowd of 36,048 responded with raucous cheers. And there were plenty of cheers, because the Rays did plenty right in a 7-2 win over the Twins that served as the turnkey to enter the postseason party.

The cheers reached a crescendo at 7:22 p.m. ET, when Joe Mauer lifted a 3-1 pitch from Trever Miller toward the foul area along the third-base line. Evan Longoria moved toward the stands, zeroed in on the ball and clutched it for the final out of the game. The catch set off a wild celebration on the field that spilled over into the clubhouse.

"It was just like any other play, I just had to run over there and catch the ball," Longoria said. "After I caught it, I kind of came to reality, and it was like, 'Hey, we're going to the playoffs.'"

Saturday's win combined with a loss by Red Sox allowed the Rays to expand their lead in the American League East to 2 1/2 games over the second-place Red Sox and reduce their magic number to six. Now, any combination of Tampa Bay wins and Boston losses adding up to seven will give the Rays their first AL East title.

The Rays' Division Series playoff destination will shake out in the final week of the season. Assuming Tampa Bay wins the AL East and Boston wins the Wild Card, the Rays will open at home against the Central winner, either the White Sox or Twins, while the Red Sox would open at the Angels, who have the AL's best record. Should Boston win the East and the Rays get the Wild Card, the Rays would open at Anaheim, while the Red Sox would host the Central Division champion. The Division Series is a best-of-five set.

All season, Rays baseball has been defined by a combination of pitching, defense and timely hitting. Those three components were in play during Saturday's win.

"We got our hits, we're swinging the bats better, but it's still about pitching and defense," Maddon said. "And you're able to win games like that because of your starting pitching and defense."

Scott Kazmir started for the Rays and pitched six innings of shutout baseball to gain his 12th win of the season, which seemed appropriate since he was the guy back in the spring who told anyone who would listen that Tampa Bay was a playoff team.

"I kind of liked it when [Kazmir] said it," Maddon said. "And he went out there tonight and gave us one of his better performances."

Defensively, the Rays had their typical highlight reel featuring a diverse cast of characters, such as Longoria, who charged Carlos Gomez's third-inning bunt and then delivered a strike to first for an out. Dioner Navarro ran to the railing at Tampa Bay's dugout and came away with Nick Punto's foul pop in the fifth, and Fernando Perez closed out the inning by making a diving catch of Denard Span's sinking line drive in center field. In the sixth, Rocco Baldelli made a diving catch to kill a Twins rally.

But the biggest play in the field came in the fourth after the Twins loaded the bases with no outs. Former Rays player Delmon Young then hit a shallow fly ball to center field. Perez made the catch and threw to the cutoff man, Carlos Pena. Mauer did not try to advance from third after the catch, but Pena spotted Justin Morneau too far off the base at second and made a snap throw to shortstop Jason Bartlett, who made the tag for the second out. Kazmir then got Brendan Harris on a flyout to right to end the threat with no runs scoring.

"That was a key part of the game, especially bases loaded, no outs," Kazmir said. "We get that double play from a catch in center field and a cut-off from Pena, you couldn't ask for anything better.

"That's the way our season has gone. Everything that could go right has."

Pena got the Rays' offense started with a two-run double in the second. Longoria, Baldelli and Navarro had RBIs, Fernando Perez had a home run and veteran Cliff Floyd put an exclamation point on the offense with an emotional solo home run in the seventh inning. Floyd lost his father in 2007 and the memories of the man known as "Big Flood" accompanied him around the bases.

"I got one for him, man," Floyd said. "It doesn't get any better. I went back in the back [of the dugout] for a minute, and it just touched me for a second. I don't want to get teary-eyed, but it was unbelievable knowing that I was here and knowing that he was probably right here watching every step. I miss him like crazy, I know my mom does. But we're all together as a family."

Maddon came up with a slogan Rays players have on T-shirts that says "9=8," which means nine players play hard for nine innings, and they will take one of Major League Baseball's eight playoff spots. He reveled afterward about that slogan coming to fruition.

"Nine equals eight means that theory and reality came together," Maddon said.

Longoria called the slogan "something for us to believe in.

"And now we're going to be one of those eight teams," Longoria said. "I don't know all the facts and all the history, but I know we haven't been here ever. So that's the biggest thing. Now we have to worry about winning the AL East and bringing this thing home."

How did the Rays get to this point? Should everyone be totally shocked about their 2008 season?

In hindsight, there were indications as far back as Spring Training that the culture of the Rays had changed. In March, Tampa Bay seemed to have a purpose as well as a "we're not going to take it anymore" attitude that was personified in an unusual brawl with the Yankees that stemmed from Rays reserve Elliot Johnson running over a New York catcher late in a game in Tampa.

That experience seemed to gel the team, and the seeds for a special season were planted. Helping to cultivate those seeds were Floyd, and other veteran players such as Troy Percival, Dan Wheeler, Trever Miller and Eric Hinske.

Adversity presented itself from the start of the season when the Rays began without Kazmir, who sat out the first month while nursing a sore left elbow. Other injuries began to pile up. Willy Aybar, Matt Garza and Floyd all went on the disabled list. But when one player went down, another player stepped in and got the job done. And that continued to be the Rays' way all season.

"I've never been on a team with this many players contributing," James Shields said.

And now, all of those many contributions have added up to a spot in the playoffs.

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09/20/2008 11:18 PM ET

Rays relish first taste of October
Playoffs are a first for most young Tampa Bay players

And when the bubbly ran dry, the Rays turned to domestic beer and import specialties, dousing each other and jumping around with the enthusiasm of young children.

One by one, ice chips flying, players and coaches cracked open bottles and cans, dancing, singing and spraying each other.

It was the scent of the Rays' franchise-first playoff clinch, a victory perfume that doesn't ever get old -- particularly when it has been 11 years in the making.

"This was about as tough of an environment to play in in baseball," long-tenured Ray Rocco Baldelli said. "It was difficult to come here when we were losing. Times were tough."

A moment later, Jonny Gomes and Eric Hinske snuck up on Baldelli, each pouring cans of beer over the outfielder's head. Nearby, Evan Longoria -- sporting a Rays bathrobe -- opened his mouth and indulged in a showering of his own from several Tampa Bay coaches.

Saturday night, the bitter beer never tasted sweeter.

"This is special because of what the organization has been through, and what my boys who have been here a long time have been through," Cliff Floyd said. "Me being here for the first time, I'm just ecstatic. These guys are more than that. I don't know what the word is for more than that."

Carl Crawford -- a Ray since 2002 -- described it as his wildest dream coming true.

"I've got to hold back my emotions a little bit with everything we've gone through," Crawford said. "It feels so good to be here."

For the Rays, who have been on the cusp of clinching since Thursday, it felt even better to do it on their own terms.

When Longoria caught Twins catcher Joe Mauer's foul popup for the final out, the accomplishment finally hit the Rays' third baseman.

"I didn't know what to do with the ball," he admitted.

It didn't matter, as the bench emptied and a mob scene erupted around reliever Trever Miller, who was the last arm on the hill. The confetti poured down on the sellout crowd of 36,048, who promptly got on their feet and flooded the Rays' home dome with thunderous applause.

"I've been through the lean years here, and I know what it means to this town," Miller said. "I know what it means to be out for this town at that moment. I wanted that moment. I really did."

The celebration that followed was so emotionally charged that Miller later stole a quiet moment to walk up the first-base line.

"I had to catch my breath, I couldn't breathe," he said. "I had to walk away and regroup and go back in and join it."

Round two of the celebrations -- which brought more beer and dancing from bullpen coach Bobby Ramos -- brought the simpler moments.

The pure joy in the hugs from player to player. The exaltation of James Shields, who triumphantly held up a newspaper photo with the caption, "They're In!" And manager Joe Maddon clutching a bottle of Dom Perignon 1999 Classic that was waiting on his desk post-win.

"The greatest moment of my life," catcher Dioner Navarro said.

The backstop shared a tearful hug with Maddon on the field, and said proving all the Rays critics wrong made the celebratory drinks taste "a heck of a lot" better.

"A lot of people thought we weren't going to make it," Navarro said. "But it's still September, we are still in first place [in the American League East], and now we are going to the playoffs."

Tomorrow, their voices will be, at best, a hoarse whisper. But Saturday night, the celebratory screams -- uttered even by those with little vocals left -- couldn't be contained.

"It's as it should be," a soaking wet and smiling Maddon said. "Gratifying. When I look at this, I think of all the lives it impacts, and not just the people in this room, but all the complementary people around the team. And that's what matters. It matters for the entire community."

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