The Tampa Bay Rays may just get used to this.
On Monday, they won an American League wild-card tiebreaker with a victory in Texas and employed their two favorite instruments of celebration: champagne and silly string. On Wednesday night, they won on the road again, beating the Indians 4-0 in the wild-card game in Cleveland. Cue the bubble and the string.
Next up? An American League Division Series against the Boston Red Sox. At this point, as the champagne and the string attest, they may be the most dangerous thing going: a relaxed team with nothing to lose.
“We play loose,” Desmond Jennings, whose two-run double in the fourth gave the Rays a 3-0 lead, said Wednesday night.
In the Red Sox, the Rays will face the team with the best record in the American League, the team that finished 5 1/2 games ahead of them in the AL East. “We pitch well, we play defense well,” Rays Manager Joe Maddon said. “Any time you can pitch and play defense, you have a shot in a short series. There’s no other way around it.”
The best-of-five series starts Friday in Fenway Park. As the Tampa Tribune’s Martin Fennelly puts it:
The Green Monster against The Little Team — and starting pitching — that could.
It was that way in 2008. And it’s that way again.
Hey, Boston, here come the Rays.
If I’m the Red Sox, I don’t want any part of this team. It looks like it’s gathering steam.
The Rays have won 10 of their last 12 games and, although the Red Sox won 12 of 19 games from the Rays, six of those wins came in the ninth inning or later. There were three walk-off wins in Fenway. The Red Sox will start Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA) against Matt Moore (17-4, 3.29 ERA) in the 3:07 p.m. EDT Game 1 Friday and no one in Boston is taking this series lightly. From the Boston Herald’s Mike Silverman:
Maddon is a pro’s pro when it comes to Xs and Os and motivating his players. The way the Rays performed in hostile situation after hostile situation speaks to how well Maddon prepares them.
“I’m so proud of our guys,” he said. “You had to be in the dugout to see. Our guys were fine from the very first pitch. There was nothing going on except focus and ‘let’s go’ and a lot of life, man.”
The Rays are very much alive, coming to a ballpark near you. They should be considered armed and extremely dangerous.