Monday, October 20, 2008

Rays Avoid Monumental Collapse

I guess it takes some getting used to: Tampa Bay Rays, American League Champions.

Just like getting used to the Red Sox not making a comeback is tough. Just like getting used to catwalks in the field of play is tough. Just like imagining the worst team go to possibly the best is tough.

But the Rays have done it. And they have done it well.

Behind young pitching, good defense and timely hitting, Tampa avoided a monumental collapse to the always scrappy, tough and clutch Boston Red Sox.

I mean the Red Sox had momentum. They had the experience. They had Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Big Papi. But they didn't have Willy Aybar, Evan Longoria or Matt Garza.

Garza, acquired in an off-season trade for troublesome Delmon Young from the Twins, pitched the game of his life on Sunday. After allowing a first inning home run to Pedroia, Garza settled down to toss a gem for Tampa. He outdueled Lester, who on most nights, pitched well enough to win, allowing just three runs. But it still wasn't good enough.

Aybar, deleivering big throughout the series did so again on Sunday by banging a home run to extend the Ray lead to 3-1. Earlier in the game, Aybar scored the second - and eventually winning - run that pushed Tampa into the World Series.

As shocking as Tampa's meteoric rise from worst to almost first, the more surprising may be where they're from.

When sports are so scarce that Mike Alstott is the most popular, well-known athlete, quality teams aren't expected to arise. But the contrarian Rays (and their Mohawks) have done it.

So despite the White Sox and Red Sox efforts, the Rays, no longer Devil, have surprising reached the World Series.

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