Tenacious Tampa Bay
When you watch your lead of 5.5 games shrink to 1 right before your eyes, when youâ€™re getting one hit into the 7th by an elite pitcher such as Josh Beckett, when youâ€™re nine outs away from falling out of first place, which youâ€™ve held the entire season, you should be worried. Shouldnâ€™t you?
But somebody forgot to tell that to this team. Somebody forgot to tell this unruly group from Tampa Bay that they're not supposed to be here. They're not supposed to be doing this. They're not supposed to keep on finding ways to create slip-ups for the Red Sox, every time the champs seem poised to rocket past them into first place. Everybody in America seems to know that - except the Rays.
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Walk-off hits and masterful pitching performances have carried this team far longer than anyone could have imagined. It seems as though having the first round draft pick for 6 of the last 10 years does in fact help a team. Star prospects such as B.J. Upton, Scott Kazmir, Carl Crawford and most recently Evan Longoria, who last night became only the second Ray to hit three home-runs in a single game, have made an impact so big on this team, lifting the moral of these Tampa Bay Rays. Off-season acquisitions such as Cliff Floyd and Dan Johnson have provided powerful reserves to those everyday starters, one reason why their team batting average has increased from .261 in 2007 to .268 in 2008. Their team ERA, or earned run average, has gone from an embarrassing 5.53 in 2007 to a devastating 3.32 in 2008, nearly cutting it in half. As any sports journalist can tell you, the rays success this year can be credited to timely performances, and the playerâ€™s theyâ€™ve acquired. When asked what can be attributed to the Rayâ€™s success this year, Kevin Lukombski replied,
â€œThey dropped "Devil" from their nickname. Seriously, their young pitchers have played to their potential and their young hitters are doing so, as well. They added veterans Troy Percival and Cliff Floyd to the mix and they've provided leadership in addition to producing on the field. Manager Joe Maddon keeps the team focused. In other words, they're doing pretty much everything right this year.â€
These Rays have executed through think and thin, played through ups and downs, and most importantly, have continually dominated their opponents in the American League East over the course of this season.