The Rays Hope A Few More Celebrations Are On Tap

ST. PETERSBURG, FL. – The atmosphere at Tropicana Field on Saturday night was reminiscent of the 2019 American League Division Series against the Astros.

That is to say the joint was jumping as an announced sellout crowd of 23,783 partied like it was, well, 2019. After all, an empty Trop and playoff bubbles prevented such good times from taking place a year ago.

So, yeah, it was a big deal for the Rays to clinch the American League East at home. A 7-3 win over the Marlins secured the club’s fourth division title with 2008, 2010 and 2020 being the others.

“So excited to do it at home,” said manager Kevin Cash, following the game, and a couple of hours after the Yankees beat the Red Sox to eliminate the latter from division title contention. “So appreciative of our fans, they got really loud for us. You can get really motivated with a great crowd and we had one (Saturday night).”

SOURCE: Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays have been motivated all season to take one additional step after losing to the Dodgers in the World Series last fall. First, they had to prove they were the best in their division over a 162-game schedule following a pandemic-shortened 2020.

Prove it they did.

“For us to show all year, especially coming off last year and going to the World Series and showing the world what we can do, that says a lot about our staff and our players,” said Austin Meadows. “Hopefully, we can keep it going.”

The Rays have kept it going thanks to contributions from a team-record 61 players.

SOURCE: Tampa Bay Rays

The number of players used underscores in large part how pivotal a role the shuttle from St. Pete to Triple-A Durham has played. In fact, Saturday night’s celebration was Zoomed to the clubhouse in Durham following the Bulls’ playoff game.

“Give credit to Erik and Brady Williams,” said Cash, referring to Rays general manager and vice president of operations Erik Neander and Durham manager Brady Williams. “There are a lot of guys down there that contributed to today. We are thankful for what they accomplished on the field and we wanted to make sure to include them as best we could.”

It shows how well all parts of the organization work together. Having everybody on the same page is required to get to this point and delivering the message about what was expected in keeping the flame lit following a World Series appearance is something that took place in Port Charlotte seven months ago.

“We set the message early in spring training, ‘Fellas, let’s rebound and not have a World Series hangover,’” said Kevin Kiermaier. “We did not win (the World Series), obviously, but you see that teams get content. We were hungry all offseason and for us to be in this moment right now is absolutely incredible.”

Kiermaier spoke after he and his teammates enjoyed ample champagne showers in an exuberant clubhouse. It was a scene nobody in a Rays uniform — and protective goggles — would mind enjoying a few more times after the calendar flips to October.

“It is step one,” said Brandon Lowe, of the division crown. “We still have more business to take care of. I would love to pop champagne three more times. That would be awesome, but don’t look too far ahead.”

The Rays begin pursuit of their first World Series title on October 7 at Tropicana Field. They will take on a to-be-determined opponent in a best-of-five American League Division Series. One win in their final six games, or a Houston loss, which could be accomplished head-to-head this week, will clinch home field advantage throughout the postseason.…..Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Marlins was the Rays’ 97th, which tied the team mark set in 2008. They will have six chances to set the record as they finish the regular season with three games in Houston starting Tuesday night, followed by three in the Bronx against the Yankees in a potential ALDS preview.

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