Relieved Rays enjoy earning AL pennant in MLB’s strange, tough 2020 season

SAN DIEGO — Three days of rising anxiousness became one evening of euphoria for the Tampa Bay Rays, who grew to become the brand new American League champions on Saturday evening after lastly dispatching the Houston Astros in seven video games with a 4-2 victory to advance to the World Collection within the MLB playoffs.

“The last three days were pretty agonizing,” Rays supervisor Kevin Money mentioned. “We definitely added to our stress levels. That’s a really good team over there. I would have rather gotten it done in Game 4 or 5 than in Game 7.”

There may be greater than 2,000 aeronautical miles between Petco Park and the Rays’ house at Tropicana Discipline, the place this recreation would have taken place beneath regular circumstances, however that did little to decrease the way during which they competed in these video games, regardless of not taking part in a single recreation in entrance of followers all season.

“I feel bad that fans haven’t been able to be at the parks,” mentioned Charlie Morton, Tampa Bay’s starter who additionally received Sport 7. “Our families haven’t been able to see us unless they’re in quarantine. My mom flew in from New Jersey, but I can only see her from 15 feet away. But the silver lining to this is, get to the postseason and it’s just not the same. But I’ve looked across at the dugout and I know the guys that we’re playing; they care, and they want to win.

“In all probability extra so this yr than every other yr, the motivation is doing it for one another. You adhere to protocols; you are social distancing from households at house. Telling their youngsters they cannot hug them. This has introduced out a stage of humanity and empathy that you just would not see in a standard season.”

This atmosphere might have been similar to that of a travel team game at 8 in the morning, empty stands and little to no outside energy. But the intensity on the field during games was major league quality. Celebrating on the field was a bit awkward, with players looking unsure about what they should be doing as they congregated on the infield as they accepted the AL championship trophy.

“It has been very, very intense,” Cash said. “I can not sit right here and say if we have been within the Trop, our house, or at Yankee Stadium or Minute Maid that they would not have been very intense in these ballparks. However the depth of what our gamers present and what the opposition has proven has made every little thing very, very tense for all of us. I did not [sleep last night]. I do not know if I went to mattress. A number of anxiousness. We have all watched ‘4 Days in October.’ I did not need to see it once more.”

The Rays, who had the best record in the American League, will end their 16-day stay in San Diego and fly to Arlington, Texas, on Sunday, ready to appear in the franchise’s second World Series. It hardly matters that only a few hundred people, mostly family and a smattering of reporters, security guards and the stadium DJ, actually witnessed in person what transpired at Petco Park over the past two weeks.

The 2020 American League pennant will carry the same weight as any previous championship flag, even if it came in a pandemic-shortened 60-game regular season. Someone was going to be crowned AL champs this season, and even if it did take four additional tension-filled days after they took a commanding 3-0 series lead, the Rays were more than eager to fire up a few victory cigars in what turned into a seven-day marathon to put away the Astros.

Tampa Bay simply performed an unprecedented 12 postseason video games in a 13-day span: 5 video games in 5 days towards the New York Yankees within the AL Division Collection, someday off after which seven in seven towards Houston. All of the whereas, the Rays shared the identical resort with the Yankees first after which the Astros, a five-story resort in close by Carlsbad the place one membership occupied two flooring, the opposite two completely different flooring and one flooring offered the buffer.

“This wasn’t easy,” Tampa Bay catcher Mike Zunino mentioned. “We played five straight days in the [division series], seven straight days in the [championship series]. These guys responded.”

The Rays gamers have been in quarantine in a resort in St. Petersburg, Florida, through the last week of the common season, sharing that house with the visiting Philadelphia Phillies first after which the Toronto Blue Jays through the wild-card spherical earlier than arriving in San Diego.

A number of Rays gamers selected to be joined by wives and youngsters in quarantine. Nonetheless, dad and mom weren’t allowed to take action, leaving them to wave and yell to their sons from about 20 toes away after video games.

Tampa Bay reliever Shane McClanahan made his main league debut versus the Yankees through the ALDS and gave up a full-count stroll to Kyle Higashioka, solely the second large leaguer he had ever confronted. Afterward, McClanahan may solely communicate to his dad and mom over the telephone. He mentioned the very first thing his father mentioned to him was, “So, a 3-2 walk, eh?” He mentioned he replied, “Yeah, great to talk to you too dad.”

Such is large league life in 2020.

One other main distinction that these gamers have already grown accustomed to: no wild, champagne-drenched clubhouse celebrations. These are thought of a no-no this season, not less than till after the World Collection. As an alternative, the Rays had a dance-off in entrance of their dugout after beating the Yankees. This time, they slipped inside their clubhouse, but it surely was something however the regular “Animal House”-style craziness you’d see in every other yr than 2020. Let’s simply say there will not be a have to deep clear the clubhouse carpets.

“We’ve done a great job to make it as fun as possible,” Zunino mentioned. “There’s confetti and silly string. But there’s nothing better than popping bottles and having that seep in and burn your eyes.”

The Rays, who play at 30-year-old Tropicana Discipline, initially gushed over the Padres’ luxurious and expansive house clubhouse that has been their house for the previous two weeks. When requested in regards to the variations between their house and the Petco amenities quickly after their arrival on Oct. 2, reliever Nick Anderson answered by asking, “Are you trying to get me in trouble?”

No quantity of canned crowd noise may ever duplicate the sensation of an actual, 40,000-plus crowd. However none of that issues to those Rays. They are going to play beneath the brightest lights attainable, even when it is going to be tough for some baseball followers to know who they’re watching.

“We don’t have too many household names that a ton of people are going to know,” veteran outfielder Kevin Kiermaier mentioned. “But we know the very well-above-average players that we have in there. We’re just a bunch of scrappy, hard-playing guys, and we show it on the field and we know how to win games — and that’s all that’s important to us.”

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