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Relieved Tampa Bay Rays Enjoy Earning AL Pennant in MLB’s Strange, Hard 2020 Season


1; Three days of rising anxiety turned into an evening of euphoria for the Tampa Bay Rays, who became the new U.S. league champions Saturday night after finally sending the Houston Astros to seven games with a 4-2 victory to advance to the World Series in the MLB playoffs.

“The last three days have been pretty painful,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We definitely added our stress levels. It’s a really good team over there. I’d rather have it done in Game 4 or 5 than in Game 7.”

There may be more than 2,000 air environments between Petco Park and the Rays’ home on Tropicana Field, where this game would have taken place under normal circumstances, but that did not diminish the way they competed in these games, despite not playing a single game in front of fans all season.

“I feel bad that fans have not been to the parks,” said Charlie Morton, Tampa Bay’s starter who also won Game 7. “Our families have not been able to see us unless they are in quarantine. My mother flew in from New Jersey but I can only see her 15 yards away.But the silver lining for this is, came for the after-season and it’s just not the same.But I’ve looked over the excavation and I know guys that we play they care and they will win.

“Probably more this year than any other year, the motivation is to do it for each other. You abide by protocols; you are socially distanced from families at home. To tell their children that they can not hug them. This has brought a level of humanity and empathy that you would not see in a normal season. “

This atmosphere could have resembled that of a travel team game at 8 a.m., empty racks and little or no energy from outside. But the intensity on the pitch during games was of high league quality. It was a bit awkward to celebrate on the pitch, where players were unsure of what to do as they gathered in the infield as they accepted the AL championship.

“It’s been very, very intense,” Cash said. “I can not sit here and say whether we were in Trop, our home or at Yankee Stadium or Minute Maid, that they would not have been very intense in these ball parks. But the intensity of what our players show and what the opposition has has done everything very, very tense for all of us, I did not [sleep last night]. I do not know if I went to bed. A lot of anxiety. We’ve all seen ‘Four Days in October.’ I would not see it again. “

The Rays, who had the best record in the American League, end their 16-day stay in San Diego and fly to Arlington, Texas, on Sunday, ready to be shown in the franchise’s second World Series. That hardly means that only a few hundred people, mostly family and a bit of journalists, security guards and stadium DJs, actually witnessed in person what happened at Petco Park in the last two weeks.

The U.S. league pennant in 2020 carries the same weight as any previous championship flag, even though it came in a pandemic-shortened 60-game regular season. Someone was to be crowned as AL champions this season, and although it took another four thrilling days after taking a commanding 3-0 league lead, the Rays were more than eager to shoot a few victory cigars into what turned around. in a seven-day marathon to remove the Astros.

Tampa Bay played just an unprecedented 12 record season game in a 13-day period: five games in five days against the New York Yankees in the AL Division Series, one day off and then seven out of seven against Houston. All the while, the Rays shared the same hotel with the Yankees first and then the Astros, a five-story resort near Carlsbad, where one club occupied two floors, the other two different floors, and one floor provided the buffer.

“This was not easy,” said Tampa Bay catcher Mike Zunino. “We played five days in a row in [division series], seven straight days in [championship series]. These guys responded. “

The Rays players were quarantined at a hotel in Skt. Petersburg, Florida, in the final week of the regular season and shared this space first with the visiting Philadelphia Phillies and then the Toronto Blue Jays during the wild-card round before arriving in San Diego.

Several Rays players chose to stay with wives and children in quarantine. Parents, however, were not allowed to do so, leaving them to wave and shout to their sons approx. 20 meters away after games.

Tampa Bay reliefs Shane McClanahan debuted in the major leagues versus the Yankees during the ALDS and gave up a full-count trip to Kyle Higashioka, only the second major league he had ever had. Afterwards, McClanahan could only talk to his parents over the phone. He said the first thing his father said to him was, “So a 3-2 walk, right?” He said he replied, “Yes, nice to talk to you too dad.”

Such is the life of the big league in 2020.

Another big difference these players have already gotten used to: no wild, champagne-soaked clubhouse parties. These are considered no-no this season, at least until after the World Series. Instead, the Rays had a dance-off in front of their dugout after beating the Yankees. This time, they slipped into their clubhouse, but it was anything but the normal “Animal House” fragility you would see in any year other than 2020. Let’s just say there is no need to deep clean the clubhouse carpets.

“We’ve done a good job of making it as fun as possible,” Zunino said. “There’s confetti and silly string. But there’s nothing better than bursting bottles and letting it seep in and burning your eyes.”

The Rays, who play at the 30-year-old Tropicana Field, originally skipped the Padres’ luxurious and expansive home clubhouse that has been their home for the past two weeks. When asked about the differences between their home and Petco facilities shortly after their arrival on October 2, the relief worker Nick Anderson replied by asking, “Are you trying to get me in trouble?”

No amount of canned crowd noise could ever duplicate the feel of a true, 40,000-plus crowd. But none of that matters to these rays. They have to play under the strongest possible light, although it will be difficult for some baseball fans to know who they are watching.

“We do not have too many household names that lots of people get to know,” said veteran fieldman Kevin Kiermaier. “But we know the very above average players we have in there. We’re just a bunch of tough, hard-playing guys, and we show it on the court, and we know how to win games – and that’s all there is to it. important to us. “

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