SAN DIEGO ̵1; Three days of growing anxiety turned into a night of euphoria for the Tampa Bay Rays, which became the new American League champions on Saturday night, finally sending the Houston Astros in seven games with a 4-2 win to advance to World Series in the MLB Playoffs.
“The last three days have been quite painful,” said Ray manager Kevin Cash. “We definitely added a level of stress. It’s a really good team. I’d rather do it in game 4 or 5 than in game 7.”
There may be more than 2,000 aeronautical miles between Petko Park and the House of Rays in the Tropicana field, where this game could normally take place, but this has slightly reduced the manner of competition in these games, even though they did not play a single game in front of fans. season.
“I’m sorry the fans can’t be in the parks,” said Charlie Morton, a Tampa Bay starter who also won Game 7. “Our families couldn’t see us unless they were quarantined. Mom flew in from New Jersey, but I only see her 15 feet away. But there’s a silver lining to that, get to the season, and it’s just not that But I looked at the dugout, and I know the guys we play for, they don’t care, and they want to win.
“This year, perhaps more than any other year, motivation does it for each other. You follow protocols; you socially distance yourself from families at home. Tell your children that they can’t hug them. This allows for a level of humanity and empathy that you would not see in a normal time of year. “
This atmosphere could be similar to the atmosphere of a travel team game at 8 am, empty stands and almost no outside energy. But the tension on the field during the games was a quality of the major leagues. It was a bit awkward to celebrate on the field, because the players are not sure what to do, gathering on the field, taking the trophy of the AL championship.
“It was very, very stressful,” Cash said. I can’t sit here and say if we were in the Tropic, in our house or at the Yankee Stadium, or the Minute of the Virgin, that they wouldn’t be too tense in these parks, but the intensity of what our players are showing and what the opposition has shown has made everything very, very stressful for all of us [sleep last night]. I don’t know if I went to bed. Lots of worries. We all watched “Four Days in October.” I didn’t want to see it again. “
The flights, which 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 enter the second World Series of the franchise. It hardly matters that only a few hundred people, mostly family and many reporters, security guards and DJs of the stadium, have actually personally witnessed what happened in Petko Park in the last two weeks.
The Pennant of the American League 2020 will have the same weight as any previous flag of the championship, even if it took place in a pandemic-shortened regular season of 60 games. Someone was going to be the crowned AL champion this season, and even if it took four extra days filled with tension after they led the team series 3-0, the Flights were more than ready to burn a few cigars of victory in what turned out to be a seven-day marathon. to expel the Astros.
Tampa Bay have just played an unprecedented 12 games in the postseason in 13 days: five games in five days against the New York Yankees in the AL Division, one day off, and then seven in seven against. Houston. ” All the while, the Flights shared the same Yankee hotel and then the Astros, a five-story resort in nearby Carlsbad, where one club occupied two floors, the other two different floors, and one floor provided a buffer.
“It wasn’t easy,” said Mike Zunino, a Tampa Bay catcher. “We played five days in a row at [division series], seven days in a row [championship series]. These guys responded. “
The Flight players were quarantined at a hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida, during the last week of the regular season, sharing the room with visiting Philadelphia Phillies and then Toronto Blue Jays during a wild card before arriving in San Diego. .
Several Race players decided to join their wives and children in quarantine. However, parents were not allowed to do so, leaving them waving and shouting at their sons about 20 feet after the games.
Tampa Bay doctor Shane McClanahan made his major league debut against the Yankees during the ALDS and gave up a full walk to Kyle Gigasioka, only the second major league he has ever faced. Later, McClanahan could communicate with his parents only by phone. He said the first thing his father told him was, “So walk 3-2, right?” He said he replied, “Yes, it’s great to talk to you too, Dad.”
Such is the life of the big league in 2020.
Another big difference that these players are already used to: no wild, champagne-filled clubhouse celebrations. This season they are considered no-no, at least until the end of the world series. Instead, Reisy danced in front of their dugout after beating the Yankees. This time, they slipped inside their clubhouse, but it was anything but the usual crazy style of “Animal House,” which you’ll see in any year other than 2020. Let’s just say there will be no need to deeply clean the carpets of the clubhouse.
“We did a great job to make it as fun as possible,” Zunino said. “There’s confetti and a silly string. But there’s nothing better than cracking bottles and the fact that it’s seeping in and burning your eyes.”
The Flights, who played at the 30-year-old Tropicana Field, first rushed to the luxurious and expansive home club Padre, which has been their home for the past two weeks. Asked about the difference between their home and Petco’s premises shortly after their arrival on October 2, pilot Nick Anderson replied, “Are you trying to get me in trouble?”
No amount of canned crowd can ever replicate the feeling of a real, 40,000 plus crowd. But none of this matters to these Rays. They will play under the brightest lights possible, even if some baseball fans find it difficult to know who they are watching.
“We don’t have too many names that people will know,” said veteran outfielder Kevin Kirmayer. “But we know very well above average players. We’re just a bunch of meager, hard-working guys, and we show it on the field, and we know how to win games – and that’s all that matters to us.”