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

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SAN DIEGO – Three days of mounting fear turned into a night of euphoria for the Tampa Bay Rays, who became the new champions of the American League on Saturday night after eventually beating the Houston Astros in seven games with a 4-2 win to continue. go to the World Series in the MLB playoffs.

“The past three days have been quite painful,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “We certainly increased our stress level. That’s a really good team there. I would rather have done it in Game 4 or 5 than Game 7.”

There may be over 2,000 aviation miles between Petco Park and the Rays’ home at Tropicana Field, where this game would have taken place under normal circumstances, but that didn’t detract from the way they played these games, despite not having a single game. for fans all season.

“I’m sorry fans haven’t been to the parks,” said Charlie Morton, the Tampa Bay starter who also won Game 7. “Our families haven’t been able to see us unless they are in quarantine. My mom flew in from New Jersey, but I can only see her from 5 feet away. But the silver lining of this is go to the late season and it’s just not the same .But I’ve looked at the dugout and I know the guys we play they care and they want to win. This year probably more than any other year, the motivation is doing it. You stick to protocols “You socially distance yourself from families at home. Their children can’t hug them. This has brought out a level of humanity and empathy that you wouldn’t see in a normal season.”

This atmosphere was perhaps comparable to that of a team game at 8 a.m., empty booths and little to no outside energy. But the intensity on the field during matches was the quality of the highest class. Celebrating on the field was a bit tricky, with players looking unsure of what to do as they converged on the infield when they accepted the AL championship trophy.

“It’s been very, very intense,” said Cash. “I can’t sit here and say if we were in the Trop, our house, or Yankee Stadium or Minute Maid, they wouldn’t have been very intense in those baseball fields. But the intensity of what our players are showing and what the opposition has made everything very, very exciting for all of us [sleep last night]. I don’t know if I went to bed. Lots of fear. We all watched ‘Four Days Marches in October’. I didn’t want to see it anymore. “

The Rays, who held 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 few reporters, security guards and the stadium DJ, personally witnessed what happened in 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 to be crowned AL Champion this season, and even if it took four more tense days after taking an impressive 3-0 lead, the Rays were more than eager to light up a few victory cigars in what perished . in a seven-day marathon to store the Astros.

Tampa Bay just played an unprecedented 12 postseason-games 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 in seven against Houston. All the while, the Rays shared the same hotel first with the Yankees and then with the Astros, a five-story resort in nearby Carlsbad, where one club spanned two floors, the other two different floors, and one floor was the buffer.

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

The Rays players were quarantined at a St. Petersburg, Florida hotel during the final week of the regular season, sharing that space first with the visiting Philadelphia Phillies and then the Toronto Blue Jays during the wildcard round before moving in San arrived. Diego.

Several Rays players chose to be accompanied by quarantined women and children. However, parents were not allowed to do this, forcing them to wave and yell at their sons from about 20 feet away after the games.

Tampa Bay reliever Shane McClanahan made his Major League-debut against the Yankees during the ALDS and gave up a full walk to Kyle Higashioka, only the second big league player he’d ever seen. After that, McClanahan could only talk to his parents on the phone. He said the first thing his dad said to him was, “So, a 3-2 walk, huh?” He said he replied, “Yeah, nice to talk to you too Dad.”

That is life in the Dutch big league in 2020.

Another big difference these players have already gotten used to, no wild champagne-soaked clubhouse celebrations. They are considered a no-no this season, at least until after the World Series. Instead, the Rays had a dance-off for their dugout after defeating the Yankees. This time they slipped into their clubhouse, but it was anything but the normal Animal House style craziness you’d see in any year other than 2020. Let’s just say it won’t be necessary to thoroughly clean the clubhouse carpets.

“We’ve done a great job of making it as fun as possible,” said catcher Mike Zunino. ‘There’s confetti and some crazy string. But there’s nothing better than popping bottles and letting that seep in and burn your eyes. ”

The Rays, who play at 30-year-old Tropicana Field, initially gushed over the luxurious and sprawling Padres’ home clubhouse, which has been their home for the past two weeks. Asked about the differences between their home and their Petco facilities shortly after their arrival on October 2, counselor Nick Anderson replied by asking, “Are you trying to get me in trouble?”

No amount of canned audience audio can ever duplicate the feel of a true 40,000-plus audience. But none of these rays matter. They are going to play under the brightest possible light, even though it will be difficult for some baseball fans to know who they are looking at.

“We don’t have too many household names that a lot of people will know,” said veteran outfielder Kevin Kiermaier. “But we know the very well above average players we have 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 matters to us. . “

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