2008 Tampa Bay Rays season

2008 Tampa Bay Rays season

MLB yearly infobox
name = Tampa Bay Rays
season = 2008
misc = A.L. East Champions
current league = American League
y1 = 1998
division = Eastern Division
y2 = 1998
Uniform
ballpark = Tropicana Field
y4 = 1998
city = St. Petersburg, Florida
y5 = 1998
owners = Stuart Sternberg
genmanagers = Andrew Friedman
"(de facto)"
managers = Joe Maddon
television = FSN Florida
WXPX (ION TV 66)
radio = WHNZ
WGES (Spanish)|

The Tampa Bay Rays' 2008 season, the 11th season in franchise history, marks the change of the team's name from the "Tampa Bay Devil Rays" to the "Tampa Bay Rays", as revealed on November 8, 2007. [http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/news/press_releases/press_release.jsp?ymd=20071107&content_id=2295315&vkey=pr_tb&fext=.jsp&c_id=tb Raysbaseball.com, November 8, 2007] ] The change in name also comes with a change in logo and uniforms, with new team colors of Columbia blue, Navy blue and gold. The new logo, colors and name were leaked on September 20, 2007, [ [http://raysindex.blogspot.com/2007/09/new-tampa-bay-rays-uniforms.html Rays Index ] ] and were confirmed officially on November 8, 2007, when an official announcement was made in downtown St. Petersburg.

This is the third season with Joe Maddon managing the club. The club has built upon the improvements made in 2007, and has secured the franchise's first winning record and playoff berth.

The Rays played another series at Champion Stadium at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in 2008, making it the second year that a series had been moved to the Greater Orlando area. The April 22-24 series against the Toronto Blue Jays was selected for the move. Neither the MLB — nor the Blue Jays, who were 10-17 at Tropicana Field over the previous three seasons — resisted the idea. [ [http://www.sptimes.com/2007/11/07/Rays/MLB__likely_foe_open_.shtml Rays: MLB, likely foe open to return to Orlando ] ] The series move was successfully voted on by the City of St. Petersburg, who holds the lease to Tropicana Field, on January 24, 2008. [ [http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080111&content_id=2344155&vkey=news_tb&fext=.jsp&c_id=tb The Official Site of The Tampa Bay Rays: News: Rays look to re-up series at Disney ] ] [http://www.stpete.org/LegisStream/MG189955/AS189983/AS189985/AI190672/DO190694/DO_190694.pdf] This was similar to the 2007 series against the Texas Rangers, in which the Rays also won all three games.

ummary

pring Training

The Rays, with their off-season acquisitions and continued prospect development, fostered high hopes both within the organization and from analysts that the team would perform well during the 2008 season. Their performance on the field during spring training justified those hopes. On March 23, they won their team-record 15th spring training game, and finished with a record of 18-8 with two ties and two cancellations due to rain, along with having the highest winning percentage of all teams in spring training.

There were lingering questions, however. Ace pitcher Scott Kazmir had been dogged with arm soreness all spring, and was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 21. He was expected to be ready in early May. Ben Zobrist, who had been groomed for a super-utility role, suffered a broken thumb during the second week of spring training. Rocco Baldelli, after missing most of the 2007 season with a hamstring injury, was sidelined indefinitely due to chronic fatigue believed to be caused by mitochondrial disease, and placed on the 60-day disabled list just days before the start of the season.

Elliot Johnson, a infielder prospect on the 40-man roster who spent the previous season with the Durham Bulls, made headlines during a game against the New York Yankees when he crashed into Yankees prospect catcher Francisco Cervelli in a play at the plate. He was tagged out, but the collision led to Cervelli breaking his wrist. While the Yankee organization said the move was uncalled-for, most analysts claimed that it was a good baseball play. Johnson himself stated he never intended to hurt Cervelli. The act is believed to have led to heightened tensions in their next game on March 12, leading to an incident where Yankees outfielder Shelley Duncan slid with his spikes high into Akinori Iwamura, leading to a fight between Duncan and Jonny Gomes. During the bench-clearing brawl, Melky Cabrera punched Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. Duncan, Cabrera and Gomes were suspended for three, three, and two games respectively. All three dropped their appeals, and had their suspensions reduced by a game.

Pitcher David Price, the #1 pick in the 2007 Amateur Draft, made his spring training debut on March 8 (prior to the Elliot Johnson incident), accidentally hitting Francisco Cervelli on the arm before striking out 2 to get through the inning. His fastball reached 99 mph on radar guns. After three appearances, he was officially assigned to High-A Vero Beach but is expected to advance quickly through the minor leagues.

The initial starting rotation for the Rays was James Shields, Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine, Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel.

April

April turned into feast-or-famine for the Rays. The bullpen, which was derided as the worst in baseball in 2007, was the best in the league at the end of the month, with a 2.52 ERA. New closer Troy Percival saved 5 games, and did not allow a single run.

Carlos Peña was bringing the lumber that made him a superstar in 2007, having six home runs in the first 20 games, but finished the month with 31 strikeouts, and had difficulty getting on base with a batting average of just .200. The bigger surprise has been Eric Hinske. Appearing in 25 games, he hit .293 with 6 home runs and 15 RBI. On April 22, against the Toronto Blue Jays in Orlando, he was a single away from hitting for the cycle, which would have made him the first Ray to ever accomplish such a feat. For the second year in a row, the Rays won a sweep during the home series at Champion Stadium.

Evan Longoria was one of the last cuts in spring training, surprising Rays fans. He was called up on April 11 after their chosen third baseman, Willy Aybar, went on the disabled list. After six appearances, he was signed to a six-year, $15 million contract. His future seems promising for the season, with a .250 average and 3 home runs in April. In one game against the Yankees, Longoria hit a home run that capped a 5-run inning to tie the game, and a few weeks later, he homered off of Josh Beckett of the Red Sox, which provided a cushion for the team to complete their first sweep of the Boston Red Sox in franchise history.

James Shields, with the absence of Scott Kazmir, became the team's ace pitcher. In 6 starts, he went 3-1, with the one loss coming to the New York Yankees, opposite their ace Chien-Ming Wang. On April 27, he pitched his first complete game of his career in a game against the Red Sox, where he allowed only 3 batters to reach base. Just a few days after his career outing, he was named AL Player of the Week.

In 26 games during the month, the Rays went 14-12, which marked the first time in franchise history that the team had a winning record for the month of April. After their sweep of the Red Sox, the Rays were 14-11, which was the latest the team had ever been 3 games over .500 in a season.

May

After winning a series in Baltimore on May 1, the Rays were 16-12, the first time ever the team was 4 games over .500. Although they suffered a sweep to the Red Sox at Fenway Park immediately following, they bounced back with a series win against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre and a sweep of the Angels at Tropicana Field. After a win over the Yankees in extra innings Hank Steinbrenner, Senior Vice President and part-owner of the New York Yankees, expressed his frustration with his team at the time, saying that the Yankees "got to start playing the way the Rays are playing," and that he wished the Rays were in a different division. Hank also stated that he was happy for the Rays, but that he wished they played in the National League instead. [ [http://blogs.tampabay.com/rays/2008/05/hank-yanks-need.html Hank: Yanks need to be more like Rays ] ]

Following a win on Memorial Day, the Rays became the first team in over 100 years to hold the best record in the league through Memorial Day, having the worst record in the league the year before. The last team to do it was the New York Giants in 1903. [ [http://www2.tbo.com/content/2008/may/26/kazmir-leads-rays-over-rangers-7-3/?sports Kazmir Leads Rays Over Rangers 7-3 ] ]

Closer Troy Percival was placed on the disabled list for precautionary measures following his removal from a game in which he felt tightness in his hamstring after striking out a batter and then falling to the ground. Percival threw several warm-up pitches but then left the game.

Scott Kazmir set a new franchise record for the most wins in one month. Kazmir lost his first start of the season in Boston, but then won his next five starts following that loss, also sporting a 1.22 ERA in all six starts. Because of this, he was named American League Pitcher of the Month. [ [http://blogs.tampabay.com/rays/2008/06/kaz-is-als-mr-m.html Kaz is AL's Mr. May] ]

The Rays finished May with a 34-22 record, the best record in the American League, leading the division by one game over the Boston Red Sox, and had their first winning record in the month of May (19-10).

June

Carlos Pena fractured his left index finger on June 4, and was placed on the disabled list. He returned to the team on June 26, wearing a protective padding outside of his left batting glove to help ease impact. Rays manager Joe Maddon stated that once the Rays finished interleague play, and returned to playing American League teams, Pena would consider putting Pena in the Designated Hitter role to help ease the workload on his left index finger, as the Rays were more concerned about his ablility to throw the ball, more than having to swing the bat. [ [http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080627&content_id=3014497&vkey=news_tb&fext=.jsp&c_id=tb Pena returns to Rays; Zobrist sent down] ]

On June 5 the Rays were involved in a benches clearing brawl at Fenway Park with the Boston Red Sox following a series of events leading up from the previous night's game. In the previous game, Red Sox Center Fielder Coco Crisp attempted to steal 2nd Base, and slid into the base head first. Rays Shortstop Jason Bartlett who was covering the base on the play, knelt on his left knee while attempting to catch the throw from Catcher Dioner Navarro, which blocked the base and caused Crisp to make contact with Bartlett's leg, jamming Crisp's thumb. Crisp was safe on the play. Crisp stated that Bartlett's actions were "not something you do. You can do that, but that's shady. And he's not a bad dude, but that was shady. If you going to hurt me, I'm gonna come back and hurt you."

In the same game, Crisp reached base in his next at-bat, and attempted to steal 2nd Base once again. On this steal attempt however, Rays 2nd Baseman Akinori Iwamura was covering the bag. Unlike his previous steal attempt, Crisp slid feet first, resembling the way a runner would attempt to break up a double play by sliding into the player covering the base. Crisp was out on the play. Rays manager Joe Maddon engaged in a heated argument with Crisp upon Maddon making a mound visit, Crisp being in the Red Sox dugout at that time. Joe Maddon said after the game's conclusion, "I was not pleased with the slide. I totally felt there was intent to hurt our middle infielder and that's what I was upset with. There's no place for that when you intentionally try to hurt somebody." [ [http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/news/gameday_recap.jsp?ymd=20080604&content_id=2840010&vkey=recap&fext=.jsp&c_id=tb Rays fall out of first, not happy with Sox] ]

The next night, Rays pitcher James Shields hit Crisp below the waist on the first pitch in Crisp's first at-bat of the game. Crisp then charged the mound, punches were thrown by both players, and both teams' benches emptied onto the field. Shields and Crisp were ejected from the game, as well as Rays Designated Hitter Jonny Gomes. [ [http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/news/gameday_recap.jsp?ymd=20080605&content_id=2847050&vkey=recap&fext=.jsp&c_id=tb Emotions run high as Rays swept by Sox] ]

Following the brawl, suspensions were given to players on both teams. For the Rays, Shields was given a suspension of 6 games, and for their actions in the fight, Gomes and pitcher Edwin Jackson were given 5 game suspensions, Left Fielder Carl Crawford was given a 4 game suspension, and Iwamura was given a 3 game suspension. For the Red Sox, Crisp was suspended for 7 games, and for their actions in the fight, pitcher Jon Lester was given a 5 game suspension, and 1st Baseman Sean Casey was given a 3 game suspension. [ [http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080606&content_id=2853150&vkey=news_tb&fext=.jsp&c_id=tb Suspensions handed down after fracas] ]

Both Crisp and Iwamura appealed their suspensions. On June 27, it was announced that Iwamura's suspension was upheld, while Crisp's was reduced to 5 games, no longer making him the longest suspended player of all involved. Iwamura was unhappy that his suspension was upheld so that he would miss the first game of the next series against the Red Sox. Rays manager Joe Maddon stated that the decision "baffles" him and that he will seek an explanation from the appropriate decision-makers. Both suspensions started the following day, and the decision caused Crisp to miss the next series against the Rays at Tropicana Field. [ [http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080627&content_id=3014602&vkey=news_tb&fext=.jsp&c_id=tb Iwamura unhappy about suspension] ]

On June 12, it was reported that Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon had made comments about the incident stating that in his opinion, it was "a bunch of bull what [the Rays] did. All I got to say is what comes around goes around, man. Payback's a b----, I'll tell you what," and that "this thing isn’t all settled and done." Papelbon also said that things would be different at Tropicana Field the next time the Red Sox were there, as opposed to the last time in which the Red Sox were swept by the Rays for the first time in franchise history. [ [http://blogs.tampabay.com/rays/2008/06/papelbon-to-ray.html Papelbon to Rays: Payback's coming] ] In that series from June 30 to July 2, the Rays swept the Red Sox at home for the second time in the season, and Papelbon never pitched in the series.

On June 19, the Rays swept the Chicago Cubs in a 3-game series. It was the first time in franchise history that the Rays had swept a team with the best record in baseball, as the Cubs entered the series with the best record in the league at 45-25. [ [http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/news/gameday_recap.jsp?ymd=20080619&content_id=2965962&vkey=recap&fext=.jsp&c_id=tb Rays rule Cubs with seven-run seventh] ]

The Rays went 16-10 in June, improving to 50-32 overall and leading the division over the Red Sox by ½ game.

July

Troy Percival was placed on the Disabled List once again on July 1, due to re-injuring his hamstring, this time after running to backup a throw to 3rd base. Percival and Rays manager Joe Maddon had a brief argument over Maddon's decision to take Percival out of the game, but Percival eventually walked off the field and understood Maddon's concern. [ [http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080701&content_id=3041647&vkey=news_tb&fext=.jsp&c_id=tb Rays place Percival on disabled list] ]

On July 2, the Rays completed a 3-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox, which was the first series between the two teams since their altercation in early June. It was the second home sweep by the Rays of the Red Sox in the season, and increased their division lead to 3.5 games over the Red Sox, as well as giving the Rays the best record in the league.

Pitcher Scott Kazmir and Catcher Dioner Navarro were named to the American League All-Star team on July 6. It was Navarro's first selection, while Kazmir had been selected previously in 2006.

3rd Baseman Evan Longoria was named to the American League All-Star roster on July 10. This meant that it would be the first time the Rays would ever send three players to the All-Star Game. Longoria was voted into the roster by the All-Star Final Vote, where fans vote for one of five players for each league to be the final players selected for the All-Star Game. The chance to vote began on July 6 after the initial All-Star lineups were announced. Longoria was reported to have received over 9 million votes out of 47.8 million total votes cast. He won over Jermaine Dye, Jason Giambi, Brian Roberts, and José Guillén. [ [http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080710&content_id=3107903&vkey=news_tb&fext=.jsp&c_id=tb Longoria, Hart are fans' final All-Stars] ]

Longoria also took part in the Home Run Derby, the first Ray to ever do so. He was quickly eliminated, hitting only three home runs in the first round, the least of any competitor.

The Rays went into the All-Star break with a 7-game losing streak. They had won 7 straight before then. The losing streak caused the Rays to fall to 2nd place in the AL East, but by only half a game behind the Boston Red Sox. Even though the Rays lost the division lead, they still led the Wild Card spot by 2½ games.

Barely managing a winning record for the month of July at 13-12, the Rays would nonetheless go into August with the AL East division lead having an overall record of 63-44.

Despite many rumors and reports that the Rays would make a deal before the July 31 Trade deadline, the Rays made no trades. Andrew Friedman, Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations for the Rays, would comment on the lack of trade activity saying, "At the end of the day we didn't find something that lined up for us. We're in first place on July 31 and we control our own destiny. I feel we have the talent on hand to continue to do what we did the first two-thirds of the season." [ [http://www.tampabay.com/sports/baseball/rays/article751343.ece Front office believes current Rays can carry on] ]

August

The Rays acquired relief pitcher Chad Bradford on August 8 from the Baltimore Orioles for a player to be named later. [ [http://www.tampabay.com/sports/baseball/rays/article762742.ece Rays nab veteran reliever Bradford from Orioles] ] To make room for Bradford on the roster, relief pitcher Al Reyes, who was the Rays' closer from the 2007 season and had 26 saves in that role, was designated for assignment. [ [http://blogs.tampabay.com/rays/2008/08/reyes-designate.html Reyes designated to make room for Bradford] ]

On August 9, against the Seattle Mariners, the Rays equaled their franchise record, set in 2004, of 70 wins in a season. The following day, the Rays won again meaning at the season's conclusion, the Rays will have won more games in one season than in any other season in franchise history.

The injury bug would bite the Rays a few times in August. On August 3, Shortstop Jason Bartlett was hit by a pitch on his right index finger, the result of a failed bunt attempt. Bartlett was not placed on the Disabled List but missed several days before returning to the lineup as the designated hitter. [ [http://blogs.tampabay.com/rays/2008/08/riggans-ok-madd.html Riggans OK; Maddon doesn't anticipate a Bartlett DL stay] ] He would not return to his position in the field until August 15. [ [http://blogs.tampabay.com/rays/2008/08/bartletts-back.html Bartlett's back; Percival's out 2-4 weeks] ] Left Fielder Carl Crawford was placed on the Disabled List on August 10, with a hand injury. Crawford's injury was called by the Rays as a "tendon subluxation" in the middle finger of his right hand, simply meaning that the tendon is not in its normal position. Crawford would opt to have surgery, deciding not to place a splint on his hand instead. An intial report stated that there was a possibility that Crawford would miss the rest of the season, [ [http://www.tampabay.com/sports/baseball/rays/article766102.ece Rays' Crawford may be out for season with hand injury] ] but after it was announced that he would undergo surgery, he was reported to "likely, though not absolutely" miss the rest of the regular season. [ [http://blogs.tampabay.com/rays/2008/08/crawford-to-hav.html Crawford to have surgery] ] One day after placing Crawford on the Disabled List, the Rays would place Third Baseman Evan Longoria on it as well, retroactive to August 8. The injury to Longoria's right hand, suffered from being hit by a pitch, was at first thought to be just a bruise, but turned out to be a fracture. Executive Vice President, Andrew Friedman, stated that Longoria was expected to be out for three weeks. [ [http://blogs.tampabay.com/rays/2008/08/longoria-joins.html Longoria joins Crawford on DL] ] Closer Troy Percival was removed from another game on August 14, because of a right knee sprain which he suffered from fielding a bunt and tagging the runner out. After further evaluation, it was reported that there was "cartiledge involvement" in Percival's injury, but it was not a tear. The following day, Percival was once again placed on the Disabled List. When the announcement was made that he would not have surgery, Percival revealed that he may return sooner than expected. [ [http://blogs.tampabay.com/rays/2008/08/bartletts-back.html Bartlett's back; Percival's out 2-4 weeks] ] [ [http://blogs.tampabay.com/rays/2008/08/percival-ok-no.html Percival ok, no surgery needed] ]

Because of Crawford's injury, Rocco Baldelli was finally activated to take his place on the roster. On August 10, Baldelli started the day's game in Right Field, his first Major League game since May 15, 2007. [ [http://blogs.tampabay.com/rays/2008/08/roccos-return.html Rocco's Return] ]

On August 29, the Rays recorded their 82nd win of the season, needing just 133 games to reach the milestone, and thus clinching the first winning season in franchise history.

By the end of the month, the Rays' entire starting rotation, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson, Andy Sonnanstine, and James Shields had recorded at least 10 wins.

On the last day in August, shortstop Jason Bartlett hit his first home run as a member of the Rays, and his first home run overall since August 27, 2007, spanning 471 at-bats.

Despite the injuries to Longoria, Crawford, and Percival, the Rays had the best single month in franchise history, going 21-7 for the month of August. With an 84-51 overall record, the Rays went into September with the best record in baseball, a 5½ game lead in the division, and eyeing their first playoff appearance in franchise history. As Jason Bartlett stated, the Rays were "pumped" for the final month of the season, "no one wants to play us, especially at home," [ [http://www.tampabay.com/sports/baseball/rays/article791986.ece Bartlett offensive star as Rays sweep Orioles] ] and the team was determined to prove that they were a legitimate postseason contender. [ [http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/news/gameday_recap.jsp?ymd=20080831&content_id=3396137&vkey=recap&fext=.jsp&c_id=tb Baldelli bashes Burres to finish sweep] ]

eptember

Troy Percival was activated from the disabled list on September 2. In Toronto for his second outing since his return, he allowed a walk-off grand slam with two outs when the Rays were ahead by a single run and in position to win the game in extra innings. Against Boston during another extra inning game, Percival came in to close with a three run lead and allowed the first three batters to reach base. He was removed from the game in favor of Jason Hammel, who had never recorded a save at the MLB level, and was the only remaining reliever available for the Rays in the game due to its lenghth. Hammel converted the save opportunity, but many questioned if Percival should remain as the team's closer. [ [http://www.tampabay.com/sports/baseball/rays/article807087.ece Rays must demote Percival as closer] ] The reason for Percival's removal from the game against Boston was a stiff back, and not for the game's situation, or for any sort of leg injury that had plagued him throughout the year. Percival stated that because of warming up multiple times throughout the game, only to not come in until the Rays took a lead, was what pained his back. Percival acknowledged that he knew he didn't feel well, and that he should have called for his own removal, but decided that with the lead the Rays had, he would be able to get the job done. As a result of the game, the Rays decided to not use Percival too often on consecutive nights, and using him in a tie game if the situation of the game changes while he is warming up. He would still be listed as the team's closer. [ [http://www.tampabay.com/sports/baseball/rays/article808693.ece Rays to lighten workload for ailing Percival] ]

Instant Replay made its debut in Major League Baseball at Tropicana Field on September 3 after Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees hit a ball near the left-field foul pole that was initially ruled a home run by third base umpire Brian Runge. Rays manager Joe Maddon argued that the ball was foul and asked for a review. After a conversation among the umpires, though all agreed the play was ruled correctly, crew chief Charlie Reliford allowed the replay to take place and after review, upheld the home run call. [ [http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080904&content_id=3417261&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb Instant replay goes off without a hitch] ] On September 20 at Tropicana Field, instant replay would overturn a call on the field for the first time ever in Major League Baseball. A fly ball hit by Rays' first baseman Carlos Pena, the umpires ruled, was interfered with by a fan sitting in the front row of the stands, when the ball hit the hands of the fan and fell back onto the field of play. After Joe Maddon requested the umpires hold a conference to discuss the play, the umpires, headed by Gerry Davis, decided to look at instant replay. Just over four minutes later, Davis returned to the field and signaled that the ball was a home run. [ [http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080919&content_id=3510495&vkey=news_tb&fext=.jsp&c_id=tb Rays benefit from first overturned call] ]

David Price, the Rays' first overall pick in the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft, was called up from Triple-A class Durham on September 12. Price made his way up through the ranks, accumulating a 12-1 record, and a 2.30 ERA in 19 starts. [ [http://blogs.tampabay.com/rays/2008/09/price-called-up.html Price called up] ] He would make his first career start against the Baltimore Orioles on September 22, pitching 5⅓ innings, allowing four hits and two runs (one earned), while striking out three, but did not pick up a decision in the Rays 4-2 win that night.

Third baseman Evan Longoria made his return to the Rays as a starter on September 13 in the first game of a doubleheader against the New York Yankees, more than a month after being hit by a pitch in his hand, causing a fracture.

On September 18, it was reported that left fielder Carl Crawford would miss the rest of the regular season due to a finger injury suffered in the previous month. Joe Maddon stated that the concern was over Crawford's inability to swing a bat, and that if he were to be used at all before being completely healed, it would be for defense and baserunning. Crawford said that if the Rays were to make the ALCS or the World Series, he would have a chance to come back. [ [http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080918&content_id=3504738&vkey=news_tb&fext=.jsp&c_id=tb Crawford out for rest of regular season] ]

On September 20, the Rays clinched their first playoff berth in franchise history, after a 7-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins. On September 24, St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker declared 2008 the "Year of the Rays" in the city. [ [http://www.stpete.org/news/09_24_08_st_petersburg.asp St. Pete loves the Rays!] from St. Petersburg, Florida, city website] On September 26, despite losing that day, the Rays clinched their first ever AL East Division Championship when the Boston Red Sox lost to the New York Yankees. [cite news |first= Gene|last= Cherry|coauthors= Sonia Oxley|title= Rays claim AL East title to cap turnaround|url= http://www.reuters.com/article/sportsNews/idUSTRE48O9HL20080927|publisher= Reuters|date= 2008-09-27|accessdate=2008-09-28]

Going 13-14 for the month, the Rays suffered their only losing month of the season.

The Rays finished the regular season 2 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox for the division championship with a 97-65 record, the third best record in the league, and 31 games better than their finish in the 2007 season. They also surpassed the record for most wins by a team in a single season having finished with the worst record in the previous year, set by the Atlanta Braves in 1991 who went 94-68 after finishing 65-97 in 1990.Fact|date=September 2008

Post-season

American League Division Series: vs. Chicago White Sox

The Rays began their first playoff run in franchise history against the AL Central division champion Chicago White Sox, who finished the regular season 89-74 and advanced to the playoffs after defeating the Minnesota Twins in a one-game playoff to decide the winner of their division. In the regular season, the Rays were 5-2 against the White Sox. The Rays had home-field advantage for the series.

On September 30, it was announced that Carl Crawford would start for the Rays in his regular left field position, his first start in nearly two months after injuring his right hand and undergoing surgery thereafter. [ [http://blogs.tampabay.com/rays/2008/09/crawford-will-p.html Crawford will play] ]

In Game 1, Rays first baseman Carlos Peña started the game, but left after his first at-bat after reportedly having blurry vision because of an eye injury suffered at his home the previous night. Rays third baseman Evan Longoria hit a solo home run in the 2nd inning on the first pitch of his first career post-season at-bat, giving the Rays the early one run lead. White Sox left fielder DeWayne Wise hit a 3-run home run in the next inning to put Chicago ahead 3-1. The Rays came back in the bottom half of the 3rd inning with three runs of their own, including another home run by Longoria, putting the Rays back on top 4-3. Two more RBI singles in the 5th inning gave the Rays a 6-3 cushion. In the 7th inning, Rays relief pitcher Grant Balfour appeared to get into an argument with White Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera. After Balfour's first pitch to Cabrera, which was a ball to Cabrera's far side, Cabrera kicked some dirt in Balfour's direction. Balfour, who is known to get fired up by shouting to himself, may have yelled something that Cabrera took offense too. After words were exchanged between the two, play continued and Balfour finished the at-bat by striking out Cabrera. Cabrera later stated that he was unaware of Balfour's tendency to pump himself up, and that "it was just heat of the moment." Dan Wheeler would come in close for the Rays in the 9th inning. After giving up a leadoff home run, he retired the next three batters, capping off a 6-4 win for the Rays in their first playoff game in franchise history, giving them a one game lead in the 5-game series. [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=281002130 Longoria's two homers help Rays power past ChiSox] ]

Peña was expected to start Game 2, but was scratched before the first pitch. Still, the Rays continued to shine. After starter Scott Kazmir allowed the bases to be loaded in the 1st inning, and gave up two runs to put the Rays in an early hole, the pitching staff would not allow another run as the Rays' offense came through strong for the second consecutive night. In the 2nd inning, Dioner Navarro cut the deficit to 2-1 on an RBI single. Akinori Iwamura hit a 2-run home run in the 5th inning to put the Rays ahead 3-2. Adding some insurance runs in the 8th inning from three RBI singles by Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, and Navarro, the Rays had a comfortable 6-2 lead going into the final inning. Chad Bradford came in to finish the game off, and did so by striking out Jim Thome of the White Sox to give the Rays a commanding two games to none lead in the best-of-five series, with a chance to win their first ever playoff series, and a trip to the ALCS in Game 3 as the series moved to Chicago. [ [http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/news/gameday_recap.jsp?ymd=20081003&content_id=3587385&vkey=recap&fext=.jsp&c_id=tb Never counted out, Rays take Game 2] ]

The Rays looked to be in shape to win the series early in Game 3, after Akinori Iwamura hit an infield single to bring in the game's first run, but starter Matt Garza allowed the White Sox to tie the game in the 3rd inning, and then take a 4-1 lead in the 4th inning. Juan Uribe of the White Sox added an RBI single in the 6th inning to increase the lead for Chicago. B.J. Upton hit a 2-run home run for the Rays in the 7th inning to make the game a bit closer, but the Rays could not get their bats going enough. The White Sox would take Game 3 by a final score of 5-3, living to play another day only down two games to one in the series. [ [http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/news/gameday_recap.jsp?ymd=20081005&content_id=3593745&vkey=recap&fext=.jsp&c_id=tb Chance to advance spoiled for Rays] ]

In Game 4, B.J. Upton hit two solo home runs in his first two at-bats which gave the Rays an early 2-0 lead. Cliff Floyd added an RBI double, followed by a Dioner Navarro RBI single in the 4th inning put the Rays ahead by 4 runs. Paul Konerko put the White Sox on the board with a solo home run in the 4th inning, but was answered in the 5th inning by a Carlos Peña single that scored one run, giving the Rays a 5-1 lead. Jermaine Dye had a solo home run in the 6th inning, but once again the Rays answered back with another RBI single by Peña in the 7th inning. Grant Balfour came in to close the game and struck out Ken Griffey Jr. to end the game, and in their first playoff series in franchise history, the Rays took the series three games to one, and advanced to the American League Championship Series. [ [http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/news/gameday_recap.jsp?ymd=20081006&content_id=3597628&vkey=recap&fext=.jsp&c_id=tb Rays clinch, punch ticket to ALCS] ]

American League Championship Series: vs. Boston Red Sox

The Rays will host the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALCS at Tropicana Field on October 10. Boston won the American League wild card, and advanced to the ALCS by defeating the team who had finished the regular season with the best record in baseball, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, three games to one in their ALDS series. The Rays won the season series against the Red Sox 10-8. In those 18 games, the visiting team won only three times.

Regular season

eason standings

Record vs. Opponents

Game log

Regular Season

* Played at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida


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