Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Key to Rays' ALCS victory? Playing 'loose'

CHICAGO — A picket of saturated players parted, and Carl Crawford and Eric Hinske stood nose to nose. Hinske slugged him in the arm. Hard.

"You nearly broke my jaw in the pile," he said, wide eyes red.

Crawford cracked up and Jonny Gomes pumped another bottle of bubbly in Hinske's face, chanting "Get over it! Get over it!" and bouncing back into the fray by the liquor trough.

The Rays came to Chicago needing one win to close out the best-of-five American League Division Series, but they stumbled Sunday, looking more like the young and playoff-inexperienced players they were than the unlikely AL East champions.

On Monday, they got over it. They dictated their style of play from the first pitches. Starter Andy Sonnanstine delivered a hammer of a performance, B.J. Upton hit his second and third homers of the series, and the Rays exploited the details in winning 6-2 and advancing to the AL Championship Series.

"This is a group of guys that feel incredibly comfortable together," said first baseman Carlos Pena, who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. "So we go out there and play loose and with a smile on our face. That goes a long way."

Sonnanstine, who had not won in seven starts since Aug. 18, never allowed the White Sox to build on a 5-3 victory Sunday. He never allowed more than one runner on base at a time in earning the victory, and the two home runs he allowed each came with two outs and the bases empty.

Sonnanstine allowed two earned runs on three hits and a walk with four strikeouts in 52/3 innings before yielding to J.P. Howell and Grant Balfour, who allowed just two baserunners in the final 31/3 innings. The white-towel waving, black-clad crowd was left to murmur and carp.

"It was loud. It was intense, but it was good," Howell said. "I don't want to say practice run, but it's good to know what it's like to win in the playoffs finally."

Upton hit home runs in his first two at-bats to hand Sonnanstine a 2-0 lead through three innings, and the Rays manufactured two more in the fourth off Gavin Floyd.

Cliff Floyd battled deep into a count with Carl Crawford on first and looking to steal then doubled to left with Crawford breaking for a 3-0 lead.

"I knew I wanted to disrupt him (Gavin Floyd) a little bit by getting a big lead, and it seemed he was more worried about me than Cliff," Crawford said.

Floyd took third on an errant throw home and scored when Dioner Navarro singled.

Game 4 felt different from Game 3, and the Rays sensed it.

"When you get a couple home runs, it changes everything. (Then it's) neutral site man, neutral site," Floyd said. "It's one of those situations where, you know what, when you got half the fans waving the towels, it just ain't the same. Period."

Key to Rays' ALCS victory? Playing 'loose' 10/06/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 7, 2008 1:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Video: Gordon Hayward's message to Celtics from hospital bed after gruesome injury


    BOSTON — Gordon Hayward's face was etched in pain and shock.

    Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics sits on the floor after being injured while playing the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on October 17, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. [Gregory Shamus | Getty Images]
  2. Rick and Tom podcast: Where does Winston rank among top QBs?


    Where does Bucs QB Jameis Winston rank among current NFL QBs this year? The result might shock you. Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down a new poll by Sports Illustrated in their latest podcast.

    Where does Jameis Winston rank among the NFL's top quarterbacks?
  3. Epilogue: USF's Mike Radomski made thank-yous a way of life


    TAMPA — He was a sucker for baseball and benevolence. Mike Radomski tracked every gesture, regardless of how noble or benign, as meticulously as pitch counts in his volumes of scorebooks.

    Assistant director of communications Mike Radomski, who primarily served as the media liaison for men's basketball but also worked with several other Bulls sports, died shortly after 1 a.m. Oct. 12, 2017 in a car accident on Interstate 75 near his Wildwood home. He was 29. PHOTO PROVIDED.
  4. Cubs down Dodgers 3-2; force NLCS Game 5 Thursday


    CHICAGO — Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, former Ray Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

  5. Bucs' Vernon Hargreaves: 'I'm not making any plays'


    TAMPA — Eli Manning gathered his receivers together on the sideline during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and told them he planned to target the weakest link of the secondary all afternoon.

    Patriots receiver Chris Hogan gets position in front of Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves for a 5-yard touchdown pass in New England’s win on Oct. 5.