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)

Rays clinch playoff spot

St. Petersburg

All that talk about the importance of postseason experience appears to be overrated. Because after the Rays on Saturday did the implausible, if not the impossible, in clinching their first playoff appearance, they acted like they knew exactly what they were doing and put on quite a show. "You know, we play pretty good," said veteran Troy Percival. "But I think we celebrate better." There was a festive and anticipatory feel throughout the day at sold-out Tropicana Field, but the party officially began at 7:22 p.m. when third baseman Evan Longoria caught Joe Mauer's foul to seal the 7-2 win. Players raced onto the field, throwing their gloves in the air and themselves at each other. A massive celebration, including a seemingly endless stream of champagne spraying and beer soaking and a victory lap around the stadium and atop the dugout to share the experience with the fans, continued for hours.

"We act like we've done it before," Jonny Gomes said. "I don't think it's that hard."

It was a special moment for so many people in so many ways, as the Rays finally put their horrid past behind them and became the second team in history, joining the 1991 Braves, to go from the worst record in the majors to the playoffs the next season.

It was for Carl Crawford, the player who has been here the longest and been through the most losing. "It feels even better than I thought it would," he said. "You think back to all the old times, but right now this one moment erases all the bad times. … I didn't know if we'd be doing this in this room."

For bench coach Dave Martinez, who was a player on the inaugural team. "From 1998 to 2008, this is unbelievable," he said. "Incredible. I played 16 years and this is probably by far the finest moment I've ever had."

For manager Joe Maddon, who has worked tirelessly to transform the team, and first thought of his father, Joseph, who died in 2002, then made a rare trip across the foul line and onto the field. "I had to get out there and hug everybody," he said. "We did the appropriate hugging in the dugout, then we took it out on the field. I had to — I'm a hugger. And I'm a cryer."

And for the new ownership group, for executive vice president Andrew Friedman, for the trainers, for the clubhouse staff led by Chris Westmoreland, for longtime PR man Rick Vaughn, for the entire organization.

"It's not like other clubs," team president Matt Silverman said. "This is something nobody thought would ever happen and we get to celebrate it. It's a fantastic accomplishment and it only happens once; you only have your first time once."

As optimistic as Stuart Sternberg's ownership group was when taking over in October 2005, Silverman said: "I'd be lying to say we expected it. We hoped it could happen. We wanted to put ourselves into position so that it could happen, But there are some things that you can't predict.

"There's some magic going on here, and we're going to ride this as long as we can."

In between sprayings and showers — they went through 200 bottles of Mumms Brut champagne and 15 cases of beer, then ordered more — the Rays insisted this was just the start of the fun.

They hope to have four more celebrations — for winning the AL East (they lead Boston by 2½ and could clinch that by Tuesday), and each of the three postseason rounds. Plus, they want to have the AL's best record.

"This," Maddon said., "is the beginning."

The Rays wore new hats and T-shirts with Maddon's catchy 9=8 catchphrase, reflecting how it would take nine players playing hard for nine innings to become one of the eight playoff teams. The clubhouse, the scene of so much frustration the first 10 seasons, was draped with banners of the team's new colors and the sunburst logo, and no one was safe from a soaking that Westmoreland said would take "an all-nighter" to clean for today's game.

"It's cold, it hurts your eyes a little bit but it's incredible," Friedman said. "It's an incredible experience."

"I don't know much, but the one thing I do know is that the Tampa Bay Rays know how to throw a party," Rocco Baldelli said. "Everyone who had celebrated before said that was some kind of celebration."

Not bad for first-timers.

Marc Topkin can be reached at

Rays playoffs tickets

Tickets go on sale to the public at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Fans can still register for a special online presale until 11:59 tonight. A random drawing will be held Monday, and winners will be able to buy tickets online Tuesday via a special link and password. 4C

More coverage

Once again the Rays took advantage of good breaks to earn the victory. They also got a terrific start from All-Star Scott Kazmir, bouncing back from the worst of his career. 3-5C, 1-2A

On the Web

More photos at And for more coverage, check out the Heater,

Today | Rays vs. Twins

1:40, Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg

TV/radio: FSN; 1250-AM, 680-AM (Spanish) Pitchers: Andy Sonnanstine, Rays

vs. Francisco Liriano, Twins

Rays clinch playoff spot 09/20/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 22, 2008 10:38am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze resigns over "inappropriate conduct"


    OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze was at Jackson Country Club on Wednesday night, giving his yearly rah-rah speech about the Rebels' overcoming adversity and getting ready for the college football season.

    If Hugh Freeze hadn’t resigned, Ole Miss says it would have fired him for violating his contract’s moral turpitude clause.
  2. Fennelly: With playoff chase in high gear, it's time for Rays to make a move

    The Heater


    Thursday was an off-day for the Rays, who are coming off a solid western swing. I assume there was no rest for the tag-team Rays baseball brain trust of Matt Silverman, Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom, whose job it is to improve this team in advance of the trade deadline. They've done a good job …

    Evan Longoria is glad to see the Rangers coming to town: He’s batting .296 against them with 15 homers and 56 RBIs in 69 career games.
  3. Rays vs. Rangers, 7:10 p.m. Friday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Rangers

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  4. Good news for Rays on Steven Souza Jr. as MRI shows 'no damage' to hip


    The Rays got good news today on RF Steven Souza Jr., as an MRI showed "no damage" to his left hip.

    Steven Souza Jr. #20 of the Tampa Bay Rays holds his leg after hurting himself trying to steal second base in the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on July 19, 2017 in Oakland, California.
  5. Bucs raise prices for single tickets to marquee games


    The Bucs will have single-game tickets for 2017 home games on sale July 28, with a new wrinkle: the best games will cost more for fans.

    Bucs fans cheer Jameis Winston after a victory in their final home game of the 2016 season. Individual tickets for the Bucs' three most coveted home games (against the Patriots, Bears and Giants) will cost more in 2017.