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Rays pound Twins, near playoff berth

ST. PETERSBURG — What seemed so hard on Thursday turned out to be so easy on Friday as the Rays cruised to an 11-1 win over the Twins.

And they can have their fun today, celebrating the clinching of their first-ever berth in the playoffs.

"To be in this position, it's unbelievable that we're even talking about this right now," veteran Cliff Floyd said. "It's been a long time coming, and we're definitely looking forward to celebrating."

The simplest way to do it will be with a win over the Twins in their 3:55 p.m. Fox-televised game. A few thousand tickets remained as of Friday night.

The Rays also could get in today if they lose, but that could take awhile as it would require losses by the Yankees and the White Sox, whose game at Kansas City doesn't start until 7:10 p.m.

Their preference, naturally, is to take care of things themselves and be popping champagne corks by then.

"I think it's going to be a big deal; just the fact that we've been through so much through the whole season, and just the fact that we're going to do it ourselves and we're not going to depend on nobody," catcher Dioner Navarro said.

"I think it's going to mean a lot for all of us in here, and we're ready. It says a lot about our team. We lost that game (Thursday), and we didn't back down. And we came back (Friday) and came back strong and did what we were supposed to do. And we have to go and take care of business."

If they do, they will become the second team to make the playoffs the season after having the majors' worst record, joining the 1991 Braves. The fifth team, and first in the AL, to do so the season after losing 95 or more games. And the 11th team, and second in the AL, to do so after finishing last the previous season.

And, naturally, manager Joe Maddon wants them to stay focused on what's ahead.

"It's very exciting to be in this position, and to be able to move on to the postseason would be great," Maddon said. "That's just one of the goals. It's also to win the division (they lead Boston by 1½ games in the East), and it's also to have the best record in the American League (they're two games behind the Angels). We'd love to have homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.

"I don't want any of us to be satisfied with just getting there at this point. There may have been a day that might have been okay, but it's not right now."

The Rays made it look easy Friday as Edwin Jackson pitched impressively into the eighth, they battered around Twins pitchers for the second straight night and even came out on the right end of the first call reversed by instant replay in MLB history.

The result was the "longest" home run at Tropicana Field as the umpires used instant replay (for just the third time) to reverse the original call and — after a 4-minute, 10-second delay — ruled Carlos Pena's fourth-inning blast a home run. The ball was touched by a fan in the front row beyond the rightfield fence.

Jackson, winless in three September starts, was stellar, working into the eighth inning and holding the Twins to one run and seven hits — all singles.

It was an important bounce-back performance for Jackson, whose spot in the postseason rotation would seem to be at least a subject of conversation as the Rays go forward.

The defense was again smooth, turning a pair of double plays. And the hits came early and often as the Rays scored three runs in three of the first four innings.

Pena's four RBIs give him 96. Evan Longoria had three to reach 81, 12 shy of Delmon Young's rookie record, and Jason Bartlett knocked in a pair against his former teammates.

Said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire: "Not a good night."

Rays pound Twins, near playoff berth 09/19/08 [Last modified: Saturday, September 20, 2008 10:55pm]

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