Among the stock phrases and cliched answers going into each recent season, Rays officials say their primary goal is to play meaningful games in September. • Well, here they go again. • As the Rays return home to open an important — though not quite yet critical — series with the Yankees on Monday afternoon, they are set up for another September to remember, or to quickly forget.
Five September moments
Dan Johnson Game
Sept. 9, 2008: Dan Johnson came off the plane, out of the cab, onto the bench and into Rays history, with a two-run ninth-inning pinch-hit homer that staggered the Red Sox, allowing the Rays to go on to a critical win that propelled them to their first division title.
Sept. 20, 2008: Anyone who was there can still see Evan Longoria drifting over toward the seats and clutching Joe Mauer's foul popup, clinching the first playoff berth in Rays franchise history and setting off a party 11 years in the making. (Trivia question: Who was on the mound for the Rays? Answer below)
Sept. 13, 2010: With Carl Crawford ejected for arguing a ninth-inning strike call, rookie INF Reid Brignac takes his spot in the order and leads off the ninth with a walkoff homer that gives the Rays a 1-0 win over the Yankees and pushes them back into first place.
Threes Are Wild
Sept. 27, 2011: Game 162 would never have mattered if the Rays didn't win Game 161, and all it took was a sixth-inning triple play started by Evan Longoria to keep the Yankees' lead at one then a three-run homer by Matt Joyce in the seventh, off ex-Ray Rafael Soriano, to give them a 5-3 win.
(Trivia answer: Trever Miller)
Wanna make a date?
Sept. 3-5: Yankees at Rays
6-9: Rangers at Rays; Yankees at Orioles
11-13: Rays at Orioles; Tigers at White Sox
14-16: Rays at Yankees
17-20: Red Sox at Rays
21-23: Blue Jays at Rays; A's at Yanks
25-26: Rays at Red Sox
27-30: Rays at White Sox
Oct. 1-3: Orioles at Rays*
* Adopted as part of September.
For comparison's sake
Where the Rays stand, and have stood, at this point over the past five seasons, and where they finished in the standings:
On Sept. 2 Finish
Year W-L GB W-L GB
2008 84-51 +5 97-65 +2*
2009 71-60 -12 84-78 -19
2010 82-51 -1 96-66 +1*
2011 74-62 -9 91-71 -6
2012 72-61 -41/2??-?? ?
* won AL East; won AL wild card
Clubhouse chatter is that Sean Rodriguez's hand-breaking locker punch in Durham was indeed over something frivolous: the song being played after the game in the locker room. … A positive of the new ESPN TV deal is the potential of an extra $10 million per team; a negative is an increase in how often they can show the Yankees and Red Sox (okay, or whomever) on Sunday nights. … Suspended 2010 top pick Josh Sale's statement explaining his positive drug test (methamphetamine, amphetamine) was a bit convoluted and contradictory: He "did not take any banned substance" but dropped his appeal because he "was unable to uncover enough evidence" of his innocence but now will try to "regain the trust of the Rays' organization and their fans." … Double-A Montgomery radio man Joe Davis is headed to ESPN. … The manager of the Cardinals' Palm Beach team that threw a perfect game last week against the Rays' Class A Charlotte team is Johnny Rodriguez, Sean's father.
Got a minute? Desmond Jennings
Something you're scared of? Snakes. All of 'em.
Late-night snack? Bright Crawlers candy, Nutter Butter (cookies), Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Cap'n Crunch (cereal).
Karaoke song if you had to? I dunno. I've tried that before and I haven't made it through a whole song yet.
Favorite TV show? Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Celebrity crush? Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Star Trek).
Sept. 28, 2011: Evan Longoria's walkoff homer in the 12th inning clinched the wild card for the Rays and capped what many consider the greatest day of regular-season play in MLB history, completing two stunning comebacks, as the Rays were down 7-0 in the eighth inning that night and were nine games out of a playoff spot Sept. 3. Before Longoria hit that, he hit a three-run homer to bring the Rays within one, and then in the ninth, down to his last strike, Dan Johnson delivered a pinch-hit homer to tie it.