Scenes from Game 1 of Rays-Red Sox

Congrats

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said he received congratulations from a number of people around baseball.

"Letters, a couple of phone calls, e-mails," he said. "Very nice. From the guys I would expect it to come from without saying who."

Sternberg was admittedly conflicted, however, when some of his friends, who are Red Sox fans, asked for help getting tickets for Game 1.

"I just can't bring them into this place wearing (Red Sox) gear. I'm sorry," Sternberg said.

Sternberg did put them in touch with people to get tickets, but, "They promised to keep it low-key. They're not the rah-rah red-wearing Red Sox fans."

In memoriam

Before the game, there was a moment of silence for George Kissell, the longtime St. Petersburg resident and Cardinals instructor who died Tuesday.

View from the top

Rays president Matt Silverman surveyed the field before the game and said he was struck by the surreal quality of the scene — a throng of national media.

"It's all come so suddenly that the gravity of the moment hasn't sunk in," he said. "For the fans and the employees, it's a special moment. To know that we're one of the best two teams in the American League and we've been there all year long — and that we're playing for the American League championship — is a great feeling. I don't think there were two dozen people in Tampa Bay that thought this was possible before the season."

Point, counterpoint

Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz believes the Rays have the best pitching in the American League. Third baseman Kevin Youkilis respectfully disagrees. Discuss.

Ortiz: "I think you go through the starters, the bullpen, they got guys that can pitch. You'll be like, 'Wow, what can I do?' Hitting isn't easy. You can go 0-for-5 some day when you feel like Superman. Happens to me a lot."

Youkilis: "They definitely have good pitching, but I'll always put our team first. These are guys I am going to battle with every day, so I will always put them first. But I would definitely put them second."

Find the right price

David Price, left, credits fellow left-handed relievers J.P. Howell and Trever Miller with his adaptation to the bullpen. Though he did not work in the division series (he warmed up in two games), Price said he is prepared after striking out nine batters and posting a 2.08 ERA in 82/3 innings at the end of the regular season.

"We try to tell him not to throw too much. We try to help him find a routine that works for him," Miller said. "I know as a starter I threw too much. It was kind of the process of being a starter, throw 40, 50 pitches in the bullpen before you go in the game. As a reliever, you realize you don't need those. You just get loose."

A different scene

Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis on playing at the Trop: "I think it gets a little crazy, mascots running around. It's a little different at Fenway and Yankee Stadium. There's no mascots and cheerleaders on the dugouts. It's one of those atmospheres where they have to draw in fans. In Boston and New York and other places, they get fans automatically." Perez lives the dream

Rookie rightfielder Fernando Perez continues to savor every moment of his unexpected ride with the Rays. In fact, when he went to Boston last month, he wasn't sure when or if he would play in fabled Fenway Park again. So he found himself absorbing the atmosphere like a fan.

"I definitely did that whole thing with a lot of the places I got to go to," he said. "The coaches noticed that I was kind of looking around, and they're like, 'Hey! You're in the (batting) cage now!' You go into Boston all business, but I was looking at that trip as if I would never, ever be back again."

Especially with the Green Monster: "I went in it, but I didn't sign it. That wouldn't be right."

Cash back

Backup Red Sox catcher Kevin Cash, a product of Tampa's Gaither High and Florida State, lives in Lutz during the offseason with wife Emily and visits the Trop plenty during the regular season. But coming back for a playoff game is a kick. "It's nice to come home and see some family and friends," Cash, 30, said. "It's exciting for me, and it's exciting for them. It'll be even more exciting if we win."

'It feels strange'

Boston shortstop Julio Lugo has good memories of his Rays days, from 2003-06, but admits it's a little different now: "I loved it here," said Lugo, who is on the disabled list with a strained left quads. "It feels strange. Finally, they have some reporters here."

Star-spangled saxophonist

The Kid killed it again Friday night. B.K. Jackson, a 17-year-old senior and sax standout from Tampa's Blake High, performed such a stirring rendition of the national anthem to start the division series last week that the Rays asked him back. And once again, the crowd went crazy for him. The players love his playing. Last week, leftfielder Carl Crawford talked about how the teen "killed it" and got the team fired up. "That was an unforgettable experience last week," Jackson said before Friday's game. "I've played the national anthem here a couple of times before, but it was nothing like that. I've never played in front of so many people." Jackson, who hopes to attend FAMU, USF or UCF, admitted he was a little nervous but said once he started, the jitters disappeared. And he'll be back for tonight's Game 2. "We're just so proud of him," said mom Regina Jackson Underwood, who was accompanied by beaming dad Ralph Jackson.

Bay watch

Leftfielder Jason Bay nearly became "Tampa Bay" at the July 31 trade deadline. Instead, he has turned into an important member of the Red Sox. Entering Friday, the six-year veteran, obtained from Pittsburgh, has hit .293 with nine homers since joining the Sox and was hitting .286 with 31 homers overall this season. Bay said he paid no attention to the trade rumors. "You hear all that stuff, and usually nothing happens," he said. "But then they called me and told me I'd been traded and I figured it was either (Tampa Bay) or Boston. And the silver lining was wherever I was going to go, it was going to be a playoff contending team."

Number of the day

23 At-bats it took for the Rays to get their first hit off Daisuke Matsuzaka, a single by Carl Crawford to start the seventh.

Scenes from Game 1 of Rays-Red Sox 10/10/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 13, 2008 1:36pm]

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