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Scenes from Game 3 of the Rays-White Sox series

Bird watching

In the second inning, Rays right-hander Matt Garza found himself swatting away a surprise distraction — a pigeon. With two outs and Ken Griffey at the plate, it waddled around the front of the batter's box. Play was stopped for a minute or so as catcher Dioner Navarro kicked some dirt to scare it away. But it wasn't until Garza walked up to it and tried to swat it with his glove that the pigeon left the playing field. "That was funny," Navarro said. "I was just hoping he didn't fly across the plate when the ball was coming at me. But that was funny."

First bump of the day

Any thought of tension after Willy Aybar's collision with White Sox reliever Matt Thornton in the eighth was quickly squashed with some good sportsmanship.

Aybar struck out swinging, but the ball bounced several feet down the first-base line. That's where Thornton, a 6-foot-5, 245-pound left-hander, picked it up and stood his ground as Aybar (5-11, 200 pounds) ran into him.

Thornton first made a peace offering by sticking out his glove. Then Aybar reached back for a fist-to-glove bump, a sign of mutual respect.

"There was no problem," Aybar said, smiling.

If there's a Wills

The Sox-Rays series is a bit personal for Rays radio broadcaster Dave Wills, a Chicago area native who spent 11 seasons working for the White Sox before coming to Tampa Bay in 2005.

"There are some family members and friends who are a little betwixt right now,'' Wills said. "Like my dad was saying the other day, it's kind of weird to be rooting against the White Sox. I've got my sister-in-law and her husband coming, and they say they almost find themselves kind of cheering for both teams because they're falling in love with the Rays.

"So it's kind of surreal to come back here as the team that could knock the White Sox out of the playoffs. I've always said from Day 1, this is like you're playing your best friend in Little League. At the end of the day you want to beat their butt, and when it's all over, you're still going to be friends. But (there's) nothing about me right now that's rooting for the White Sox."

Birthday of the day

Patrick Segura spent his 27th birthday Sunday making a special trip to visit his buddy, Rays backup catcher Michel Hernandez. Segura, a season-ticket holder for the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis, met Hernandez while the longtime minor-leaguer played there this season. The two would hang out a lot, play video games and watch movies.

When Hernandez, 30, was acquired by the Rays late this season, Segura quickly became a bigger Rays fan. Segura wore an old-school green Jonny Gomes "Devil Rays" shirt at Sunday's game and sat in Section 130, having driven up from Indianapolis the day before.

"He's a super-nice guy. A lot of players you see in the majors, money goes to their head," Segura said. "A nice guy like that deserves something like this to happen to him."

Unsung hero

A.J. Pierzynski, a colorful — and often controversial — catcher, came through for the White Sox in a must-win game. He was 2-for-3 with a double and knocked in Chicago's first run with a two-out single in the third.

Let's make a deal

Rookie third baseman Evan Longoria assumes clubhouse manager Chris Westmoreland successfully procured the balls he hit into the leftfield seats at Tropicana Field in his first two Game 1 at-bats, but he's not sure where they are.

Longoria became the first rookie and just the second player — joining ex-Twin Gary Gaetti — to homer in his first two postseason at-bats. Though the balls actually represent pieces of baseball history, they came back at the customarily reasonable price.

"The fans in St. Pete are usually pretty good," Longoria said, laughing. "They usually just give the balls up and I sign one for them. Maybe if I get a little bit bigger or … the home runs become a little more meaningful, there will be more collateral."

Scouting report

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he believed the Mariners would be the best team in the American League after seeing them during spring training and won't pass the mantel to someone else until the World Series matchups are set.

The Mariners lost 101 games, more than any team except the Nationals. But Guillen said he was not surprised by the Rays' success despite their lack of experience.

"They got clutch hitting. They pitch well. Everybody comes out of the bullpen and does a tremendous job," Guillen said. "(There's) not any surprise for a second the way they performed the last couple of weeks."

Reversal of fortune

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said the reason the Rays were able to come from behind to win Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS is simple: manager Joe Maddon.

"Their manager is pretty good," Guillen said. "They have a coaching staff out there. They have experience. I don't think there will be any panicking. I think they're going to show up to the ballpark every day and play the same way no matter what happens."

A trip of a lifetime

For Ann Duncan, a Tarpon Springs mother of two, it was a last-minute but worthwhile trip.

Duncan, who attended the first Rays game in 1998, said after she and husband Ronnie let their children play hooky from school for Thursday's Game 1, they made reservations for flights to Chicago for Game 3.

They made signs such as "We love Longo" and had them laminated Sunday morning. Carson, a kindergartner, and Katlyn, a fifth-grader, got Evan Longoria to autograph one of the signs. They had seats along the first-base line for Sunday's game and planned to fly back today.

Carson was so excited, he woke up at 5 a.m. Sunday.

"I woke up at seven," Katlyn said.

Said Ann: "They'll be, hopefully sometime — 10 World Series from now — telling their grandkids or kids how they went to the very first Rays playoff game."

Scenes from Game 3 of the Rays-White Sox series 10/05/08 [Last modified: Sunday, October 5, 2008 11:19pm]
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