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When you talk of the Tampa Bay Rays' 2011 wild-card drama — and you will — know this

Quote of the day

"No band of brothers have shown more resilience than our Rays. If Joe Maddon does not get Major League manager of the year again this year for a second time, then it will be a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance."

Bishop Robert Lynch of the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg on his blog

How insurmountable does a 7-0 lead look to an offensively challenged team? • Put it this way: Before Wednesday night, Tampa Bay's biggest comeback this season was five runs. That goes for last season, too. It had been more than two years since the Rays spotted a team a seven-run lead and came back to win. • On the Yankees' side, Wednesday was just the third time in their 111-year history (and the first since 1953) they blew a seven-run lead in the eighth inning or later, the Elias Sports Bureau said. • "We don't have 'easy' in the playbook," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "For us, easy would have been (David) Price goes out and throws eight innings of shutout baseball, we make a lot of spectacular plays, get some timely hits. That's easy. We don't know easy." • Perhaps it will get easier from here. • Friedman said he discovered something along the way Wednesday night. • "I learned in the eighth inning that all you have to do is ask for a home run, and Longo will hit it," he said. "It's taken me a long time to learn that."

. ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Bill Foster raised a Tampa Bay Rays banner Thursday in front of City Hall to celebrate the team's sensational push to the playoffs. He proclaimed it "Rays Day."

"You couldn't script anything like we saw last night," Foster told about 40 people, including City Council members, employees and residents who gathered for the noon ceremony.

"When I think of, just the fiction of all of it, it was almost like Robert Redford hitting the lights in The Natural."

Foster attended Wednesday's game and predicted the team will erase its attendance woes with sellouts in the playoffs — and a World Series.

But he almost missed the dramatic comeback.

Asked by a reporter if he thought of leaving, Foster acknowledged that he had departed. "I left to take my wife home. She's had long days. We've had long days," he said. "I came back. I couldn't stay away."

City officials plan a rally before the first home game of the American League Division Series on Monday. Details to come.

David DeCamp and Danny Valentine, Times staff writers

. TAMPA — Hours after Evan Longoria's homer propelled the Rays into the playoffs, postseason gear was already hitting the shelves around Tampa Bay. It's an unexpected surprise for area stores hoping to capitalize on the team's thrilling comeback story.

"It's Rays-mania — pandemonium," said Jeff Fox of Authentic Team Merchandise, 14823 N Florida Ave., Tampa. He said he pre-ordered Rays gear through the playoffs, including the World Series (knock on wood).

"The minute we saw the Rays had a chance, we placed 'what-if' orders," Fox said. That was Sept. 14.

He said the manufacturer, VF Imagewear Inc., fired up the presses right after Longoria homered.

Fox was selling the official AL wild-card T-shirt worn by the Rays on Wednesday night. He said he likely would have the official playoff hats by Monday.

Sports Fan-Attic will have the official hats and T-shirts today. Besides the official merchandise, Authentic Team Merchandise is selling some that poke fun at the Red Sox. One says "Hey Boston … Sox to be you" and another says "Choke … the official drink of Red Sox baseball."

Danny Valentine, Times Staff Writer

You may know that Robert Andino's winning hit in Baltimore on Wednesday preceded Evan Longoria's blast by only a few minutes. And you may know that Andino's line-drive single went in and out of the glove of a sliding Carl Crawford in leftfield. And you certainly know Longoria's walkoff homer went slicing down the leftfield line at Tropicana and barely cleared the wall. • But did you know the reason Longoria's shot had a chance to leave the park was because the Rays lowered the wall in the leftfield corner from 9 to 5 feet in 2007? • To give Crawford, the speedy, longtime Rays leftfielder, a chance to make home run-robbing catches.

What they're saying

. "That was the best baseball I ever watched in French in my whole entire life."

— Lightning center Nate Thompson, in Quebec with the team for preseason games, who watched on a French-language TV network

. "I'm impressed by it because it's something that's rare, but I'm not surprised by it. That's what they've been doing for a month now and proving the odds wrong. It's inspiring. I think it's great for the town and can't wait to get my butt to one of those games."

— Lightning coach Guy Boucher

. "Can't express enough gratitude to Buck and the O's for their incredible professionalism. We don't do this without their respect for the game."

— Joe Maddon, in a Twitter message about the Orioles and manager Buck Showalter

. "I keep stopping what I'm doing and chuckling with disbelief."

— Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach, via Twitter on Thursday morning

. "I just keep laughing out loud and saying, 'Did that just happen?' It sure did."

— Rays centerfielder B.J. Upton, via Twitter

. "Both the Red Sox and Braves lost two games to the Pirates this year. Bet they'd love to have those games back!"

— Pat Lackey, in his Pirates blog "Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke?"

Sternberg predicts the unpredictable

. They were gathered in the owner's suite. The general manager. The team president. A trio of senior vice presidents. The entire Tampa Bay brain trust was there, except for one. Owner Stuart Sternberg had been in town earlier in the day but had returned home to New York in observance of Rosh Hashanah. Even so, Sternberg was keeping in touch surreptitiously through text messages. And when others thought the end was near, Sternberg held out hope for a repeat of history. Team president Matt Silverman pulled out his smart phone and showed a text message Sternberg sent at 10:30 p.m., before the start of the ninth inning:

"Will come down to my man Dan"

Sternberg was referring to Dan Johnson, who three years earlier hit the most famous home run in team history to tie the score in the ninth against the Red Sox and propel the Rays to their first AL East title. As if on cue, manager Joe Maddon sent Johnson to the plate to pinch-hit for Sam Fuld. He had an average of .108 and was hitless with eight strikeouts in his past 21 big-league at-bats. Yet, he turned on a two-out, two-strike pitch and wrapped a line drive around the foul pole in right to tie it in the ninth. "There were a couple of times along the way when we pronounced our time of death," Silverman said. "But you've heard stories in hospitals where patients who were pronounced dead suddenly spring back to life? That's us."

Call him Ray-heem Morris

TAMPA — A few hours after watching the Rays' 8-7 win over the Yankees, Bucs coach Raheem Morris took his team to Tropicana Field for a beat-the-heat indoor workout. "Little Trop magic today,'' Morris said. "Went over there and sat in coach (Joe Maddon's) seat. I hung on that rail he hung on all last night, and I just rubbed all over that rail, man. Take some of that thunder he's got going.'' Morris and Maddon are close friends who both live in South Tampa and frequently dine together at 717 South. When Morris left One Bucs Place on Wednesday night, the Rays were trailing 7-0. "We were all miserable, me and (tight ends coach) Alfredo (Roberts),'' Morris said. "We started slow, but we finished fast.''

Rick Stroud, Times staff writer

When you talk of the Tampa Bay Rays' 2011 wild-card drama — and you will — know this 09/29/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 29, 2011 10:14pm]
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