Relieved Tampa Bay Rays enjoy earning AL pennant in MLB’s strange, tough 2020 season

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Three days of rising anxiety turned into one night of euphoria for the Tampa Bay Rays, who became the new American League champions on Saturday night after finally dispatching the Houston Astros in seven games with a 4-2 victory to advance to the World Series in the MLB playoffs.

“The last three days were pretty agonizing,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We definitely added to our stress levels. That’s a really good team over there. I would have rather gotten it done in Game 4 or 5 than in Game 7.”

There might be more than 2,000 aeronautical miles between Petco Park and the Rays’ home at Tropicana Field, where this game would have taken place under normal circumstances, but that did little to diminish the manner in which they competed in these games, despite not playing a single game in front of fans all season.

“I feel bad that fans haven’t been able to be at the parks,” said Charlie Morton, Tampa Bay’s starter who also won Game 7. “Our families haven’t been able to see us unless they’re in quarantine. My mom flew in from New Jersey, but I can only see her from 15 feet away. But the silver lining to this is, get to the postseason and it’s just not the same. But I’ve looked across at the dugout and I know the guys that we’re playing; they care, and they want to win.nfl jersey cheap wholesale china

“Probably more so this year than any other year, the motivation is doing it for each other. You adhere to protocols; you’re social distancing from families at home. Telling their kids they can’t hug them. This has brought out a level of humanity and empathy that you wouldn’t see in a normal season.”2

This atmosphere might have been similar to that of a travel team game at 8 in the morning, empty stands and little to no outside energy. But the intensity on the field during games was major league quality. Celebrating on the field was a bit awkward, with players looking unsure about what they should be doing as they congregated on the infield as they accepted the AL championship trophy.

“It’s been very, very intense,” Cash said. “I cannot sit here and say if we were in the Trop, our home, or at Yankee Stadium or Minute Maid that they wouldn’t have been very intense in those ballparks. But the intensity of what our players show and what the opposition has shown has made everything very, very tense for all of us. I didn’t [sleep last night]. I don’t know if I went to bed. A lot of anxiety. We’ve all watched ‘Four Days in October.’ I didn’t want to see it again.”

The Rays, who had the best record in the American League, will end their 16-day stay in San Diego and fly to Arlington, Texas, on Sunday, ready to appear in the franchise’s second World Series. It hardly matters that only a few hundred people, mostly family and a smattering of reporters, security guards and the stadium DJ, actually witnessed in person what transpired at Petco Park over the past two weeks.

Tampa Bay just played an unprecedented 12 postseason games in a 13-day span: five games in five days against the New York Yankees in the AL Division Series, one day off and then seven in seven against Houston. All the while, the Rays shared the same hotel with the Yankees first and then the Astros, a five-story resort in nearby Carlsbad where one club occupied two floors, the other two different floors and one floor provided the buffer.nfl jersey cheap wholesale

“This wasn’t easy,” Tampa Bay catcher Mike Zunino said. “We played five straight days in the [division series], seven straight days in the [championship series]. These guys responded.”

The Rays players were in quarantine in a hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida, during the final week of the regular season, sharing that space with the visiting Philadelphia Phillies first and then the Toronto Blue Jays during the wild-card round before arriving in San Diego.

Several Rays players chose to be joined by wives and children in quarantine. However, parents were not allowed to do so, leaving them to wave and yell to their sons from about 20 feet away after games.

Tampa Bay reliever Shane McClanahan made his major league debut versus the Yankees during the ALDS and gave up a full-count walk to Kyle Higashioka, only the second big leaguer he had ever faced. Afterward, McClanahan could only speak to his parents over the phone. He said the first thing his father said to him was, “So, a 3-2 walk, eh?” He said he replied, “Yeah, great to talk to you too dad.”