Rays and Red Sox: It's on!

I think home field advantage is huge for a team like the Rays. If the Angels had won, Tampa Bay would’ve opened in Cali. The Rays won the season series with the Sox 10-8.

I don’t see the St. Pete team being intimidated on this stage. Once they get on the field, it’s “Hey, we’re playing the Sox again. Let’s beat their asses.” The natural antipathy between the two teams will come to the fore.

My friend Max, a Sox and Rays fan, but more of a Sox fan, said he thought the Rays seemed carefree, like they were playing with house money. I generally agree. But with each new playoff round, these Tampa Bay kids are going to become more and more aware of the stakes at hand. Yes, they’ve overachieved, and in a way just getting to the playoffs was a monster achievement. But the thought that they’re now sniffing distance of the World Series may make some sphincters tighten just a little.

You can’t underestimate Boston’s experience — that gives them a big advantage — and the fact that they’ve won a couple of championships recently will probably allow them to play looser. (Yes, a team always wants more championships, but tucking a couple in your belt does take the pressure off.)

Elsewhere, the Rays seem to be peeking at the right time. Pretty much everyone’s healthy. Upton is swinging a hot bat, finally. Pena too. Aki looks great, Crawford’s back. Longoria, even though he had a bad game last night, looks impervious. The pitching looks good top to bottom.

On the other hand, all that could change instantaneously. There is no more fickle game than baseball. The Rays could go into a collective swoon starting on Friday and stay there. Then again, so could Boston. Plus, Boston pitcher Josh Beckett is banged up and third baseman baseman Mike Lowell is out with a hip injury.

I’m superstitious, so no prediction from me. But I do think the series will go long, maybe seven.

I was a bit under the weather yesterday, so missed my Monday sports post. But a Tuesday segment gives me a chance to talk Rays. In case you just got back from hiking in the Andes, or live in North Tampa, the Tampa Bay Rays eliminated the Chicago White Sox last night by beating them 6-2, and taking the playoff series 3-1. Merriment ensued.

• I’ve wrestled with the notion of whether all this spraying of champagne, chugging beers and pounding Patrón by the Rays after every milestone — making the playoffs, winning the American League East, winning their first playoff series — is a good or bad thing.

I’ve watched far more basketball than baseball in my day, and NBA playoff teams save the bubbly showers for winning the actual championship. That always made sense to me from a we’ve-got-more-work-to-do perspective.

But I have to admit there was something charming about how the Rays jumped around on the White Sox’s home field, then ran into a clubhouse covered in sheet plastic where they blasted each other with champagne.

At first I thought it might just be young kids and their exuberance, but I found out that the Red Sox did the same thing last night after ousting the Angels.

So these celebrations are part of baseball culture, and I’m for it, especially since I get the sense that it’s more of a ritual than an indication that a team has taken its eyes off the prize.

• I’m jazzed that it worked out this way: Tampa Bay vs. Boston in the American League Championship Series. For me, it doesn’t have as much to do with revenge or rivalry as pragmatism.

About The Author

Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
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