5 things we learned from the Rays' sweep in New York
Despite its best start in franchise history, there was a question of how Tampa Bay would fare in the home of the defending champion Yankees. If their two-game sweep, capped by Thursday’s pummeling of Andy Pettitte, was any indication, the Rays are the team to beat in the AL East for the foreseeable future. So what did we learn from this short but illuminating series? Dave Scheiber of FOX Sports Florida explains. For more on the Rays and other subjects, go to FOX Sports Florida.
The Rays can win big games in the national spotlight.
And they can win them both running away (as they did Wednesday when they built a 10-2 lead) and by battling back after blowing leads. Past Rays teams might well have fizzled after frittering away a 3-0 advantage in Yankee Stadium, where Tampa Bay had lost six straight. But this improved edition maintained its poise against Pettitte and kept attacking. For more on the Rays and other subjects, go to FOX Sports Florida.
The Rays can kick a team when it's down.
The Yankees have been hobbled by recent injuries (with Jorge Posada, Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson on the DL), but Tampa Bay didn't let the golden opportunity pass to extend its division dominance. At the same time, the Yankees showed they are never out of a game – making the Rays sweat with a four-run rally in the ninth Wednesday and the two late runs Thursday before closer Rafael Soriano shut the door for his 11th save in 11 attempts. For more on the Rays and other subjects, go to FOX Sports Florida.
The Yankees want Carl Crawford even more now.
Crawford once again demonstrated he's the best left fielder in the game, not to mention one of the better players period. Crawford, whose contract expires at the end of the season, made another in his series of sensational catches: In the bottom of the fourth, and the Yankees trailing 4-3, Randy Winn drilled a deep shot to left with Juan Miranda on third and one out. Crawford, who'd given the Rays a 1-0 lead with a first-inning single, raced back, extended fully and made a catch that robbed Winn of extra bases and helped pull the plug on a potential big inning. For more on the Rays and other subjects, go to FOX Sports Florida.
Yes, the Rays' starting rotation is as good as billed.
Tampa Bay's veteran ace, James Shields, battled through a rough start. He gave up a second-inning, two-run homer, yielded six hits through three innings and made a throwing error that allowed New York to tie the score in the third (below). But he settled down and got stronger as the game progressed, at one point retiring 12 in a row before leaving in the eighth. "Big Game" improved to 5-1 – part of a rotation with a record of 23-6 and that came into the game boasting an ERA of 2.58, best in the majors. For more on the Rays and other subjects, go to FOX Sports Florida.
If the Rays keep hitting like they did in New York, watch out.
It was only two weeks ago that Tampa Bay was stung by Dallas Braden’s perfect game – the low point in a team-wide slump that resulted in its only three-game losing streak this season. But the Rays followed with a string of scrappy, late-inning wins, and the offense returned with its 15-hit effort Wednesday and an 11-hit show Thursday that featured four home runs, including a pair by Carlos Pena (below) that could signal the end of his slump. As it is, the Rays have scored 225 runs, second most in the majors behind the Yankees' 237. For more on the Rays and other subjects, go to FOX Sports Florida.