Carlos Pena and the "Devil" free Rays held an impromptu meeting at home plate on Wednesday afternoon - and it sent all but a few traitorous Bay area residents among the 27,533 in attendance into mass hysteria.
I was lucky enough to be at The Trop today for an event that might reverberate all the way into October - and I say that because the Rays are embarking on a ten game road trip now, and to lose a home series to the Indians would have been an inauspicious send-off at best for the first "Dog Days" road trip in franchise history that actually has meaning.
Now, courtesy of Gabe Gross and Carlos Pena, the Rays just got one of the loudest, most boisterous, and I suspect, most convincing send-offs we will witness this season - because if you are not a believer now, if you do not think the Rays can hang with Red Sox Nation and the Bronx Bombers for a few more weeks, then you should check out the atmosphere around The Trop for yourself.
I must confess that I have been guilty of committing the cardinal sin of wearing Red Sox apparel in past trips south of the causeway to what can only be described as the worst place in the big leagues to play ball, now that the Nats have new digs.
I don't mean the geography, just the dome.
The dome, however, now has a true atmosphere - it really is The Trop, and you might just need to see it to believe it. I was there for the Boston series back in June, and it is true that there were many Red Sox faithful on hand - too many, in fact, because I am a true convert now.
Today though, for a 12:40 start, there were thousands of fans outside the gates two hours early - and it took a long while to find any of them wearing Indians gear. Those traitorous few who dared to show up in support of Cleveland heard about it from what can only be described as the "Rays Faithful."
That is a phrase no one could have imagined being uttered in the past, for an event that never would have happened in the past.
I was on hand once for an interleague game against the Braves, at The Trop, where the fans gave the Atlanta sluggers a standing ovation during batting practice.
Well, times have changed.
The Braves once went from worst-to-first, and now the Rays think they can do the same.
I, for one, believe them.
On Tuesday the Rays surpassed their win total from last year, today they added on the most dramatic win in franchise history, and on this ten game road trip that begins on Thursday they have the opportunity to set a franchise record for most wins in a season.
Last year the Rays were 43-70 after 113 games, but today they are 68-45 after 113 games in 2008. Check my math, but that looks like a 25 game turnaround to me - for a team that is playing an unbalanced schedule in the A.L. East.
That is the same division as the aforementioned Red Sox and Yankees, of course, which is a notoriously tough division to hang around in - an understatement on par with calling "Tiger Woods a pretty good golfer."
The Indians Franklin Gutierrez led off today's game with a home run, and his teammate Jhonny Peralta went 5 for 5 with a pair of doubles and a homerun - both of which were really great performances.
It was the third time I've seen a lead-off homerun in person, and only the second time I've seen a five hit performance - but I've never been to a game where there was a lead-off homerun, a five hit performance, and a walk-off homerun.
I aim to look it up, actually, because I'm curious to know how many times that has even happened in the past.
For now, however, it is sufficient to know that the Rays have nine walk-off wins this season - and because of the drama involved in this one, the performances today of Gutierrez and Peralta are pretty much, well, of no consequence.
Exactly, a franchise record 70 wins in 2004 - but now, with nine walk-off wins this year they are a season high 23 games above .500, they have now spent 51 days in first place, and there is an air about this team that is not only gathering headlines, but respect.
Baseball fans, it is time to start pulling for these Rays.