With the Boston Red Sox having an off day, and sitting a half-game back in the AL East, it was the up and coming Rays (not the Red Sox) who beat the Yankees into the bottom of the division.
That should put a smile on the face of many a baseball fan around the nation. That is unless you hail from the Dark Side. Today's game in Tampa Bay should yield this question around the league: Is it really worth your money to keep spending on free agents or should every team get on the 10-year plan?
The 10-year plan seemed to be working tonight when Rays and Sox fans alike enjoyed watching Scott Kazmir throw six innings of three-hit, shutout baseball. We all know Alex Rodriguez was not in the lineup tonight, but is the organization with the highest payroll in the MLB built on one player?
In just his third start off the DL, his confidence was sparked early on a great defensive play by Evan Longoria to get the game's first out. After the game, Kazmir was quoted saying, "When you get behind a hitter, you don't feel like you have to make a perfect pitch, you just trust yourself and trust your defense." Do you think Hank Steinbrenner likes the Kazmir/Longoria 10-year plan better than the Kennedy/Gonzalez tandem matched with them tonight?
The Rays ousted the Yankees 5-2 tonight, bringing them up to 24-17, standing alone atop the AL East. Now, the Rays have swept the Boston Red Sox, and have taken three out of four from the New York Yankees on their home field. Things in Tampa Bay don't seem to smell the same as they have in years past, when they were the doormats of the division.
The Rays five runs came on an early Akinori Iwamura home run, sacrifice flies by Crawford and Upton, and a two-run home run by the backup catcher Shawn Riggans. Riggans is just another example of the attitude change in the Rays organization. He has been great when called upon as he is hitting .302 with three HR and 10 RBI in just 15 games.
Also making another statement was the back end of the Rays bullpen. After giving up a homer just two days prior, revived closer Troy Percival was back to his old ways again, striking out two. His effort was matched by Wheeler in the eighth, who is also having a bounce back year.
If you know what is different for Kazmir's team I will be the first to listen. Maybe its something in the water? Maybe all that young talent is starting to equate to wins? Maybe the Rays players are really enjoying being paid more than the league minimum? Or maybe it's because they dropped Devil off the front of their name?
Any way you slice it, Red Sox fans are loving every minute of the Rays putting the Yankees into submission, and holding them there while we sit here on our off day, just one game back of a team who just might not be able to hold the pace they're on.