Oh What a Night for the Rays: Tampa Bay Harkens Back To 2008 in Opener

JC De La TorreAnalyst IIIApril 7, 2010

You just got that buzz again, didn't you, Rays fans?

The thought crossed your mind the instant that Carl Crawford's walkoff two-run single sliced into right field and the Rays got a dramatic opening night come-from-behind victory against the Baltimore Orioles.

Just like old times.

James Shields put together a fine outing, only he put up three beach balls that Oriole hitters deposited into the Tampa Bay stands.

As the outs and opportunities clicked off, things began to look pretty bleak for the home team.

Then, in one sudden swing, the magic reappeared. Crawford's heroics would have never happened if not for the pinch-hit blast by catcher Kelly Shoppach, who narrowly missed winning it himself with a home run, settling for a double.

It would have never happened if new Rays closer Rafael Soriano didn't pitch himself out of trouble in the top half of the ninth, with the bases loaded and the Rays desperately trying to remain down by a run.

Once again the Rays found a way to win a game they probably shouldn't have won. It happened a lot the year Tampa Bay won the pennant, not as much last season.

After completing the spring with a franchise record 20 grapefruit league wins, Tampa Bay has that winning feeling back.

"Our guys were just waiting for something good to happen; I felt it all night, and it did," manager Joe Maddon told the St. Pete Times .

Most of the 36,973 at Tropicana Field felt it as well. Few left early, just waiting to see if the Rays could mount a late inning rally.

Keeping things in perspective, it's one game out of 162. Tampa Bay could lose the next six straight and that warm fuzzy feeling from opening night can quickly fade away.

Still, with so much anticipation for the season, and the belief by many pundits that the Rays can be a World Series contender, seeing the team perform in the clutch the way it used to seemed as if there was confirmation that the World Series hangover was gone.

That this ballclub has recaptured the great of '08.

"That definitely felt like an '08 win," Crawford said. "We did that a lot that year. Hopefully we can get that feeling back."

It's a start.