Knock. Knock. Who's there? The last team you'd expect.
The Rays continue to play their game and continue to roll on in this incredible year. Today's defeat of the White Sox is a classic example of how the Rays have been able to compile a francise record 96 wins this year. The formula for their success more or less goes as follows:
Starting off the show: A strong performance from the starter. In this case "Big Game" James Shields hurled six-and-one-third strong innings. Even after giving up a three runner homer, Shields held his composer and held the line.
The offensive got moving with timely hitting. Both through manufacturing runs and going deep, the Rays answered all of Chicago's runs and then some. While in the field, the Rays defense backed up their starter with solid play and good execution.
In the final stage of the game, the bullpen took over. Using the right man for each situation (in this case Balfour and Howell) to counter the White Sox hitters. In the end, Dan Wheeler is brought in to finish the job. Although not Wheeler's finest performance (a high pitch count and giving up a long ball) he stared down the remaining batters and wrapped up the Rays first ever playoff win.
The Rays have earned their place at the playoff table. Maddon's long struggle to change the attitude and culture of the team has paid off tremendous dividends. This is a team with potential to keep telling this story again and again until its told on the World Series stage.