Bring out the confetti. The Tampa Bay Rays won their first American League East title since 2010 after beating the Mets. The players were able to enjoy their celebrations during a shortened 2020 season due to COVID-19. Teams were told to celebrate in a socially distant manner, so the Rays did an old-school celebration.They figured out a way to celebrate their division crown without alcohol, by everyone having their own cigar and smoking in the dugout as a team.
“It is limited, but we’re an adaptable group right here. We’re just having a good time enjoying each other’s company. I know we’re ready to get home and finish the final homestand of the year and get rolling,” said Mike Zunino, catcher for the Rays on Fox Sports Florida.
Once Tampa’s pitcher, Nick Anderson struck out New York Mets’ Andres Gimenez for the last out to end the game, Rays players shot off canisters that were filled with confetti and gave out hugs and handshakes to each other. They sprayed silly string to each other around the baseball field, later on making noise from the visitors’ dugout. The Tampa Bay Rays clinched the division with a 37-20 record closing in on having the best record in the American League and the number one seed in the playoffs.
“We’re little kids trapped in grown men’s bodies,” said Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa’s centerfield, on Fox Sports Florida.
This is the third division crown for Tampa Bay, who’s organization began in 1998. They also won in the years 2008 and 2010. The American League East Division includes the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, and the Boston Red Sox.
“It feels great to win the division, no matter what division you’re in, but especially the American League East, it’s just a different animal,” said Kiermaier on Fox Sports Florida.
Tampa had a chance to clinch the division Tuesday, Sept. 22 against the Mets but lost 5-2. The Rays needed a win or for the New York Yankees to lose to the Toronto Blue Jays to clinch the division. Tampa Bay won Wednesday, Sept. 23 by a score of 8-5, and the Yankees lost by a blowout of 14-1.
“I think we had the game pretty much in control and certainly recognized what was going on in Buffalo, but I don’t know if you can ever prepare for a moment like that. It’s pretty special,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash on Fox Sports Florida.
Randy Arozarena, Rays outfielder, hit a home-run twice over the Mets. Joey Wendle and Brandon Lowe hit the ball deep too, backing up Tyler Glasnow, their pitcher, from a solid game only letting the Mets score twice in six innings.
“To do it on a win, everybody’s kind of riding the high of winning the game along with the division, we didn’t want to see it come down to them losing a game,” said second baseman Joey Wendle on Fox Sports Florida.
Tampa Bay will be home to play at Tropicana Field for a best-of-three first-round playoff series starting on Tuesday, Sept. 29.