Feel… The Heat… RAYS.

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This could be the game which defines this magical season, and hopefully turns the recent woes of the Rays around. After being shut out 2 games in a row, the Rays finally scored some runs- but not many. As his been the case most of the year, they manage to score enough.

So it was tonight, the night of what many considered the franchise’s most important game to date. They needed a win, as all of the sudden, the Red Sox closed a sizable 5.5 game lead to .5 a game. This one was for the lead, a lead that had been the Rays’ for months. Dan Wheeler, one of the more dependable pitchers in the bullpen came on in the bottom of the eighth. The unthinkable happened. Jason Bay launched one over the Green Monster. Goodbye 3-2 lead. Goodbye game. Goodbye division lead. We didn’t even have to worry about Troy Percival this time.

Not so fast.

Enter Johnathan Papelbon, one of the most reliable closers in the league. The way things have been going for the Rays lately, they seemed destined to lose another heart breaker, perhaps begin the closing chapters of a season tragedy instead of a romance.

Enter Dan Johnson. Briefly played earlier in the year due to some injuries, but has been down in the minors. He was supposed to be in the starting lineup for the Rays. He was late due to flight delays and that dreadful Boston traffic. Talk about a home field advantage. Manager Joe Maddon had no choice but to leave him on the bench, but he told him to be ready.

Calmly and coolly, he faced Papelbon. Calmly and coolly he delivered a deflating blow to the sold out crowd at Fenway, where fate always seems to bite the team that lets the Sox hang around.

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Silence. 4-4. Tie ballgame. Eduardo Perez, then delivered another drive off the top of that Green Monster. He was on second before the ball hit the cutoff man. Then Dioner Navarro finally drove in the first man of the night who was in scoring position. The Rays went 1-15 in that category tonight. The one that counted the most, making the difference.

It was then left up to the veteran gunslinger Troy Percival, looking to avenge a blown save from the day before. He walked the first man, and all of the sudden the winning run at the plate. Who wasn’t thinking walk-off?

Bend but don’t break.

A timely strike out and a skyscraper of a pop out by David Ortiz put the Rays one out away from finishing the fight. A hit and it was tied. Do or die. And Percival finally delivered a shut out inning for the first time in, well no one can remember. But it doesn’t matter right now. The job was done.

Boston’s dominance in Beantown is dead and the division lead is still in tact.

Most importantly, hopes for a division crown live on.

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“DL” Blues

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Is it all starting to come apart for the Rays? We knew that one of the faces of the franchise, Carl Crawford, was gong to end up on the DL after an injury to a finger. Now defensive AND offensive stud rookie Evan Longoria will be joining hm on the 15 day disabled list, after Longo took a pitch to the wrist, resulting in a slight fracture. The question is, should we begin to panic? This isn’t the first time where the Rays have had tough circumstances regarding the unavailability of players. The classic Rays – Red Sox brawl back in June resulted in 5 suspensions for the Rays.

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Navarro, Kazmir, Pena and Bartlett have all had a stint on the DL this year also. So, while it may be tough that it is two of the most marketable, and well, most exciting players, its time for the bench to step in again to deliver the Rays. Most notably, you KNOW that Dominican utility man Willy Aybar is ready to play any position. He has been used to plug up any holes in the infield the Rays have had, playing four positions in the infield. He also provides a clutch, opportunistic offensive threat. The same thing with Ben Zobrist, who has recently proved he can also play outfield, though it will probably be Eric Hinske and Gabe Gross out in left. Don’t forget the return of Rocco Baldelli in right field, as he has slowly been able to recuperate from a diagnosed mitochondrial disorder. Hopefully he can provide the right-handed bat the Rays have been lacking.

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