The stage is set! Via the Tampa Tribune -
The calendar says end of July, but this weekend’s showdown between the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees at Tropicana Field will have a pennant race feel.
All three games of the series have sold out, the Rays said Thursday, marking the first time the club has sold out three consecutive games.
“I think it’s going to be very intense, and we always welcome that,” first baseman Carlos Pena said after driving in all four runs for the Rays in Thursday’s 4-2 victory against the Detroit Tigers. “Who doesn’t love playing in front of big crowds? That’s really a dream right there. When you have a packed house, you cannot even hear yourself talk.”
The Rays (63-38) swept the Tigers and have won six in a row to stay two games behind the Yankees (65-36) in the American League East.
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon reiterated the Rays’ philosophy of not giving any game or series more weight than another, but admitted he’s looking forward to the big-game atmosphere.
“I’m sure there’s going to be quite a vibe,” he said. “I just think whenever we get our full house in here, our guys feel it, and it’s kind of fun for everybody. We just played up there (dropping two of three at Yankee Stadium); I thought it was an interesting series right after the All-Star break. They’re still playing well, we’re playing well; I think it will be interesting.”
The Rays and Yankees have split their eight games this year, with Tampa Bay holding a 3-2 advantage at Yankee Stadium. This will be New York’s first visit to the Trop since taking two out of three April 9-11.
I have to confess, this series is a high-point in the season for me. It has the feel of one of those late season Yankees-Red Sox series in Fenway during 1977-78. It’s going to be a litmus test, if you ask me. And, I am very anxious to see how both teams respond during these games.