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July 27, 2008 at 6:01 am ET
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Counting Down To 70…. 61

The Devil Rays franchise record for victories in a season is set to fall sometime next week. While some would rather pretend the first 10 years of Devil Ray baseball never happened, we here at Bugs & Cranks have always seen them for what they truly were…. A Prelude To Dynasty.

With every win until the record falls, we’ll look back and commemorate the accomplishments and sacrifices of those proud, heroic Devil Rays who made this historic season possible. We begin with a look back at every 61st win in the history of Devil Ray baseball, and try to determine which was the greatest of all….

Some of the key performers in past win number sixty-ones: Lidle, Baldelli, Gathright, Crawford, Lugo, Kazmir.

September 19, 1998 – Tropicana Field. Devil Rays 6, Blue Jays 1. In front of a fervent home crowd of 32,053 fans, our Devil Rays spoil the Blue Jays chances to catch the Red Sox in the Wild Card race, handing them their fourth defeat in their first four visits to Tropicana Field. D-Rays starter Bryan Rekar gets his second win of the season with an impressive line: 8 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 6 K, 0 BB. The only blemish comes on a first inning solo shot by Toronto’s Jose Canseco. Paul Sorrento keys the Devil Rays offense, homering and going 3-for-3 with 3 RBI.

September 4, 1999 – Tropicana Field. Devil Rays 11, Twins 3. After the Twins tie the game in the 7th, our Devil Rays drop 6 runs on Minnesota in the bottom of the inning. The main offensive hero is third baseman Herbert Perry, a Florida native, who goes 4-for-5 and drives in 5 runs. The win moves us within a half-game of 4th place Baltimore and puts some distance our Devil Rays, who have the 11th-best record in the American League, and the Twins who are 12th.

September 8, 2000 – Network Associates Coliseum. Devil Rays 4, Oakland 0. With Oakland in the thick of both the AL West and AL Wild Card races, the late Cory Lidle limited the A’s to only two hits over 7 innings. (Both hits came from the bat of Jason Giambi, Lidle’s high school teammate.) Doug Creek pitched the last two innings of the combined two-hitter, and earned his first Major League save. (It turned out to be the only save of Creek’s Major League career, and now he’s a professional fisherman and charter boat captain.) With the bats, Vinny Castilla had an RBI-double, and Greg Vaughn added some insurance with a 9th-inning solo homer.

October 5, 2001 – Tropicana Field. Devil Rays 4, Yankees 1. Possibly fueled by performance-enhancing drugs, Roger Clemens started 2001 with an impressive 20-1 record. On September 25 at That Old Dump In The Bronx, our Devil Rays dropped his record to 20-2. Ten days later, the Yankees snuck out to a 3-0 lead in support of their fiery fireballer. But our Devil Rays got to Clemens in the second inning, taking the lead after a pair of 2-run doubles by shortstop Chris Gomez and leftfielder Jason Tyner. Toby Hall provided some insurance in the 7th with a 3-run double. Rookie reliever Victor Zambrano, a one-time infielder in the Yankees farm system, pitched two scoreless innings to earn his second save. After being handed his third loss of the season and second in three starts, Clemens in his characteristically churlish manner gave our Devil Rays little credit after the game. But we had provided the blueprint that our expansion brethren in Arizona would use to take advantage in the World Series, as the Yankees choked horribly and ushered in a new millennium of Monument Park-size Yankee failure.

September 22, 2003 – SkyDome. Devil Rays 5, Toronto 2. Julio Lugo led off the 6th inning with a home run off Roy “Billie” Halladay to open the inning. The next batter, Aubrey Huff singled. Halladay then hit the next batter, Rocco Baldelli — and was ejected from the game. In a 1-0 game. Apparently pre-game warnings had been issued because Carl Crawford had made insulting (and, no doubt, completely justified) comments about the Blue Jays lineup. Our Devil Rays took advantage and added 4 more runs in the inning with RBI singles from Damian Rolls, Marlon Anderson and Crawford. Devil Rays starter Rob Bell took a no-hitter into the 7th before it was broken up by Vernon Wells. Halladay took the loss, and was thwarted in his attempt to set a Toronto franchise record for wins in a season.

September 12, 2004 – Kauffman Stadium. Devil Rays 7, Kansas City 2. Starter Jorge Sosa pitched 7 scoreless innings, while the Devil Rays pounded 15 hits off Royals pitching. Tino Martinez, Julio Lugo and Jose Cruz each had 3 hits. The win put 3 games between our Devil Rays and last-place Toronto.

September 16, 2005 – Camden Yards. Devil Rays 6, Baltimore 1. Scott Kazmir limited the O’s to 1 run over 6 innings, walking 5 but allowing only 2 hits. Carl Crawford had a home run and a double, Julio Lugo stroked two doubles, and Jorge Cantu hit a pair of homers. Danys Baez came into a 9th-inning jam and earned his 39th save of the year.

September 27, 2006 – Fenway Park. Devil Rays 11, Boston 0. Starter Tim Corcoran shut out the Red Sox for 6 2/3. Our Devil Rays got two quick first-inning runs off Josh Beckett. It was still 2-0 in the top of the 6th when our Devil Rays tagged Beckett for 6 runs on their way to a 9-run inning. The big inning featured the first big league RBI of The Diesel Shawn Riggans, Rocco Baldelli’s 15th home run of the season, two RBI doubles from Ty “Wiggy” Wigginton, and an RBI triple from Carl Crawford. The loss dropped the Sox into third place.

September 10, 2007 – Fenway Park. Devil Rays 1, Boston 0. The Mayor of Devil Ray Town, Cork Gaines of Rays Index, called this game “a defining moment in the young career of the Devil Rays young hurler, Scott Kazmir.” The Mayor also wrote, “That 7th inning was as big an inning we have ever seen by a Devil Rays pitcher,” and noted that Kazmir’s 117th of 118 pitches was a 96 mph fastball. That was what manager “Coach Joe” Maddon was going for, clearly foreseeing this year’s epic season of emergence:

“Based on the whole vibe of the night, I wanted him to get used to pitching in these situations,” Maddon said. “When I went out to the mound, I said, ‘This is not a normal game. This is a playoff game.'”

The Red Sox had a comfortable lead over the Yankees in the AL East, and an even more comfortable lead in the Wild Card, but they hadn’t clinched anything yet. It was also the first time in over 6 years Boston had lost a 1-0 game at Fenway. Dan Wheeler and The Eraser Al Reyes closed out the last two innings. Delmon Young went 3-for-4 in the game but was ejected in the top of the 9th for tossing his helmet. The winning run came in the 5th with a Josh Wilson sac fly off Curt Schilling.

***

Here’s how I would rank them, though it’s certainly up for debate and I look forward to your always insightful comments:

  1. 2007 Kazmir comes of age, wins playoff(-like) game at Fenway
  2. 2001 Handing Roger Clemens his 3rd loss and instilling doubt in the Yankees
  3. 2000 Two-hitting the A’s in Oakland
  4. 2003 Thwarting Roy “Billie” Halladay’s Record Attempt at SkyDome + near no-no
  5. 2006 Winning 11-0 in Fenway
  6. 1998 Keeping the Blue Jays winless at The Trop
  7. 1999 Pounding The Twins, 11-3
  8. 2005 Kazmir and Crawford lead a lopsided win in Baltimore
  9. 2004 Easy win in Kansas City
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2 Responses to “Counting Down To 70…. 61”
  1. That ejection was horseshit. The end.

  2. joe says:

    fuck the devil rays, just waitin for their collapse

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