The Madness of September

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 27: Infielder Reid Brignac #15 of the Tampa Bay Rays hugs B.J. Upton #2 after he scored against the New York Yankees during the game at Tropicana Field on September 27, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

We're not used to this.

Never in the teams' previous 13 seasons had we as fans gone through anything quite like the past month. The first 10 years were spent in anguish. The last four have been relative ecstasy in comparison, well, as much ecstasy as one can be in without winning a championship. In 2008 and 2010 the Rays had a spot in the playoffs wrapped up before the final days ticked off the schedule. The team battled for first place, and had some very intense games in doing so, but the Wild Card was a lock. That meant no must win games. No sitting on the edge of your seat, hands tensed, clutching the cushions of the couch with every pitch. But this month? Overflowing with them.

It was thrilling. It was exasperating. And, finally, it’s over. We can all breathe. If all 162 games felt like the past ~30 I don’t know if there would be any survivors. Over the past month we’ve seen B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria, two of the longest tenured Rays, morph into supermen. Upton’s OPS over that time? 1.005. Longoria? .984. No other regular was within 100 points. When the Rays needed an offensive jolt it was these two providing it. We saw Jake McKee and Brandon Gomes step up to be key contributors to the bullpen. Joel Peralta was outstanding, saving four games on his way to post a 0.90 ERA and 11.00 K/BB. James Shields kept his redemption tour going by averaging eight innings in his six starts. Matt Joyce, after begging his father to attend, playing for the team he grew up rooting for, hit a go ahead home run to keep the Rays season alive. Rookie Matt Moore, in Yankee Stadium for his first career start, dazzled and halted a three game losing streak. Another rookie, Alex Torres, pitched five scoreless innings of relief against Toronto in a game the Rays had to win. They turned a freaking triple play in one of the biggest moments of the season for crying out loud. All of that pales in comparison to last night.

It’s tough to adequately express the feelings of Rays fans as Longoria’s home run flew over the short porch in left. How do you put a full body orgasm into words? A few hours earlier I had the feeling of all my organs wanting to be projectile vomited from my body. This team changed that, like they always seem to do.

Last year I wrote that the 2011 team would be my favorite to follow, win or lose. Never did I expect them to make the greatest comeback in baseball history. That part hasn’t quite sunken in yet. If they sold DVDs of every game from the past month I’d watch it on a loop for the next six months. It’s everything you want from baseball.

We'll never see another 30 days like it.

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