In this franchise's short history, most of the excitement has been generated when the team brings up some exciting prospect who had the chance at being a star, especially back in the Devil Ray days when the team wasn't a perennial contender. This article will take a look back at when some of those players, perceived stars or eventual stars, who were called up and made an impact.
When: August 6th, 2006
Where: Tropicana Field
Against: Jason Johnson of the Boston Red Sox
Situation: In the bottom of the 3rd, Tampa Bay was trailing Boston 2-0. Jason Johnson, the Red Sox starting pitcher, had retired every batter he's faced. Johnson had just struck out Russell Branyan, to bring up Ben Zobrist with 2 outs. Zobrist quickly fell behind 0-2 after taking 2 called strikes, then he fouled off the next pitch and took another for a ball.
Zobrist fouled off 2 more pitches, before finally connecting a pitch that was right beneath his chin and lifted a high fly ball over the right field wall for a Solo HR to cut the lead to 2-1, Red Sox. It was the kind of swing that let you know that Zobrist contained a lot of power. It was short and compact with most of the strength coming from Zobrist's arms and he launched that ball a couple of rows deep in the right field bleachers.
Later in the game, Zobrist also had a 2 RBI double that made the game 6-4, Red Sox. Tampa Bay eventually would win the game 7-6, on a walkoff HR by Greg Norton in the bottom of the 10th.
When: August 29th, 2006
Where: U.S. Cellular Field
Against: Freddy Garcia of the Chicago White Sox
Situation: Delmon Young was making his MLB debut, in his 1st AB in the top of the 2nd, he was hit by the very 1st pitch he saw. He struck out in the top of the 4th, and came up again in the top of the 6th with Tampa Bay Trailing 7-3. Jorge Cantu had flown out to start the inning, and Kevin Witt followed him with a single to right to bring Young to the plate.
Young swung at the 1st pitch he saw and lined it over the wall in left for a 2-Run HR to make the game 7-5, White Sox. The ball was like a missile off of Young's bat, in a span of 4 seconds travelling from the strike zone, over the White Sox bullpen, and banging off a concrete wall. The noise when the ball met the concrete was loud enough to be heard over the upset crowd and a dejected Hawk Harrleson.
Young's 2-Run HR would be all Tampa Bay would score in the inning, later in the game the team would mount a rally, but eventually lost 12-9.
When: April 2nd, 2007 (Opening Day)
Where: Yankee Stadium
Against: Carl Pavano of the New York Yankees
Situation: The Devil Rays were trailing 3-1 in top of the 5th. Elijah Dukes led the inning off against the Yankees' starter, Carl Pavano.
During the AB, the Yankees' announcers were commenting on how good Pavano had been thus far outside of a rough 2nd inning. Dukes, who was making his MLB debut, interrupted the announcers by taking a viscous swing at a Pavano fastball, sending it to straighaway center, and clearing the wall by at least a dozen feet. Dukes' swing was quick and violent, and he ran very hard out of the box. In face, he was halfway to 2nd when the ball sailed over the wall, and he did some glorious fist pumping to celebrate what was hopefully the first of many.
Tampa Bay would regain the lead in the at-bats that followed Dukes. B.J. Upton singled and stole 2nd, he would score and tie the game at 3 on a Carl Crawford single. Crawford would advance to 3rd on the throw/error. Rocco Baldelli singled Crawford home to give Tampa Bay a 1 run lead, also chasing Pavano from the game and bringing in Brian Bruney. Baldelli would score after stealing 2nd during Ty Wigginton's AB, and crossing home on a Delmon Young single to give the D-Rays a 5-3 lead. The lead was short lived though, the Yankees would make a comeback and win, 9-5.
When: April 6th, 2007
Where: Tropicana Field
Against: Gustavo Chacin of the Toronto Blue Jays
Situation: Akinori Iwamura would be leading of bottom of the 5th, the Devil Rays were already up 2-0 thanks to a pair of HR's by Ty Wigginton and B.J. Upton. Dewayne Staats and Joe Magrane had been discussing before if Iwamura's power would transition from Japan, and when Aki connected off of Gustavo Chacin's 1st pitch of the inning for a no-doubter to make the game 3-0, Tampa Bay.
Iwamura ripped the pitch a couple of rows deep in right-center field, right beside the Rays tank. As soon as the ball left Iwamura's bat, everyong -- including Aki (who included a subtle bat flip) -- knew it was gone. Dewayne Staats deemed it The Ultimate Aki-Knock.
The Blue Jays would come back and take a 2 run lead, when Troy Glaus homered off of Shawn Camp in 8th inning, but the Devil Rays would tie the game in the 9th on a 2 run HR by Delmon Young off of BJ Ryan and eventually win on a walkoff RBI single by BJ Upton.
Iwamura was the winning run and went 4-4 in the game.
When: April 14th, 2008
Where: Tropicana Field
Against: Brian Bruney of the New York Yankees
Situation: Entering the bottom of the 7th, Tampa Bay was trailing 7-2. The Yankees starting pitcher, Ian Kennedy, gave up an infield single to Jason Bartlett to start the inning. Ian Kennedy was than taken out of the game and replaced by Billy Traber, who would get Akinori Iwamura to lineout to Bobby Abreu in right, to bring up Crawford with Bartlett on 1st and 1 out. Crawford would take Traber's 2nd pitch and deposit it into the right field seats for a 2 run HR to make it 7-4, NY. Traber than hit Carlos Pena with a pitch and was replaced by Brian Bruney. With a 0-2 count, Upton drove the ball over the wall in Center for a 2 run HR to make it 7-6, NY and bring up Evan Longoria up to bat.
Longoria would work the count full, and on Bruney's 6th pitch with the crowd almost deafening, Evan connected. Dewayne Staats says it best:
And there's a drive! High and deep to Left! GONE! First big-league Home Run for Evan Longoria! And it TIES the game, it's a 7-7 ball game!
It truly was a great HR to put an exclamation point on the rally.
Unfortunately, Tampa Bay would give the lead back in the top of the 8th, thanks to Al Reyes giving up a HR to Robinson Cano to give the Yankees a 8-7 lead. New York would eventually win, 8-7.
When: June 22nd, 2013
Where: Yankee Stadium
Against: CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees
Situation: Entering the top of the 6th, the Rays were behind 3-1 against CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees. Sam Fuld led off the inning with a walk, followed by a double by Desmond Jennings to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with none out. Sabathia would strike out Sean Rodriguez and get Ben Zobrist to hit a popout in foul territory to Lyle Overbay for the 2nd out of the inning.
Sabathia intentionally walked Evan Longoria to bring up Wil Myers. Sabathia got Myers to swing through his 1st pitch, followed by a ball and a called strike. Finally, Myers took Sabathia's 1-2 pitch and lifted it to right field, where Brett Gardner tried to make the catch, but the ball ricocheted off of his glove and into the seats to give Myers his 1st career HR -- a Grand Slam -- and the Rays a 5-3 lead.
When Myers connected, he also unleashed his 1st professional bat flip, and when he saw the ball end up in the seats, he let out an easy-lip-reading celebratory yell.
Unfortunately, the Rays would blow the lead later when Joel Peralta loaded the bases in the bottom of the 7th, with no outs. Jake McGee replaced Peralta but wasn't able to hold the lead allowing all 3 inherited runners to score, plus 1 of his own to give the Yankees a 5-7 lead. The Yankees would go on to win with that score.
Steven Souza, Jr.
When: September 17th, 2014
Where: Turner Field
Against: Alex Wood of the Atlanta Braves
Entering the top of the 5th, the game was tied at 0. Nate Schierholtz led off the inning for the Washington Nationals by striking out against Alex Wood. That would bring up Steven Souza Jr, who had not tallied a hit since being re-called when rosters expanded. Souza had been up at other points in the season, but had only recorded one hit back on April 15th against the Miami Marlins.
With a 1-1 count, Souza launched Wood's pitch on a towering drive to straightaway center field and over the wall for a massive HR, giving the Nationals a 1-0 lead. As soon as the ball left Souza's bat, former Rays center fielder BJ Upton gave up on it, almost immediately, astonishing the MASN announcer. Bossman knew how to read a hit.
That ball landed what would have been 10-15 rows up in center, had it actually hit seats. It was the second longest HR hit by National in 2014. That'd be the only run that Washington would score, the Nationals would give the lead away in 6th, when 3 runs would score because of an error. The Braves would go on to win 3-1.