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Remembering the 2005 Devil Rays Season

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Jeff Lewis-USA TODAY Sports

Record: 67-95, 28 GB in the AL East

Allstar: Danys Baez

Win Leader: Mark Hendrickson with 11

HR leader: Jorge Cantu with 28

Top 10 Prospects: 1.  Delmon Young 2.  Scott Kazmir  3.  Joey Gathright 4.  Jason Hammel 5.  Reid Brignac 6.  James Houser 7.  Elijah Dukes 8.  Chad Orvella 9.  Seth McClung 10.  Wes Bankston

In 2014, the Tampa Bay Rays finished with a disappointing record of 77-85.  The season was a huge letdown, considering the expectations heading into Spring Training when the Rays were tabbed as World Series favorites.  It's easy to forget that just 10 years ago, that record would have been celebrated as the best in team history.

Heading into 2005, the only thing fans were looking forward to seeing was Scott Kazmir in his 1st full season, Carl Crawford putting up another Allstar caliber season, Aubrey Huff providing the power, and Rocco Baldelli continuing to progress into a star.  During the offseason, Tampa Bay also signed some big name, aging veterans to draw crowds such as Hideo Nomo and Roberto Alomar.

Kazmir did have a very nice sophomore season, Crawford pretty much duplicated his 2004 season, Huff slumped for the majority of the season, Baldelli was down for the season with injuries, and the veterans that were brought in were gone by July.  Alomar retired in Spring Training and Nomo was DFA'd in July after posting terrible numbers.  Some new young stars emerged for the Devil Rays though, as Alomar's retirement opened the door for Jorge Cantu to have one of the best offensive season in Rays history.

Rocco Baldelli tore his ACL in November of 2004 playing basketball with his family, requiring knee surgery, meaning he wouldn't return until mid-season.  In June, while rehabbing his knee, Baldelli felt soreness in his elbow.  After being examined by a team doctor, Baldelli was sent to Dr James Andrews, who told Baldelli that he would require Tommy Johm Surgery, making 2005 a lost season for the young outfielder.

When Baldelli was first injured, the Devil Rays signed Danny Bautista to fill in until his return.  Bautista would retire on the same day as Alomar, making Tampa Bay require another outfielder.  To fill that void, Alex Sanchez was brought it.  Sanchez was given a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he would become the 1st victim of MLB's new drug testing policy and had to serve a 10-day suspension.  All of the chaos with the Outfield opened the door for Jonny Gomes, who ended up leading all MLB rookies in homeruns.

April - Walkoffs and a Brawl

Month Record 8-16 / Team Record 8-16

Dewon Brazelton was named the team's Opening Day starter and pitched a good game against Toronto, but he went against Roy Halladay who pitched slightly better to give the Blue Jays the victory.  The Devil Rays would lose the next game, but end the opening series with a victory.

On April 8th, Tampa Bay started a 3 game series against the Oakland A's at Tropicana Field.  Nick Green, who was acquired at the end of Spring Training from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Jorge Sosa, was making his 1st start for the Devil Rays.  So far, he'd gone 0-3 with a sac-bunt, when he came up in the bottom of the 10th after Juan Cruz allowed a triple to Gathright and intentionally walked Crawford.  On Cruz's 1st pitch, Crawford advanced to 2nd on Defensive Indifference to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with none out.  This forced Oakland to have the infield in, and on an 0-2 pitch, Greene broke his bat and softly lined the ball over  Mark Ellis' head and into right field to bring Gathright home for the winning run.

Tampa Bay would win the next game 11-2, to put them at 3-2, it was only point during the season that the team be above .500.  After a stretch of 11 games where the Devil Rays went 4-7, the Red Sox came to the Trop for an eventful 3 game series.

Scott Kazmir started the 1st game of the series on Friday, April 22nd, and pitched a great game going 7 innings allowing only only 1 run.  Kazmir put the D-Rays in position to win the game heading into the 9th inning with a 4-2 lead.  Danys Baez came on to try and close the game out, but failed, allowing the Red Sox to tie the game.  Terry Francona brought in Alan Embree to face pinch hitter Eduardo Perez in the bottom of the 9th.  With Embree's 1st pitch, Perez launched a HR that hit a catwalk in LF to give Tampa Bay a 5-4 win.

The next game would feature little drama, but set the groundwork for the third game's fireworks.  With 2 outs in the bottom of the 7th, Curt Schilling hit Crawford with the 1st pitch of the AB after not walking any batters to that point.  In the top of the 8th, Seth McClung hit the 1st batter of the inning, Kevin Millar.  That would be that last of the players being hit in that game, and the Devil Rays would go on to win 6-5.

In the series finale, the drama started to unfold in the bottom of the 6th with the Red Sox leading 4-2.  Bronson Arroyo had already retired Sanchez and Julio Lugo, to bring up Huff.  On the 2nd pitch of Huff's AB, he was hit by a pitch and clearly thought it was intentional, but he took his base without recourse.  In top of the 7th, Lance Carter got Trot Nixon to pop out to bring up Manny Ramirez.  Carter's 1st pitch was behind Ramirez, which prompted warnings from home plate umpire, Ted Barrett.  Ramirez sent Carter's next pitch into the LF seats to make it 5-2, Boston.

David Ortiz was next up and Carter's 1-2 pitch went right over Ortiz's head, causing the benches to empty and the players to charge the field. The 2 biggest instigators were Nixon and Brazelton.  Nixon claimed he was poked in the eye during the altercation, thus increasing his anger.  The incident resulted in Brazelton, Nixon, Carter, and Lou Pinella being ejected.  The action still wasn't done though, in the bottom half, Arroyo hit Singleton with the 1st pitch of the inning.  Singleton's 1st motion was towards the mound, but thought better of it. The benches emptied nonetheless, Arroyo was ejected, as was Terry Francona.  Boston went on to win 11-3.

May - Brazelton Sent Down, Hamilton Arrested, a 10-Run 1st

Month Record 11-18 / Team Record 19-34

Not much happened in May, except for some disappointment with prospects.  Brazelton started the season 1-7 in 8 starts, earning the Opening Day starter a demotion to Triple-A Durham on May 11th. Only, Brazelton didn't report to Durham until about 3 weeks later after dealing with off the field issues.  Another Rays prospect, Josh Hamilton, was also dealing with the off the field issues. Hamilton was arrested on May 21st for misdemeanor damage to property, who at this point in time, had been suspended for 2 years and in a recovery program.  Some of the highlights of the month include a Cantu walkoff HR against Shingo Takatsu and the Chicago White Sox on May 10th, and also the call up of Damon Hollins who took Travis Lee's place on the roster after he was placed on the 15-day DL on May 2nd.  Hollins would put up an excellent month of May with an AVG of .325 and 6 HR in 80 AB also slashing .368/.600/.968.

One of the best moments of the month would come on May 25th against the Oakland Athletics, when the team would set a franchise record for runs in an opening inning. Crawford started the inning with a triple and Julio Lugo would follow that, with a double to center to score Crawford.  Hollins chopped a ball over Joe Blanton's head for an infield single.  Lee followed the single with a double down the right field line, scoring Lugo and advancing Hollins to 3rd.

Josh Phelps walked to load the bases for Cantu, who would line a double over Mark Kotsay's head in center scoring Hollins and Lee and advancing Phelps to 3rd.  Sanchez would ground a ball past Blanton that Mark Ellis couldn't find a handle on for an infield single.  Toby Hall would hit a groundball to 3rd that Eric Chavez misplayed for an E5, loading the bases for Green, with still nobody out and 5 runs had scored, Green would lift a Sac-Fly to Kotsay to score Cantu from 3rd, for the 1st out of the inning and ended Blanton's night.

Britt Reames would replace Blanton, and immediately give up a 3-Run HR to Crawford.  Lugo would pop out, and Hollins would end the scoring for the inning with a solo HR to left.  Reames would finally end the inning by getting Lee to fly out.  When it came time for the top of the 2nd, the score was 10-0, Tampa Bay.

Joe Blanton's line for the night:  0.1 IP, 6 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 1BB.  The Devil Rays would eventually go on to win 14-6.

June - Small and Big Losses, Pinella Snaps at New Owners, and the Draft

Month Record 8-18 / Team Record 27-52

The Devil Rays opened up the month losing 8 of the 1st 9 games, twice on walkoff's.  The team allowed at least 10 runs in 6 games, including an 11-20 loss to the New York Yankees on June 21st that set numerous team records including most hits given up to an opponent (23).  Tensions were boiling over after the terrible start to the season, and Lou Pinella publicly snapped at the new ownership after a brutal 18-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 11th.

Nothing went right for the team in June, including the annual draft on June 7th when they selected Wade Townsend instead of players like Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Matt Garza.  Townsend would never make it to the majors after dealing with shoulder issues.

The team also made several changes to the roster, releasing Charles Johnson, placing Trever Miller on the DL, and releasing Alex Sanchez.  Releasing Sanchez was a surprising move, he was one of the team's more consistent players, he batted .372 in May and .346 as a whole with the team.  Sanchez was released, because he had requested more playing time.

Some of the high points would be Nomo's 200th career victory on June 15th, against the Milwaukee Brewerscaught by future Rays manager Kevin Cash on June 15th.  Meanwhile, Jorge Cantu, Jonny Gomes, and Carl Crawford all put up great months.

July - Gomes' Walkoff, Baez an Allstar, and Possible Mega Deal

Month Record 13-14 / Team Record 40-66

July started off badly for the Rays, losing 8 straight.  It came close to 9 on the night of July 9th with Hurricane Dennis approaching, the Detroit Tigers took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the 9th.  The Tigers called upon Troy Percival to close out the game.  Percival retired Cantu to start the inning, but allowed Lee to bloop a single into left.  That brought up Jonny Gomes and on Percival's 1st pitch, Gomes launched a massive HR 474 ft to dead center that hit the top of the Batter's Eye Restaurant. It was, as the time, the 2nd longest HR in Tropicana Field's history and also gave the Devil Rays a 4-3 win to snap a 10 game losing streak.

Danys Baez was named the team's lone Allstar, despite Carl Crawford being on the final vote where he lost to Scott Podsednik of the Chicago White Sox.  Baez wouldn't appear in the Allstar game.  The team would feature some shaking up after the Allstar beak, Hideo Nomo was DFA'd and eventually released, Joe Borowski was signed during the break, and on July 22nd, the Devil Rays optioned Lance Carter, their lone 2003 Allstar game representative, to Durham and called up Pete LaForest to replaced Kevin Cash who was released.

There were also a lot of trade rumors swirling around, particularly one that involved most of Tampa Bay's star players such as Julio Lugo, Aubrey Huff, and Danyz Baez.  The trade would have sent Huff to the Boston Red Sox, Lugo and Baez to the Mets.

The Red Sox would have sent 2 of their top prospects, either Jon Lester and Hanley Ramirez or Kelly Shoppach and Anibal Sanchez, to the Devil Rays.  The Mets would have sent Mike Cameron to Boston and Lastings Milledge to Tampa Bay, and the Red Sox would have sent Manny Ramirez to the Mets.

Boston nixed the deal though when they felt like wouldn't get enough for Ramirez, presuming they were giving up too much.

August - Above .500 Month, Cantu's Bat and a Walkoff Walk

Month Record 15-13 / Team Record 55-79

In August, the Devil Rays had their first month where they played above .500 since June of 2004.  Jorge Cantu was at the center of the turnaround, in August, Cantu hit .327, he slashed .350/.609/.960 with 7 HR and 28 RBI.  At one point, the team won 8 of 9 and 12 of 16, including a walkoff win against the Yankees on August 16th.  That game featured a masterful pitching performance by Doug Waechter, he went 9 innings, allowing 3 runs (2 earned).

Despite Waechter's performance, the Rays entered the bottom of the 9th trailing 3-2 and the Yankees brought on Mariano Rivera to close out the game.  Rivera struck out Cantu to start the inning to bring up Eduardo Perez. With a 1-1 count, Perez who had hit a 2-Run HR off of Randy Johnson earlier in the game, took Rivera's pitch and lifted it over the LF wall to tie the game at 3. Chad Orvella came on in relief of Waechter in the 10th and he pitched 2 scoreless innings.  In the bottom of the 11th, the Devil Rays had loaded the bases against a combo of Alan Embree and Scott Proctor.  Embree allowed a double to Crawford, Proctor had walked Perez on 5 pitches, and intentionally walked Huff to bring up Gomes with the bases loaded and 2 outs.  Proctor walked Gomes on 4 pitches to bring Crawford in from 3rd to win the game, 4-3.

September/October - Cantu Sets RBI Mark, Kazmir Sets SO Mark, and Winning 2nd Half

Month Records 12-16 / Team Record 67-95

With the season coming to a close, records were close to being broken.  Jonny Gomes had already blew past the Rays rookie mark for HR in a season, Jorge Cantu was fast approaching the single season RBI record, and Scott Kazmir was racking up the strike outs on his way to setting the team's single season SO record.  Heading into the Allstar Break, the Devil Rays had compiled a 28-61 record.  Since that point, the team has played over .500, going 39-34.

Jorge Cantu was putting up a very surprising offensive season, after coming into Spring Training with the role of backing up Roberto Alomar or Alex Gonzalez.  After Alomar announced his retirement, Cantu stepped into a starting spot and put up one of the better seasons in Rays history.

On September 19th, Cantu tied the team team record for RBI's (107) set by Aubrey Huff in 2003.  During that day's game against the Red Sox, Cantu hit a 2-Run HR off of Jonathan Papelbon to put him at 107.

The next day, Cantu set a new record when he hit a Solo HR against Curt Schilling in the 1st inning to put him at 108.  Canutu would finish the season with 28 HR, 117 RBI even garnered some MVP votes, finishing 27th on the ballot.  It was only the 2nd time in team history that a player had received MVP votes, Aubrey Huff was voted 24th for his 2003 campaign.

Scott Kazmir was easily the Devil Rays most dominant pitcher of 2005, and he was only 21 years old.

On September 27th, Kazmir made a start against the Cleveland Indians needing only 6 strike outs to pass Tony Saunders mark of 172 set in 1998.  Kazmir pitched 6 solid innings to pick up his 10th win, with his usual control problems walking 5, but also only allowed 1 run and struck out 7 to surpass Saunders and set a new team record for strike outs.  That was Kazmir's last appearance of his rookie season, he finished 10-9 with a 3.77 ERA to go with his record, 174 strike outs.

Kazmir also finished 9th in that year's Rookie of the Year voting, where Jonny Gomes came in 3rd.  It was the 4th time in team history that they've had a player featured in the voting; Rocco Baldelli in 2003, Steve Cox in 2000, and Rolando Arrojo in 1998.

Three Rays would eventually go on to win the award: Evan Longoria (2008), Jeremy Hellickson (2011), and Wil Myers (2013).

END OF SEASON

When the season came to a close, Lou Pinella was bought out of his contract vacating the managerial position, and after many interviews, Joe Maddon was brought in too replace Pinella as the new ownership took control of team.  Josh Hamilton was reinstated from the restricted list, but was left off the 40-man roster. He was selected by the Chicago Cubs during the Rule 5 Draft, than sold to the Cincinnati Reds.