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Rays clinch it with 6-2 victory

October 07, 2008|From the Associated Press

CHICAGO -- They rushed toward the mound, these remarkable Rays, and immediately formed a circle. Jumping together like fraternity brothers, they resembled party regulars in the postseason.

Worst in the majors last year, Tampa Bay will play for a spot in the World Series.

"It means everything. We've been at the bottom of the barrel for so long," B.J. Upton said Monday after homering twice in a 6-2 win over Chicago that clinched their division series. "I think there was a point in time where people didn't even know who we were."

They do now, for sure.

Andy Sonnanstine pitched 5 2/3 solid innings and Manager Joe Maddon's surprising Rays won 3-1 in the best-of-five series -- their first trip to the postseason. Next up, they will play host to Boston in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night.

"We feel like we belong and it's showing right now," Upton said.

After staving off elimination several times and winning a tiebreaker for the AL Central title, the White Sox were finally knocked out.

The loss dashed Chicago's hope for a championship -- days ago, local fans were thinking the Cubs and White Sox might meet in a Windy City Classic. But the Cubs got swept by the Dodgers and now both teams are done.

"They played better than us. There's no doubt. They pitched better. They execute better. They got big hits," White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen said. "They really did a tremendous job."

Upton, the game's second batter, homered to left-center. He went deep again in the third, driving a full-count pitch from Gavin Floyd to center, and the confident Rays had a two-run cushion. Tampa Bay, which never won more than 70 games during its 10 previous seasons, went from 96 losses last year to 97 wins.

"It's good for baseball for a team like Tampa to win," White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said. "It's too bad they had to beat us, but it's good for the game."

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