x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Losers Rays come out the winners

The once-downtrodden Tampa Bay Rays are kings of baseball's American League East.

Tampa Bay Rays' Ben Zobrist, right, is congratulated by Carlos Pena after hitting a solo home run in their game against Detroit.
Tampa Bay Rays' Ben Zobrist, right, is congratulated by Carlos Pena after hitting a solo home run in their game against Detroit.

DETROIT // The once-downtrodden Tampa Bay Rays are kings of the American League East. Despite a second straight loss, Tampa Bay added another chapter to their astonishing turnaround when they clinched their first AL East division title. Tampa Bay lost 6-4 to the Detroit Tigers but claimed the title when the Boston Red Sox later lost 19-8 to the New York Yankees.

It is yet another step in the stunning turnaround of the Rays who went a major league-worst 66-96 last season and had never won more than 70 games in their 10-year existence. The Rays are the first AL team in the divisional era to finish with the worst record in their league then win the division the following year. Atlanta (1991) and the Chicago Cubs (2007) accomplished the feat in the National League.

"It's fantastic, it's wonderful, it's all the superlatives you can gather," manager Joe Maddon said. It marks the first time a team other than the Yankees or Red Sox have won the East since the Baltimore Orioles did so in 1997. "Everybody in baseball knows what this division's all about," Maddon said. Tampa Bay's game ended nearly three hours before the rain- delayed contest in Boston, and many players left to watch that one at the team's hotel. But many returned to the Comerica Park to celebrate.

"We wanted to be together for this," first baseman Carlos Pena said. "It was kind of a weird situation because of the rain [in Boston] and all that, but this is what a family's all about. It's unbelievable, man. That goes to show you how close this team is." The first play-off game in Rays history will be played on Thursday at Tropicana Field against either the Minnesota Twins or Chicago White Sox.

Tampa Bay claim there will be many more post-season appearances. * PA Sport