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2008 Tampa Bay Rays
From BR Bullpen
 2008 Tampa Bay Rays / Franchise: Tampa Bay Rays / BR Team Page
 Season Highlights
The Tampa Bay Rays turned over a new leaf for the 2008 season by changing their name from the "Devil Rays" to simply the "Rays." They also changed their colors from green, black, and blue to navy blue, light blue, and yellow. To coincide with the name and color changes, they unveiled a new logo, with a sunburst prominently featured in the middle.
The Rays made one very significant trade in the off-season, sending outfielder Delmon Young to the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Matt Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett. The objective was to shore up a defense that was among the majors' worst in 2007, thereby also giving some help to the team's roster of promising young pitchers. The Rays went into the season as a young team, but they did sign a few lower-priced veteran free agents in the off-season in Cliff Floyd, Troy Percival, and Eric Hinske to add some experience around their young core, and picked up a number of pitchers to improve what had been an awful bullpen.
The team went into the season generally recognized to be improved over the previous years' editions, which had almost unfailingly finished last in the AL East. Very few observers had anticipated the dramatic improvement that would take place, however.
The Rays started 8-11 through their first 19 games. However, starting with an April 22 game against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Rays reeled off 6 straight victories, putting them three games above .500. With ace Scott Kazmir missing the season's first days, Andy Sonnanstine posted a surprising record in April (4-1) as the team finished the first month of the season 15-12. Pitching prospect Jeff Niemann starting the April 13 and April 18 games before being optioned back down to Durham.
The Rays started improved their 31-20 by Memorial Day. This gave them MLB's best record at that point. Only one team in major league history had the best record at that point in the season one year after finishing with the worst mark in MLB - the 1903 New York Giants. Still, the team kept on playing well, even if hitting the occasional snag, and when the 2008 All-Star Game rolled around, the team no longer had the majors' best record, but was only a half game behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.
To many observers' surprise, the Rays kept going at the same pace in the second half, eventually passing the Red Sox for good and claiming first place unchallenged until the end of the year. They broke the franchise record for wins by early August, and ended the season at 97-65, 2 games ahead of the Sox, and the third-best record in Major League Baseball. This gave them the AL East division title and a spot in the 2008 Postseason. This was achieved in spite of a number of injuries to key players, including RF Carl Crawford, the team's pillar in previous seasons, who missed most of August and September, as well as CF B.J. Upton and rookie 3B Evan Longoria who both missed three weeks of action down the stretch. However others picked up the slack, including September call-up Fernando Perez who shined in CF in his first taste of major league action.
 Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Scott Kazmir, Evan Longoria and Dioner Navarro
- AL Rookie of the Year Award: Evan Longoria
- AL Gold Glove: Carlos Pena (1B)
- 2008 Topps All-Star Rookie Team: Evan Longoria (3B)
- AL Manager of the Year Award: Joe Maddon
 ALDS vs. Chicago White Sox
|1||Chicago White Sox 4 Tampa Bay Rays 6||October 2||Javier Vazquez (0-1) James Shields (1-0)||2:30 p.m.|
|2||Chicago White Sox 2 at Tampa Bay Rays 6||October 3||Mark Buehrle (0-1) Scott Kazmir (1-0)||6:00 p.m.|
|3||Tampa Bay Rays 3 Chicago White Sox 5||October 5||Matt Garza (0-1) John Danks (1-0)||5:05 p.m.|
|4||Tampa Bay Rays 6 Chicago White Sox 2||October 6||Andy Sonnanstine (1-0) Gavin Floyd (0-1)||5:05 p.m.|
 ALCS vs. Boston Red Sox
|1||Boston Red Sox 2 Tampa Bay Rays 0||October 10||Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-0) James Shields (0-1)||8:37 p.m.|
|2||Boston Red Sox 8 Tampa Bay Rays 9||October 11||Josh Beckett (0-0) Scott Kazmir (0-0)||8:07 p.m.|
|3||Tampa Bay Rays 9 Boston Red Sox 1||October 13||Matt Garza (1-0) Jon Lester (0-1)||4:37 p.m.|
|4||Tampa Bay Rays 13 Boston Red Sox 4||October 14||Andy Sonnanstine (1-0) Tim Wakefield (0-1)||8:07 p.m.|
|5||Tampa Bay Rays 7 Boston Red Sox 8||October 16||Scott Kazmir (0-0) Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-0)||8:07 p.m.|
|6||Boston Red Sox 4 Tampa Bay Rays 2||October 18||Josh Beckett (1-0) James Shields (0-2)||8:07 p.m.|
|7||Boston Red Sox 1 Tampa Bay Rays 3||October 19||Jon Lester (0-2) Matt Garza (2-0)||8:07 p.m.|
 World Series vs. Philadelphia Phillies
|1||Philadelphia Phillies 3 Tampa Bay Rays 2||October 22||Cole Hamels (1-0) Scott Kazmir (0-1)||8:35 p.m.|
|2||Philadelphia Phillies 2 Tampa Bay Rays 4||October 23||Brett Myers (0-1) James Shields (1-0)||8:07 p.m.|
|3||Tampa Bay Rays 4 Philadelphia Phillies 5||October 25||Matt Garza (0-0) Jamie Moyer (0-0)||10:05 p.m.|
|4||Tampa Bay Rays 2 Philadelphia Phillies 10||October 26||Andy Sonnanstine (0-1) Joe Blanton (1-0)||8:07 p.m.|
|5||Tampa Bay Rays 3 Philadelphia Phillies 4||October 27||Scott Kazmir (0-1) Cole Hamels (1-0)||8:30 p.m. (1)|
(1) Game suspended after 5½ innings and resumed on October 29
 Further Reading
- Jonah Keri: The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First, ESPN Books, Random House, New York, NY, 2011. ISBN 978-0345517654