10/20/08 12:10 AM ET
Rays Short Hops: Game 7
Aybar sparks offense; bullpen finishes gem by Garza
By Mark Remme / MLB.com
Boston pushed Tampa Bay to the brink of elimination, but the young Rays crew came from behind to win the American League pennant.
A double by Willy Aybar to lead off the sixth inning sparked a string of three consecutive Rays hits, including an RBI single by Rocco Baldelli that gave the Rays the game-winning run. Big number
0 -- Runs allowed by the Rays' bullpen in 5 1/3 innings in Games 6 and 7, as opposed to eight in three innings in Game 5. Game balls Matt Garza
Garza was everything the Rays needed to stop this suddenly red-hot Red Sox offensive onslaught. He seemed locked into the contest from the first batter, and he didn't let an early homer to Dustin Pedroia affect his approach the rest of the game.
The young Price pitched 1 1/3 innings of spotless baseball to close out the game, striking out three and forcing Jed Lowrie to ground out to second to end the game. Teammates promptly piled on top of him in the infield to celebrate.
Aybar smacked a home run and a double, crossing the plate two times in the contest, and became the vital spark the Rays' offense needed. He was 2-for-3 in the game.
Sense of October
Both Garza and Red Sox starter Jon Lester appeared on top of their games in this duel. Neither showed much sign of weakness, just quality hitting at timely points in the ballgame that put runners on base. It was everything onlookers hope for in Game 7 pitching performances.
3 AB, 2 H, 1 HR, 2 R
Comment: Aybar was essential in two of the team's three runs on Sunday, proving to be the most pivotal offensive component on the Rays' squad.
7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, 1 HR
Comment: The Sox couldn't figure out Garza, who went 2-0 in the ALCS with wins both at the Trop and at Fenway Park.
"You know, we've proved doubters wrong this entire time and we just told each other, you know, keep believing, keep fighting." -- Garza
For the first time in team history, the Rays are going to the World Series. They had to take down the defending world champions to do it, but in the end, the young Tampa Bay crew proved it had enough will power to get it done.
Mark Remme is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.