Rays rise up to ALCS

The Baltimore Sun

CHICAGO - For a franchise that had just won its first postseason series, the Tampa Bay Rays showed they certainly know how to celebrate.

The champagne-soaked visitors' locker room at U.S. Cellular Field resembled a frat party after the 6-2 victory yesterday over the White Sox had clinched the American League Division Series, three games to one.

"To do this in my hometown ... my family was all here," Rays outfielder Cliff Floyd said. "We look forward to the next round."

The Rays parlayed the pitching of starter Andy Sonnanstine and the hitting of B.J. Upton, who homered twice, and Carlos Pena, who went 3-for-4, to dispatch the Sox.

"I just tried to keep an even keel and work to my strengths," said Sonnanstine, who went 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on three hits. He gave up solo homers to Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko.

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 Los Angeles 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."

Floyd, who drove in a run with a double in the fourth inning, said: "We're not satisfied with this. We have more in store. Where we came from and what we went through this year, it was amazing. And we're going to take full advantage of it, hopefully."

Rays manager Joe Maddon guided a team that finished a major-league-worst 66-96 last year but went 97-65 in 2008.

"This is just the beginning of great things to come," Maddon said. "We had to begin somewhere, and this is the beginning right now."

The Rays are just the second team in major league history, and the first AL club, to advance to the postseason after owning the worst record in the majors the year before. The only other team to do that was the 1991 Atlanta Braves.

The Sox lost a postseason series for the first time since being swept in the 2000 ALDS by Seattle. A crowd of 40,454, mainly dressed in black while waving white towels, never saw their team seriously threaten.

"I had no problem with the way we handled the 'blackout,' " Maddon said. "This is a tough place to play. I thought we rose to the occasion very nicely."

Upton had three homers in two days against the White Sox. The game's second batter yesterday, he homered to left-center to put the Rays ahead. He went deep again in the third inning, driving a full-count pitch from Gavin Floyd (Mount St. Joseph) to center, and the confident Rays had a two-run cushion. Floyd allowed four runs on five hits before departing after three innings.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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