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Hip, Hip Hoo-Ray

You may recall that about a year ago I detailed my affinity for the Rays, while the Mets were slumping. Guilt-free rooting, I called it, and it was something I enjoyed so much that I decided to carry it over to the 2009 season.

It hasn't been quite the same kind of magical season for the Rays yet. Their problems resemble those of the Mets (injuries, an offense whose inability to get the key hit makes its numbers misleading). This weekend, they'll intertangle at Citi Field and with no Scott Kazmir or Victor Zambrano in the house, the luster of this series is minimal. But I'm quite excited for it.

I figured this would be a good day to mix my interests, so hopefully you'll enjoy the minutiae regarding both franchises that I've provided below.

And if anyone's wondering, I will be rooting solely for the Mets. As if there was any doubt.

Greatest Players To Play For Mets and Rays

1- Dwight Gooden
2- Cliff Floyd
3- Steve Trachsel
4- Ty Wigginton
5- Chad Bradford

The Greatest Rays/Reys in Mets history

1- Knight
2- Ordonez
3- Sadecki
4- Burris
5- Searage
(Ordonez also played for the Rays)

The greatest achievement by a Met/Ray...

The exceedingly frustrating Steve Trachsel was incredibly brilliant on May 6/11, 2000. Trachsel faced the Yankees and Red Sox in back-to-back starts for the Rays. He won both, 1-0, beating Orlando Hernandez and Pedro Martinez in the process. Seven months later, he was a Met.

The greatest walk-off wins in Rays history...

#3 is Opening Day, 2003. After being stymied for 7 innings by Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox, the Rays rally from a 4-1 deficit in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs and two on, following a walk to Marlon Anderson, Carl Crawford clubs a game-winning three-run home run off Chad Fox, for a 6-4 Rays victory.
Closest Mets equivalent: Gary Carter's walk-off HR, Opening Day, 1985.

#2 is August 6, 2008. The Rays explode for six runs without making an out in the bottom of the ninth to improbably beat the Indians, 10-7. Gabe Gross ties the game with a two-run home run, and Carlos Pena wins it with a three-run shot.
Closest Mets equivalent: The Steve Henderson walk-off HR to cap a 5-run 9th against the Giants on June 11, 1980
(Henderson is the Rays hitting coach)

#1 is Game 2 of the 2008 ALCS against the Red Sox, an 11-inning, 5-hour, 27-minute marathon (one minute longer than Thursday's Nats-Yanks rain delay) . Tampa Bay survived three separate Red Sox leads and its pitchers stranded 13 baserunners. Three walks and a sacrifice fly by B.J. Upton brought home the winning run in a 9-8 triumph, and evened the series, 1-1.
Closest Mets equivalent: That crazy 10-9 win over the Yankees, July 3 2004, which ended with Kaz Matsui scoring on Shane Spencer's dribbler to the pitcher, former Ray Tanyon Sturtze.

Esteban Yan is a significant name in Mets/Rays history because...

He is the only player of whom I can say "I saw him homer in his first major league at-bat." It came on June 4, 2000 as part of a 15-5 Rays win over the Mets and Bobby Jones, one of the ugliest losses of an otherwise fantastic season. Yan, by the way, was a pitcher. Four months later, Jones was pitching a one-hitter to put the Mets into the NLCS.

This unfriendly reminder brought to you by the newest Mets-killer...

Aubrey Huff is the Rays all-time leader in home runs with 128.

This unfriendly reminder brought to you by Jim Duquette

Victor Zambrano's .565 winning percentage as a Ray is the best in team history.

Now that Shea Stadium is no longer...

People will probably tell you that Tropicana Field, home of the Rays, is the worst ballpark in baseball. I beg to differ. I was there on business last fall and found it to be a perfectly nice place to watch a game. Suggested tip to anyone who ever goes: Get there early and hit the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame Museum.

How come no one ever talks about this trade...

On July 28 of that same 2000 season, the Mets traded Paul Wilson and Jason Tyner to the Rays in return for Bubba Trammell and Rick White.

Trammell, who homered in that 15-5 game, homered in his first game with the Mets and was a reasonably decent spare part for the rest of the season. Rick White was the winning pitcher in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Giants (Benny Agbayani HR) and was a serviceable middle reliever throughout the final months of the year.

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Cliff Notes

Alright, so it's 2 days later and the challenge for me now, after reading through about a dozen game stories and listening to talk radio, is to provide a fresh perspective on walk-off #324. If you're going to be a serious reader of this blog, you know what happened already, so let's look at what made this particular walk-off stand out. It would seem that the place to start is with the idea that everything broke just right on both sides of the ball. Particularly, I'm talking about Carlos Beltran's catch in the 7th inning, where he went over the center field fence to rob Jose Molina of a home run. Every no-hitter seems to have one defensive gem that makes it possible and perhaps that's true of great walk-off moments as well (We'll be looking into that!) Marlon Anderson's home run required a remarkable combination of events. It was only the sixth inside-the-park home run at Shea Stadium by a Met and the first since Darryl Strawberry in 1989. It required t