It would be fair to call Tampa Bay and Florida the surprise teams of the American and National League, respectively, and for once its not because they returned after off-season. No, as they both edge further away from rumored demise at the hands of Commissioner Bud Contraction Selig, theyre flowering as honest-to-Christmas decent ballclubs. This year has seen the Marlins skate by on ridiculous young power hitting and at times horrid pitching, delaying for the inevitable ass-over-elbow stumble to fourth place. The Rays, having exorcised the Devil that formerly graced their names, appear to be built for a run at the first playoff bid in the history of their perennially inept franchise. They have speed, consistency at the plate, and a pitching corps that allows almost a whole run less per nine innings than the Marlins hurlers. For much of the year, theyve also enjoyed the heretofore fleeting sensation of leading their division while the New York Yankees (payroll ratio to that of the Rays: 5 to 1) languished in the basement. Its hard to root hard against a team that pisses off Steinbrenners, but youre up to the challenge, surely.
Greet the Marlins in their first game after a nine-game road swing Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. at Dolphin Stadium (2269 NW 199th St., Miami). Tickets are as cheap as $9. Buy them at the gate, or call dibs early at florida.marlins.mlb.com, or by calling 954-523-3309.
Mon., June 23, 7 p.m.; Tue., June 24, 7 p.m.; Wed., June 25, 7 p.m., 2008
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