tampabay.com

Dreams do come true

Delmon Young's walk-off home run helps the Rays earn a sweep.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published May 18, 2007


LAKE BUENA VISTA - Disney likes to bill itself as the place "where dreams come true."

The Devil Rays certainly won't argue.

The Rays completed their home-away-from-home series with another thrilling victory, Delmon Young's two-run homer in the 10th giving them an 8-6 victory over Texas.

It was the second walk-off win in three nights for the Rays (18-22), giving them their first series sweep of three or more games since June and their first four-game winning streak in nearly a year (May 18-21).

"We played well, the fans were great, it was a tremendous atmosphere and setting," manager Joe Maddon said. "The whole thing worked. I think we responded and played according to how we felt. The players fed off the atmosphere a bit. It was a very positive experience even beyond the wins."

Not that the win wasn't special. After another frustrating performance by Scott Kazmir, five relievers pieced together six solid innings - "Tonight our bullpen was the story," Maddon said - and then Young sent them back to Tropicana Field happy, hitting his second homer of the night.

Thursday's finale drew the biggest crowd of the three games, an announced 9,635, despite afternoon rain that forced batting practice to be canceled and the tarp to be put on the field. But the rain - as well as a smoky haze - blew through, the game started just two minutes late, and the Ballpark at Disney's Wide World of Sports looked just about full.

The series drew 26,917 - less than Thursday's Twins-Indians game in Cleveland - but the average of 8,972 was higher than the crowds at the Trop for four of the Rangers past six games there.

Team president Matt Silverman termed the three-day experiment "very successful" and said the Rays "look forward to continuing our commitment to the Orlando market," but it was too soon to say whether they would seek to play more games there next season.

"It was a very successful visit to Central Florida," Silverman said. "I think the fans come away with a taste of our brand of baseball and the type of entertainment in the ballpark we're striving for. It was great exposure, high visibility for the team, and these three games got the attention of the market, which was a big priority of ours."

Disney vice president Reggie Williams said he considered the series "a big success" and sounded interested in booking a return visit. "We welcome the conversation," he said.

Young was in a 6-for-52 slump before coming to Disney, then went 6-for-12 with eight RBIs, hitting a three-run homer in the fourth and then the two-run shot in the 10th. Maddon said he noticed Young taking more pitches and hitting the ball more to the opposite field, but Young said it was nothing specific. "I just fixed my swing," he said. "I just felt a lot better."

Young had his first two-homer game in the big leagues and what he said was the first walk-off homer at any level. "None others," he said. "Not that I can remember."

Yet another person to leave Disney with something to remember.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8801. View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays.