Though it certainly won't rank on a par with their unity-building fracas with the Yankees during Spring Training, it was at least a reminder that the Rays are the kind of team that isn't about to let anybody kick sand in their faces, least of all in their own backyard. A backyard that was once known as Thunderdome, as anyone who was on hand for Game 1's ambience can attest.
The Rays' convincing 6-4 victory in the opener in the first playoff game in franchise history raised the intensity of this best-of-five series and set the stage for what should be a very entertaining Game 2 on Friday night.
Once again, the Rays delivered a message to doubters.
They also left the White Sox in a must-win situation, according to Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen.
"It's not a do-or-die thing, but I'd rather go home with one win than go against the wall," Guillen said. "But you know, this ballclub was against the wall a lot of times and we pulled it out. Tomorrow is another game, it's a must-win game."
Guillen has selected left-hander Mark Buehrle to start opposite Rays lefty Scott Kazmir in the 6:07 p.m ET game.
Buerhle will be making his sixth career playoff appearance and fourth start. He is is 2-0 with a 3.42 ERA in the playoffs. Buerhle was 0-1 with a 4.58 ERA in three starts against the Rays in 2008 and is 6-2 with a 4.24 ERA in 15 appearances (including 10 starts) lifetime vs. Tampa Bay.
The 24-year-old Kazmir is 3-1 with a 3.34 ERA in five career starts against the White Sox, including 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts against Chicago this year.
"Two very good pitchers, it should be a battle," Navarro said. "Just what you expect to see in the playoffs."
The intensity level will remain high, just don't expect to see Balfour and Cabrera jawing at one another again.
"[Balfour's] adrenalin gets going," Navarro explained. "It's one of those things, it's not a big deal."
Balfour concurred, and Cabrera understood.
"It was just the heat of the moment in the battlefield," Cabrera said. "Things like that happen. We can't be just thinking about one inning. We lost a game and we've got to take it tomorrow with a good attitude."