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Historically small crowd watches Rangers shut Rays out

Mark Parker



Rays shortstop Taylor Walls said the fans who did make it to Game 1 of the American League Wild Card series "showed out." Photo by Mark Parker.

In their first game of the 2023 postseason,  the Tampa Bay Rays committed several miscues that resulted in a 4-0 loss to the Texas Rangers. That set up a must-win elimination game Wednesday afternoon.

However, social media is awash with baseball fans discussing the historically small crowd that watched Game 1 of the American League Wild Card series Oct. 3 at Tropicana Field. The stadium hosted just 19,704 people – the lowest attendance for a non-pandemic Major League playoff game since 1919.

The Rays played 33 regular season games in front of more fans. Nearly half of all home games sold more tickets.

Tampa Bay’s attendance improved after a historic start to the season, although the Rays still finished 27th out of 30 MLB franchises with a 17,781 average. While playoff games typically draw a much larger crowd – about 27,000 people attended the team’s Thursday night American League Division series against the Red Sox in 2021 – the Wild Card opener began at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday.

In a Wednesday social media post, Nick Wize, a local sports radio host with WDAE, placed the blame away from fans. “I have seen more tweets about attendance than the … game itself,” he wrote.

“The average dad isn’t taking off work; moms aren’t pulling kids from school to attend a 3 p.m. game,” Wize added. “Many people live paycheck to paycheck. Stop criticizing the fan base.

“MLB and (national broadcaster) ABC are the real enemy here.”

Game 1

The Rays, celebrating their 25th anniversary, donned their throwback Devil Rays jerseys for the postseason opener. Their play mirrored those tough years from 1998 to 2008 when owner Stuart Sternberg bought the team and dropped the “Devil” from its moniker.

“It was a frustrating game,” said manager Kevin Cash. “I don’t recall us playing a game like that in a long time.”

The game never appeared close despite the 4-0 score. Tampa Bay’s four fielding errors were the most in franchise history, and three came in the first three innings.

While starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow kept the game within reach through those early mistakes, he also had a season-high five walks and allowed four earned runs on six hits. The Rangers’ starting pitcher, Jordan Montgomery, dominated a Rays lineup that hasn’t scored a run in the last 27 postseason innings.

“We didn’t hit, pitch or defend,” Cash said. “We didn’t play a good, clean baseball game by any stretch. When You’re going up against a good team, they’re going to capitalize. And they eventually did.”

Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash.

Hope for Game 2

The Rays overcame significant personal and collective adversity to win 99 games this season. The team features several younger players filling in for veterans, and Cash expects those who played “tense” to “be better for it” in Game 2.

He also believes Tampa Bay’s bats can break the playoff scoring drought. “It’s a good hitting lineup,” Cash said. “I’m very confident that we’re going to bounce back and have some good at-bats.”

When asked what elimination game message he would give the team, Cash succinctly said, “Win.”

“We know how pivotal winning that game is,” he added. “But a lot of confidence in this group – certainly in the guy on the mound, Zach Eflin – that we can bounce back …”

Eflin’s three-year, $40 million deal in December 2022 was the team’s largest free agent signing in franchise history. As a boy in Orlando, Eflin grew up rooting for the Rays.

The 29-year-old’s 31 starts set a career-high and provided a stabilizing force for a pitching rotation decimated by injuries. Eflin finished the season 16-8 with a 3.50 earned run average and 186 strikeouts in under 177 innings.

While Game 2 also starts at 3:08 p.m. in St. Pete, shortstop Taylor Walls noted that the nearly 20,000 fans that stayed until Game 1’s final at-bat “made it pretty loud.” He and several local stakeholders have encouraged fans to make it to today’s game, with upper-deck tickets starting at $30.

“It’s always nice when the seats are full, but at the same time, I feel like the people that did come showed up and showed out,” Walls said. “So, hopefully, we can pack it in a little bit more …”




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  1. Avatar

    Michael H

    October 4, 2023at10:25 pm

    Not that anyone had any hopes of them winning a post season game at home.
    Some local sportscasters called it home field advantage. Ok keep the lie going and think it’s all good in St.Pete for the future.

  2. Avatar

    Ryan Todd

    October 4, 2023at3:16 pm

    Low attendance.
    Exactly why our city shouldn’t make the same mistake it did decades ago when the Trop was built. Don’t be fooled. City residents will be left to pay bonds for construction when ticket sales don’t meet projections.

    Kick the Rays and Mayor Welch out of St. Pete!

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