(NBC) - According to multiple Red Sox players, after they thumped the Rays in Game 2, word filtered back to the clubhouse that Tampa had ordered champagne to be delivered to Boston in anticipation of closing out the series in Fenway Park.
"Obviously coming in to the series, losing Game 1, having a big Game 2 but hearing that these guys ordered their champagne, it's like, 'Really? You guys haven't even come close to winning this. The series is tied. Anything can happen.' It put a little fuel to the fire," said first baseman Kyle Schwarber.
"Don't get me wrong, you still have a lot of respect for that team. They won 100 games. That's not easy to do. But it definitely added a little fuel to the fire to go out there and get the job done."
There are some people who will tell you that professional athletes don't need extra motivation. That professional athletes give 110% every single second of their lives no matter what. That they're somehow not humans with emotions. That they're not realists who know that the 0-15 Lions aren't about to run up the score in Week 17 on their opponent. For instance, you can't tell me part of the 10-1 drubbing the Houston Astros handed the Chicago White Sox yesterday wasn't in part to Ryan Tapera lobbing baseless accusations their way in the middle of the series. Of course, that's not the sole reason the Astros beat the White Sox - Houston was the better team. But maybe Game 4 is only 4-1 without that extra motivation.
Right now the Red Sox feel slighted. The local media has been chirping them all season long, actively telling fans not to attend home games saying that this team is not worth your time and money. The Yankees hand picked the Red Sox as their opponent in the event that a four-way tie played out at season's end, they were promptly handled and disposed of quickly and with minimal effort. Then you've got the Tampa Bay Rays shipping crates of champagne up north, not out of preparation but out of an overconfidence in their own abilities.
I understand wanting to light a fire under your team's asses after getting dog-walked in your own building 14-6. You get outplayed that badly you better do something to try and steer this series back in your favor. But you're going on the road. You're facing Nathan Eovaldi in Game 3. The odds that this series wasn't at least going back to Tampa were slim. A Game 5 was, in all honesty, the most likely scenario. There's a difference between being confident and looking like an asshole, the Rays decided to look like the latter. All series, every time Wander Franco or Randy Arozareña stepped into the box, I kept thinking to myself, "These guys are really goddamn good, they're in our division, I should hate them, but they're on the Rays. I can't fake hatred, and I don't hate these guys." I don't care how good the Rays get, how long they sustain this run of regular season dominance they've had, I didn't think it was possible to hate them. They're the Rays, they don't even know what country they want to play in moving forward, how could anyone possibly hate them? This is how. Talking shit and not backing it up in the slightest is how.
Hopefully Houston says something dumb. Apparently the 2021 Red Sox Spite Tour really kicks into another gear the moment they feel they've been slighted. If hatred for the enemy is the tie that binds this group and propels them to glory then I'm all for it.