Evan Longoria says B.J. Upton, James Shields couldn’t get the Devil Rays mentality out of their heads

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Opening Day is always a time for big, optimistic thoughts. A time to declare that now, the present, is so much better than the past. Thing is, when you do that, you’re implicitly saying that what came before was inferior or flawed. And when you put names on the past, you’re trafficking in some level of personal criticism whether you intended to or not.

That’s where Evan Longoria seems to be in this article from the Tampa Tribune, in which he talks about how the team is all about clubhouse camaraderie and positive thinking and how everyone is on the same page with “The Rays Way.”  Part of why that is now? Because a couple of old holdovers from the pre-2008 Rays — the old Devil Rays –are gone:

“There was a lot of history with B.J. and Shields in this organization, and I think there were some things that were tough for them to get beyond,” Longoria said. “They were really the only ones that were left in here that were here before the Rays were in 2008 when we started to be the team that we are now. I think some of those things kind of stuck around, and as much as you try to instill the new way, some of those things, it was tough to get some of those thoughts out of their head.

He says Upton and Shields were fine players, and says that he’s not trying to be negative and that maybe he wasn’t putting it the right way, but jeez, it sounds a lot like a criticism.

Know what keeps one from making such criticisms, however inadvertently? Not treating a baseball season as a grand tale in which there are necessarily good guys, bad guys, new beginnings and all the rest. It seems here that rather than have any actual criticism of his former teammates, Longoria was simply trying to fit the Tampa Bay Rays into some narrative, however contrived. Sportswriters are bad for this. But it seems that players do it too.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).