Tomase: Rays' champagne plans in Boston lit fire under Red Sox originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
By now you've undoubtedly heard about the Tampa Bay Rays eating popcorn in the dugout while beating the Red Sox in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. Unsurprisingly, it did not sit well.
But when it comes to the irritating consumption of celebratory foodstuffs, popcorn actually finished second on Boston's list.
What really ticked off the Red Sox were Tampa's champagne plans.
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.
Instead, the Red Sox walked off Games 3 and 4 to advance to the American League Championship Series.
"The first game, they're over there eating popcorn, sitting on the field, chilling, talking," said outfielder Alex Verdugo. "And then also, they're telling the guys to get the champagne ready here and already ordering the stuff over. Just that little bit of disrespect like, 'Wow, really? You guys think you've got it in the bag like that?' It gave us extra fire. We already knew what we had to do and understood our job, but to give us that extra motivation to really [expletive] get after it, it was great."
The Red Sox hold a healthy respect for the Rays, who won 100 games and feature a brash young roster. They understand that Tampa carries itself differently than a veteran club, and they don't actually hold it against them. The Rays do what they do, and they do it well.
"I think it's just part of the game that's fun," said second baseman Christian Arroyo, who played for Tampa from 2018-19. "The Tampa Bay Rays, they have a really fun team, they're younger. I know the culture over there a little bit. They're eating popcorn and they're enjoying it, whatever. It's postseason baseball, you've got to enjoy it."
Just don't be surprised when it's used against you. The Red Sox took note in Game 1 when a number of Rays were spotted eating popcorn in the seventh inning of their 5-0 victory. "We were winning by five runs, so let me eat my popcorn and enjoy it," slugging DH Nelson Cruz said at the time.
"I think I saw it the next day," said shortstop Xander Bogaerts. "I saw it and I was like, 'Damn. They were really doing that?' I guess they feel comfortable. And the next day they came out and hit a grand slam and they're up 5-2 and we just chip, chip, chipped away and I think that momentum definitely changed right there and us going back home was huge."
Bogaerts actually felt more disrespected by the Yankees choosing to visit Boston had there been a three-way tie in the wild card race with, say, the Blue Jays -- not that he blamed them.
"We knew that ahead of time, they were the ones that picked to play against us," he said. "Listen, man, if I were them, I would've done the exact same thing. They were playing really good against us these last couple of games and they felt pretty comfortable playing against us. Who wants to play against the Blue Jays? I mean, come on. Those guys were hot, those young guys, Vladdy (Vladimir Guerrero Jr.) on that team. It was smart of them to pick us, because they were playing really good baseball against us."
The Red Sox could find fewer redeeming qualities in Tampa's attempts to procure champagne, although in fairness, that's not exactly something a club can leave to the last minute, and realistically, it merely reflected Tampa's attempts to boost its confidence after absorbing a 14-6 drubbing in Game 2.
Still, the Red Sox wouldn't be the Red Sox if they had let it slide. They already regretted blowing the division to the Rays and needing to win a wild card game merely to advance. Before the series even started, they sported a healthy chip on their shoulder.
"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."
The Red Sox got it done and sent the Rays packing. As Verdugo celebrated on the field, he sported a bottle of champagne in one back pocket and a Budweiser in the other. It was clear who had gotten the last laugh.
"They were trying to order champagne over here to Boston because they thought they were going to clinch it here," Verdugo said. "We won it. We're out here popping bottles. We've got the champagne, and that's that."