CHICAGO — U.S. Cellular Field sits on the South Side of Chicago and is home to the Windy City’s other team, the White Sox.
The Tampa Bay Rays visit once a year, and lately the visits have been memorable — memorable good and memorable not so good.
The Rays began a four-game series Friday night hoping starter Chris Archer would give them a chance to win and pitch deep enough into the game to reduce the workload on the overworked bullpen.
“We normally come in here, a lot of stuff’s been going on, whether it’s Manny Ramirez or 0-6 or whatever it might be,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “Just a typical trip to Chicago.”
And by typical, Maddon could also mean interesting, eventful, wild.
It began in October 2008 when the Rays clinched their first playoff series victory.
“That’s so unbelievable. It’s crazy,” said bench coach Dave Martinez, who played for both the Cubs and White Sox and the expansion Devil Rays.
In 2009, the Rays fell victim of the first of three perfect games when Mark Buehrle retired all 27 batters in a 5-0 victory on July 23. Gabe Kapler almost ruined Buehrle’s day with a line drive to left-center field that Dewayne Wise, who entered the game that inning as a defensive replacement, grabbed with a leaping catch at the wall.
The play is marked by the words “The Catch,” printed at the top of the wall at that spot.
Nothing much happened in 2010 other than the Rays winning two of three in April, but things exploded the following year with the news that Rays designated hitter Manny Ramirez failed his second drug test and retired rather than accept a 100-game suspension.
That same night, the Rays stopped a six-game losing streak to begin the season when Dan Johnson hit a game-winning home run in the ninth inning. It was the first of two home runs Johnson would hit in 2011, the second coming on the final night of the season.
Before the Rays left town that series, Sam Fuld would become “Super Sam” after his had-to-be-seen-to-be-believed run and catch in right field and Maddon, after being tossed for arguing the reversal of an out call at first base, threw out the first-base, second-base, third-base and home-plate umpires.
The Rays won three of four at the Cell during the final weekend of the 2012 season to keep their slim wild card hopes a alive.
Last season’s trip to Chicago ended with David Price’s first win of the season, Jeremy Hellickson’s first ejection of his baseball career — pro or otherwise — a war of words between Price and home-plate umpire Tom Hallion after Price said Hallion cussed him on the field and tweets from Price, Hellickson and Matt Moore that were critical of Hallion and earned the players fines of $1,000 each.
“Seems like for some reason things, happen here, good or bad,” Martinez said. “It’s a lot fun to come here.”