ST. PETERSBURG -- To date, Friday's regular-season opener -- a 7-6 win over the Yankees that saw the Rays score two ninth-inning runs off Mariano Rivera -- easily ranks as the best in franchise history.
"It was a great way to start the season," manager Joe Maddon said. "For me, honestly, the first game of the season, I can't remember anything like that any place that I've been. It was that well fought out from both sides.
"But you're going to see that every time we play [the Yankees] -- and every team in this division -- and we're going to have to maintain that kind of mental level as long as we can, as we go outside of the division. Playing these teams does bring out the best in you. There's no let-up with any component of their team."
The way the final inning played out was a testament to the point to which the Rays have evolved, according to Maddon, who credited much of the way the team played at the end of Friday's game to the experience they've gained in the postseason.
"Our guys have a different believability about the game, about what we can and cannot do," Maddon said. "Until you do those things, it's hard to believe you can do something like that in the latter part of the game. ... I think we're confident, and at the same time, we're not arrogant about it. There's a confidence minus arrogance, which I kind of like."
Some interesting side notes from Friday include:
Ben Zobrist tripled off Rivera during the ninth inning to drive home the tying run, then scored the winning run on Carlos Pena's single. Zobrist, the Rays' super-utility man, is now 3-for-3 with two triples and a double in his career against Rivera.
Heading into Friday's contest, Rivera had been 60-for-61 in save opportunities for his career against the Rays and had converted his last 27 chances against them.
Pena's first-inning grand slam was only the second in Rays Opening Day history and the first at Tropicana Field. Fred McGriff hit the only other Opening Day slam for the Rays on April 3, 2000, at Minnesota.