Tag:New York
Posted on: September 29, 2011 5:44 pm

This Just Happened - Rays Historic Comeback

This just happened. Less than 24 hours ago, the two biggest September collapses in baseball history came to their dramatic conclusions. Three of the four games played Wednesday night were decided in the final inning. The exception; the Cardinals detonation of the Houston Astros. The Phillies eliminated the Braves in the 13th, the Orioles rallied against the Red Sox in the 9th, and the Rays walked off into the Wild Card in the bottom of the 12th.

All kudos go to the Cards for reeling in the Bravos, but I'm here to talk about the other series; the one that was 1/2 a game more epic in the stat book, but infinitely more epic when examined. 

The Sox and the Rays absolutely hate each other. No, this isn't the Yanks and the Sox, but let me be very clear, THESE TEAMS HATE EACH OTHER. Got it? Good. We can go back to 2006 where the two brawled in Spring Training after Julian Tavares threw the ball at then-Ray, Joey Gathright (interestingly enough, Gatright was on the Sox roster for their epic collapse). Fast-forward to 2008 and things just get even meatier. 

James Shields hits Coco Crisp who charges the mound. Shields throws a knockout haymaker that Crisp dodges Matrix-style, and once again, the two teams are brawling. As the year went on, the teams kept their battles to within the confines of actual baseball. Going into September 9th, 2008, the Rays had hit a rough patch. Their 3 game lead over the Sox was down to 1 with Boston up 3-2 going into the bottom of the ninth. Jonathan Papelbon, the Sox's dynamite closer took the mound to finish this one off. 

Dan Johnson, a little known journeyman had woken up that morning a Durham Bull. Little did he know he'd end the day a cult-hero. Mid-afternoon came and the two teams penciled in their starting line-ups. Johnson was supposed to play first. Having been a huge fan of MLB 2k8, I knew him as the guy with the Oakland hat in the game. That always confused me. Anyway, he had decent power in the game and so I was excited to see what he'd do at the Major League level. Well, his flight was delayed and thus he did not get to start. It wouldn't matter.

Johnson was called upon as a pinch hitter to start the inning. One swing of the bat later and the game was tied. Just like that, the Rays were alive again. They weren't going down without a fight. Keep this name, keep this scenario in the back of your mind.

The Rays would win the East and the Sox would scoot in as a comfortable Wild Card. Both teams would take 4 games to get through their respective American League Divisional Series matchups and would meet up once again in the American League Championship Series.

7 games later, the Rays were on the ropes again. In a text-book pitcher's duel, Jon Lester and Matt Garza put up performances any coach would be thrilled at. However, with the bases loaded with 1 out in the top of the eighth, Joe Maddon called on rookie phenom David Price, to close things out. Four outs and one final grounder to Akinori Iwamura, and the Rays were on their way to the World Series.

Once again, hop in that journalistic time machine to Carl Crawford signing his 7 year, toomanymillion dollar deal with the Sox this past winter. Crawford, the original Devil Ray. He'd spent the first 10 seasons of his professional career in Tampa Bay giving the fans too many memories to count. Now, he bucked the pundits who thought he'd go to Los Angeles or Houston, and signed with Public enemy number 1, Boston.

Crawford had an awful start to the year. So did his Sox. So did the Rays. As the season went on, the Sox recovered and the Rays settled into their third place role they were expected to hold in a rebuilding year. Well, then September came.

The 9.5 game lead the Sox held on September 1, that was down to 7 when the Rays started a 4 game series against the Sox. They'd also have a 3 game series at Fenway a week later. 7 games back, 7 games against Boston. Do the math. The Rays controlled their own destiny. They almost pulled off the impossible taking 6 of the 7. Their one loss, a James Shields stinker on the road. 

The lead was down to one game going into the final series of the year for each team. The Sox had a 3 game trip to Camden Yards to face the Orioles and the Rays were to host the New York Yankees for a 3 game set. Going into the respective game 2's, the two teams were tied. The comeback was complete, but could the Rays take the lead?

On the ropes in game 2, Evan Longoria pulled up a remarkable triple play to get the Rays out of a jam. Matt Joyce would later hit a go-ahead 3-run shot that would hold. The Sox would win as well setting up yesterday, arguably the greatest day in baseball history.

Fittingly, David Price and Jon Lester would be on the mound again tonight. Lester, like '08, pitched pretty damn well and had his team up 3-2 going into the Bottom of the 9th. Price on the other hand, gave up 6 runs and didn't make it out of the 5th. 

Going into the 7th innings, the Sox had a lead and were ready to turn the game over to their dynamic trio of Aceves, Bard, and the previously mentioned Papelbon. Down in St. Petersburg, the Rays faced a 7-0 hole and had accumulated all of 1 hit. Clock was about to strike midnight.... yeah no, because Boston sucks and the Trop Boys went H.A.M.

The floodgates opened up both literally and metaphorically. It rained like all hell in Baltimore and play was suspended. At the Trop, facing the 10000000th Yankee pitcher of the night, the Rays started getting on base. Hits, walks, and hit batsmen; it didn't matter. The bases were loaded and no one was out. The one run scored, then two, and a sacrifice fly by B.J. Upton brought home a third. Evan Longoria, with the greatest late inning walk up song ever, stepped up to the plate. The Major League leader in RBI's since the all-star break smashed a 3-run shot over the left field wall. It was 6-7 now and the Rays had life.

Around this time, the skies cleared up at Camden and play resumed. A whole lot of nothing would occur until the ninth so let's go back to St. Pete. Two outs into the bottom of the ninth, Dan Johnson (yes THAT Dan Johnson) was back up to bat. Did he have one more miracle left in him? The Rays' version of Robert Horry stood up facing former AAA teammate Corey Wade, facing a 2-2 count. One pitch later, the 31-year old ginger was trotting around the bases fist pumping like he was from Jersey. Tie game.

Back up in Baltimore, Papelbon had taken the mound. He struck out the first two Orioles batters with his high heat and his sinking splitter. A double down the line and a ground rule double in the right field gap tied the game up. Robert Adino stepped up to the plate and blooped a liner into shallow left field. Who was there to play it? Carl Crawford, the gold glove left fielder who the Red Sox had signed from the Rays the off-season before had a chance to give the Sox a chance to fight back in extras. Poetically, he couldn't make the play. An errant throw home and the Orioles started celebrating.

Evan Longoria was at the plate in the bottom of the 12th while this was occurring. Real time, folks. You can't make this up. There was the first applause with Evan on deck. The game was tied. In between pitches came the second; the Orioles had won. Three minutes after that second round of cheers, Longoria connected on a Scott Proctor fastball and sent it over the low fence in left field; time to start the party.

So let's recap.

The Rays were down 9.5 games on September 1.
The Boston collapse was capped off by a blown save.
Carl Crawford, a former Ray dropped the inning ending ball to give Baltimore the win.
Dan Johnson, hit game tying HRs in 2008 and 2011. 
The Rays were down 7 games starting their series with the Sox.
The Rays were down 7 runs after the 7th inning.
A 90 minute rain delay allowed the Orioles and Sox to scoreboard watch the Rays come back.
3 minutes after the Sox lost, the Rays won.

As the drugged up kid coming home from the dentist once asked, "is this real life?".

Ha, you bet your ass it is.
Posted on: June 22, 2010 6:46 pm

The Top 10 NBA Off-season Story-lines 5-1

Number 5: Who overpays for Carlos Boozer and David Lee? Listen, not everyone playing the Free Agency game this off-season is going to get the Lebron's, Bosh's, and DWADE's this off-season. It's nearly a guarantee that the losers of those sweepstakes will panic and throw ridiculous money at Lee and Boozer. Very similar players actually, Boozer and Lee are both around 6'8-6'9 and have had to play a decent amount of center the last few years, putting them at a huge disadvantage against the trees of the league. However both are very good rebounders who are maximum effort guys that will try and mask their flaws with hustle and hard play. However, both play in systems which have padded their stats some. Lee plays in Mike D'Antoni's run n gun, no defense, try and score 200 points a game system in New York. Nearly all the way across the country, Boozer plays in Jerry Sloan's system in Utah which has always been about getting his PG and PF involved and their numbers. Boozer's back-up, Paul Milsap is arguably the better of the two anyway and he puts up decent numbers off the bench as well. In my opinion, Boozer is best served going back to Utah while Lee won't really have any choice other than to leave New York. In the end, I'm going to bet that..... nah, I'll wait until the end to put this puzzle together.

Number 4: Who does Chris Bosh follow? I really am on the bandwagon that Chris Bosh wants to win very badly. I think he's desperate to win after some horrible years in Toronto where nothing was accomplished. A fan-favorite theory is that he ends up in LA with Pau and Kobe. To me, that's a nightmare for the rest of the West. Gasol moves back to C where he is actually more effective in my opinion and where he played in Memphis. You have two guys who can post up, take their man off the dribble, pass the ball well, shoot from the perimeter. Really, they have two very similar players although Bosh does it more with his quickness and shot while Gasol uses his fundamentals a little bit more. Another popular theory is the one where he joins Lebron in New York. Lebron, Gallo, Chandler, Bosh, whomever would be a deadly line-up, no matter who is playing C (for those slow ones, Lebron will be the point guard). Maybe Bosh goes to Chicago to team up with Derek Rose and Joakim Noah giving Chicago that third star and an absolutely incredible future. Noah's defense, Bosh's offense, Rose's playmaking with role players like Deng and Hinrich, Chicago would be a contender for years. Now onto the Florida theories. You ask someone from North Florida and they tell you that Bosh will be in Orlando as a result of some miraculous sign and trade most likely involving Brandon Bass and Marcin Gortat, maybe J.J. Redick's rights as well in a sign-and-trade scenario. You go down to South Florida and all the talk is Bosh teaming up with DWADE in South Beach. Chalmers, Wade, Beasley, Bosh, and whomever else they can get gives the Heat a very bright future as well with two proven stars and two guys they're just waiting to emerge. Again, I'll wait until the end to put this together.

Number 3: Who joins Wade in South Beach? Anyone who thinks DWADE is leaving Miami doesn't know what's going on at all. DWADE will be on the Heat for life baring some Jordan/Wizards scenario. Beautiful weather, smart organization, no state income tax. There's literally no reason to leave. Above all though is the cap room that the Heat have to bring in a side-kick that Wade has desperately needed since he and Shaq split. Who will it be though? Will Lebron come up from the hell that is down Cleveland? Will Bosh join him there? Will STAT be in a Heat jersey? Or will they have to settle for Boozer or Lee? In either scenario, the Heat get better because when Jermaine O'Neal is your second best player, you have issues. DWADE needs a side-kick desperately and I could even see him waiting until the Heat make their move before he officially re-signs. If the Heat botch this one, DWADE might just leave or demand a sign and trade to a team that wouldn't have the cap room to sign him otherwise. Again, either way, DWADE will be on a better team next year than the Heat were this past season, whether that's still with the Heat or somewhere else is yet to be seen although I'd lean towards him staying.

Number 2: Cinderella's Castle. I mean, LeBron James will be moving but to where? Will he stay in Cleveland? No. Let's get that out of the air now. Lebron is way too cocky to stay in small little Cleveland his whole career. He's going to a bigger market or going to somewhere where he'll win a quick title which will just fluff his ego more. One thing people have to realize about Lebron is that it's all about Lebron, all day. 24/7. I mean, the dude went on Jimmy Kimmel's show and lost a pop-a-shot competition and was trying to distract the guy he was losing to. I'm pretty sure the princess was wearing sunglasses as well. He's inside a building, keep that in mind. The only thing larger than his talent is his potential. The only thing bigger than that is his ego. I wouldn't doubt that if he ends up in NYC, there's a Lebron television channel just showing clips of Lebron and Lebron commercials all day long. And stupid people will watch it because for some reason the world is fascinated by him. Lebron's leaving Cleveland and I'd almost bet my life on it. One thing though I don't see is Lebron teaming up with another mega-star Bosh or Wade, especially not Wade. There are very few players in the league who people will even attempt to make a case for over Lebronbron. Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, and Dwyane Wade. Wade and Bryant have the strongest cases. Me personally, think that Wade is the best player in the game with Lebron a close second. There's no way Bron-bron's ego would be able to take winning anything without being the clear cut man. Bosh and Wade are on the short-list for guys who could out-play him in a series, and that's the last thing Lebron wants. Who will he team up with? Where will he go? I think he's going to Chicago where he'll try and foolishly surpass Jordan's legacy. That leaves Cleveland in a horrible situation. I think Bosh will join DWADE in Miami. I see the Knicks and Jazz working out a sign and trade deal sending Lee to Utah and Boozer back to NYC who will then go and blow money on Rudy Gay in a panic move. As for Stoudmire, keep an eye on Oklahoma City or New Jersey. OKC needs a big to get over the hump, and Lopez and STAT make a formidable duo for the future.

Number 1: The Super Dream Shake. I'm going to take a ton of heat for this and I know it. However, as a Magic fan, I'm biased. Two and a half years ago at the All-Star game, Dwight Howard got to take time out of his day and spend it with Bill Russell. Russell taught Dwight the importance of defense and protecting the basket along with making up for what you lack offensively with rebounding and defensive play. After that talk, and I'm guessing a few others with the legend, Dwight went on to finish 2nd in DMVP voting that year. Since then? Dwight's won back to back defensive player of the year awards and became the first ever player in NBA history to lead the NBA in blocks and rebounds in the same year, for consecutive years. Orlando's defense also ranked top 10 in nearly every statistical category including first in opponents FG%, no doubt a product of Howard. As far as the other end goes, Dwight's been working with former NBA star, Patrick Ewing. Dwight has made progress but not nearly enough as he should to this point. During the Eastern Conference finals, down 3-0, Dwight received a phone call from none other than Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon. Olajuwon gave Howard advice on how to approach the game which seemed to work as Howard's game raised to new heights in game's 4, 5, and 6. The pivotal moment came in the third quarter, with Orlando down by 20 or so, his teammates had hung their heads and given up. Dwight posted up, took the ball, made a move, and was fouled. When heading to the line, Dwight, for what seemed like the first time in his career, yelled at his teammates. He screamed at them to get their heads, up, that it wasn't over. They could still win. The Magic lost, but from a leadership position, that moment confirmed what 2 and a half games leading up had proven, he had changed. This off-season, Howard will be working with Olajuwon on his offensive game. Actually, he has been for the last week or so, no word on how much longer he plans on meeting with Hakeem. Last off-season, Kobe Bryant met with Olajuwon to work on some moves in the post and many people noticed this off-season how good Kobe looked in the post this year. Orlando fans are hoping Howard can make similar strides. If Hakeem can even teach him 2 or 3 moves, not even tapping into the depth of the "dream-shake", Dwight will make steps in his offensive game that will make him borderline unguardable changing the NBA landscape even more so than where Lebron-bron decides to go or who Dwyane Wade pairs up with.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com