Posted on: September 29, 2011 5:44 pm
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: August 5, 2009 2:54 pm
Ok, so last night I was at the Rays/Red Sox 13 inning circus that included 4 solo home runs. An MVP grounding into a double play with a man on 3rd. One team leaving the bases loaded with no body out TWICE, fan interference, and last but not least a walk-off home run. It was a great game, and maybe even the best baseball game I've ever been to. So, it got me thinking. What are the top 10 sporting events I've seen live? Here's my list.
#10: March 17, 2006 (not actual video. Just highlights)
#9: August 4, 2009
Posted on: August 16, 2008 11:51 pm
History doesn't mean sh*t. I'm about to have a really light hearted blog, so I thought I'd get a little serious with this one.
Again, history doesn't mean sh*t. I'm sick of hearing viagra taking old farts talking about the history and how much it means now adays. Well guess what, it doesn't mean sh*t.
The Phillies have 10,000 losses in their history. The only team that has that "achievment". Nowadays, they're in the middle of a pennant race. Those 10,000 losses don't mean sh*t.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the only team in NFL history to go winless in and NFL season. They won the Super Bowl in 2002, and were a playoff team last year. That history doesn't mean sh*t.
The Tampa Bay Rays had 10 losing seasons in their first 10 seasons. This year, they have the best record in arguably the best division in baseball. That history of 10 losing seasons in a row, it doesn't mean sh*t.
The Boston Red Sox went 86 years without a WS. Correct me if I'm wrong. They've won 2 of the last 4. That 80+ years of failure and the curse of the bambino; It doesn't mean sh*t.
The New York Yankees have 26 WS championships. They've made the play-offs 13 straight times. The last time the won the WS was 2000. This year, they're 9.5 games out of first. That rich history they have doesn't mean sh*t.
History doesn't matter. It's what you're doing in the here and now. So, all those people that want to say how, oh the Rays have been losers their whole history and will crumble because the Yankees always come back, shut your mouths and enjoy being in 3rd.
Posted on: August 6, 2008 4:07 pm
MVP: Josh Hamilton. There really isn't any debate. The guy is the best offensive player on arguably the best offensive team. He has a substantial lead in the RBI department, and hits for average too. He set a new single round HR derby record, for what that's worth. He has been the most feared hitter in baseball this year, and his numbers make him the run-away MVP
Cy Young: Francisco Rodriguez. Cliff Lee has had a great year ERA and wins wise. However, he is on a totally irrelevant team. I'm not one to hold that against someone, but in a race as close as him and K-Rod. K-Rod is the best closer in the game now, in my opinion. He's going for Thigpen's single-season saves record, and I think he'll reach it. If he does, it should be a wash for him. If he doesn't I think he'll still win the award.
R.O.Y.: Evan Longoria. There really isn't any competition here. Evan was a member of the AL all-star team. He was in the HR derby. He's a gold glove candidate. Did I mention that this kid has become the face of the franchise, and has been on almost every major television or radio show? His hitting is solid with a 280 average and 22 HR's, with 66 RBI at this point. His glove is even better. He has 6 SB too. Longoria is head and shoulders above any other rookie
MVP: Ryan Howard. Ryan is leading the Phillies to the lead in one of the toughest divisions in baseball. He does strike-out way too much, but his power numbers are phenomenal. 31 HR's puts him second in the NL, and second in the entire league. 96 RBI's puts him 1st in the NL, and 2nd in the majors. Ryan Howard wins his 2nd MVP in 3 years.
Cy Young: Carlos Zambrano. Carlos is the leader of the Cubs and has been for a while. He has a 2.76 ERA. He's the best player on the best team in the National League. This one was also a close race, just like the AL. Dan Haren is a very, very close second. Zambrano has the edge because he is on the better team.
R.O.Y. Giovanni Soto. Just like the AL, this is a run-away. The Cubs have a good pitching staff which makes his catching abilities a little more shined, but his hitting is what makes this so slanted. He's batting 280, with 17 HR's and 62 RBI's. Those a very solid numbers for anyone, but especially a rookie catcher. Soto, like Longoria has been the head of his class.
AL East: Red Sox - They have a much easier schedule than the Rays and experience will give them a very slight advantage at the end of the year.
AL Central: Twins - The Twins pitching staff is now stronger with Liriano being called up. The hitting is solid, and I believe they have the highest team batting average.
AL West: Angles - They play in a garbage division where the A's have thrown away the season and the Rangers don't have the pitching
AL Wild Card: Rays - They have a tough schedule, but I think they have the talent to hang on.
NL East: Phillies - They have too much hitting, and I think the Marlins will have a SMALL fall-off
NL Central: Cubs - They have too large a lead and too solid of a pitching staff. If Feukodome can get back on track, this team could be the favorites.
NL West: Dodgers - Man-Ram puts them over the edge. I don't like Ramirez, but he's a great player. He seems to be playing a lot harder in LA than in Boston.
NL Wild Card: Brewers - They have a good line-up and arguably the best pitcher in baseball in C.C. Sabathia. If this team makes the play-offs, then they could make the WS. You only need 2, maybe 3 solid pitchers in the play-offs.
Red Sox beat the Twins in 3.
Rays beat the Red Sox in 6
Rays beat the Angels in 5.
Rays beat the Cubs in 7
Brewers beat the Phillies in 4
Cubs beat the Brewers in 5
Cubs beat the Dodgers in 3
A little biased towards the Rays, but whatever.