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: October 31, 2009 10:29 am

Happy Halloween - BURN of the Week 10/31/09

This will be my weekly "wrap-up" on the week that was. I'll usually try and cover a topic from 4 major sports. That includes college. This week, we have NBA, NFL, College Football, and Major League Baseball on the agenda. Let's get started.
  • NBA
There's been a lot of talk about the emergence of Brooke Lopez to challenge Dwight Howard as the best Center in the East. Maybe not this year, but in the future. People say that Lopez' offensive game is much more polished. So polished in fact, that he scored 11 points on 3-8 shooting. Dwight, however, only managed 20 points on 8-11 shooting. Lopez is supposed to be a great rebounder and defender also. So great, he managed as many personal fouls as rebounds: 5 a piece. Howard, on the other hand, managed 22 rebounds w/ only 3 personal fouls.

Let's look at the entire game here
  1. Howard: 20/22/1/4
  2. Lopez: 11/5/1/1
Howard had 9 more points, 17 more rebounds, and 3 more blocks. That's a pretty hefty margin for the top two centers in a conference, don't you think? Howard only had 1 assist, but when Carter went down, the offense only ran well when it ran through him. Lopez was so overmatched, the Nets had to double. Dwight's passing has improved and he made some great reads that got some superb ball movement opening up easy looks for Anderson/Carter, and even himself.

His offensive game has gotten much better as well. He dunked a lot last night, but he has moves now people. He's got soft touch. Against 
Samuel Dalembert and Brooke Lopez, two of the league's best defensive Center's, Dwight is averaging 21 points shooting at a 77% clip. Get ready league, the take-over has just begun.
  • NFL
Unfortunately for me, I'm a Tampa Bay Buccaneer fan. I know, there's a good chance that we go 0-16 this year. That would be our second ever winless season. It's heart-breaking and gut-wrenching for the fans. However, what it brought to my attention was the NFL's annual game in London.  After watching this game, I'm not a fan.

Even though the Bucs got destroyed by the Patriots, this game took away a HOME GAME from us Buccaneers fans. That's 100 dollars right down the drain. You have got to love NFL owners, right; especially ones that are 60 million dollars under the cap.

Another issue that I had was that the fans there really just didn't care. There was no real energy in the stadium. It would be like if Manchester United played some premiere league bottom feeder in Dallas' new stadium. Sure, people would watch, but no one would really be into it. It'd be just a flat atmosphere.

Now, I can't blame the NFL for putting a terrible team against a Super Bowl contender in this game considering when the decision was made. Tampa Bay was 9-3 and ranked as the third or fourth best team in the NFL. New England was also having a big year, and was set to return Tom Brady this year. It would be a clash of the titans. The, the Buccaneers blew up their team, and wa-la, you have what happened on Sunday. 

The England game takes too much planning, and as we saw last weekend, too much can happen in that time.
A common out-cry by football purists over the past couple weeks has been "defenses have finally caught up with the spread". That's just not true. They say that Texas Tech, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, the POWERS of the spread are all having down years offensively. Well, that's true, but it's not because "defenses have caught up with the spread". Let's take a look at some of the talent that these teams are missing this year, and we're not even including the offensive line.
  1. Florida - Percy Harvin (starting WR), Louis Murphy (starting WR)
  2. Texas - Quan Cosby (starting WR)
  3. Oklahoma - Joauin Iglesias (starting WR), Jermaine Gresham (starting TE), Sam Bradford (starting QB), Manny Johnson (starting WR)
  4. Texas Tech - Graham Harrell (starting QB), Michael Crabtree (starting WR)
All of these teams have taken heavy hits this year, especially Oklahoma. On that list are FOUR current or future NFL first round picks, and every single one other than Harrell is on an NFL roster. 

Now, look away from your traditional powers. Oklahoma State, who runs the spread, is putting up huge numbers. Auburn, who's converting over to a quazi-spread, has improved numbers. Houston is blowing people's minds right now.

The defenses have NOT caught up to the spread. It's a perfect system. Athletes in space are still athletes in space. The moment the defense tries to adapt and put a bunch of 5'9, 170 pound speedsters in the game, you're going to see a Tim Tebow or some big, powerful running back coming at you. 

The spread has too many options. It spreads you out. Think about paper. When you crumple paper up (i-formation), you can't really do anything so it. When you spread it out (spread), there are so many spots of weakness that you can have your way with it. The moment the NFL (other than New Orleans and New England) realizes that the spread is the future, you'll start to see great college players getting their dues and hopefully the end of these, "mediocre in college but has pro-tools" busts.
  • MLB:
Anyone else cheering for the Phillies just to see New York lose?
Posted on: August 16, 2008 11:51 pm

History doesn't mean sh*t!!!

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.


Category: MLB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com