Rays in, Sox out, miracles never cease

Wednesday afternoon, 161 games into the Major League season with only one remaining, I was psyched at the possibility of attending a one-game playoff between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. After all, these kinds of games don’t come around very often.  With both Boston and Tampa boasting the same exact record, 90 wins and 71 losses, all each team had to do was win their final game to finish tied for the season and force a playoff.  At that point, anything can happen.

Then… anything did happen.

All seemed lost in the Bay area late Wednesday night as the Sox took a 3-2 lead in Baltimore and rain threatened to call the game.  Meanwhile, 1000 miles south, the Rays were down by seven to the Yankees, thanks mostly to the hot bat of Mark Teixeira and the cold arm of David Price.

Said playoff game seemed unlikely, as did the Ray’s playoff chances.

Then the unlikeliest of likely happened, until you consider the Red Sox were involved.

While rain continued to fall in Maryland, down seven runs with six outs to go, the Rays scored three quick runs, then another three thanks to a home run by Evan Longoria.  The lead was now one.

What?

With a one-run lead entering the ninth inning, the New York Yankees usually call upon the services of Mariano Rivera, yet with the playoffs only days away, Joe Girardi opted to rest the greatest closer in history and hand the ball over to Cory Wade.  After all, the Yanks were already in the playoffs.  For them, the outcome of this game was relatively meaningless.

Enter pinch-hitter Dan Johnson, batting .119 on the season. Dare I say never in the history of baseball has a .119 hitter ever come up so big.  Johnson, a former teammate of Wade’s in minor leagues, took a 2-2 pitch barely over the right field fence.  For anyone who ever questioned Joe Maddon’s tactics, let them forever be silenced.  Suddenly, the game was tied at seven and anyone tuning in, assuming they were still watching, looked on in disbelief.

Meanwhile, in Baltimore, the rain subsided and the Sox and Orioles continued their ballgame.

As the tenth and eleventh innings came and went in St. Petersburg, Baltimore’s 8, 9 and 1 hitters (what again?!?) took Red Sox reliever, Jonathan Papelbon, and his teammates, potentially out of contention with three consecutive hits, erasing the Sox lead, and their season if only the Rays could come through in the bottom of the 12th.

They did.

Evan Longoria hit a line drive home run which eked over the left field fence just as Dan Johnson’s had over the right field fence three innings earlier.

The Red Sox season was over.  The Rays received new life… and a playoff berth.

Rays fans were speechless, or at least hoarse from celebration, as their boys in light blue erased a seven run deficit in two innings, against the New York Yankees no less.

Only twenty-four hours before, ESPN aired “Catching Hell,” Alex Gibney’s version of the Steve Bartman story.  The documentary spent perhaps a little too much time focusing on Bill Buckner.

Of course, that had nothing to do with it.  Just tell that to any Red Sox fan born before 2004.

Actually, Boston’s record collapse started in September when the Red Sox held a once-comfortable, nine-game lead over the Rays only to see it dwindle to nothing in less than a month.

Actually, it started before that, in 1978 when Bucky Dent sunk Boston’s championship hopes in a one-game playoff after they had relinquished a 14-game lead that season.

Actually, it started before that, with Harry Frazee.  Boston fans have heard it all before.  Let talks of the curse recommence.

So I didn’t get a chance to see that one-game playoff in my own backyard.  It would’ve been fun.

What I did get to see was a town, and a team, rejoicing in near miraculous fashion.

And they say baseball is boring.

31 thoughts on “Rays in, Sox out, miracles never cease

  1. Chris

    How exciting was last night ? Longoria ought to be given “the keys to the city” ! And what about <a href="http://baseball-refefence.com/players/johnsda06&t=Dan Johnson ……friggin’ unreal !

    Oh my Braves what the hell ? They blow a lead and lose in extra innings .

    Does this now mean that Francona is done in Boston ?

    Pick ‘em At Your Peril

    Never Too Late To Apologize It’s All In How You Say It ………

    tophatal ……….

    tophatal ………

  2. Rays down 0-7, Sawx in rain delay, Braves blow save, I figured screw it, goin’ to bed.

    Wish I had that to do over again. The Sawx have company as the Bravos also put on an epic collapse in Sept.

    Props to the Rays, gotrdone!

  3. Add the “Rain Delay” game to the panoply of epic Sawwwwx fails…

    If only Bucky Fucking Dent were a weatherman now…

  4. Al…

    Johnson was batting .108!!! Since when does that ever happen?

    And Longo probably already does have a key to the city, as well as about the apartment of about 1000 different single girls in the Bay area.

  5. Yaz…

    I believe it was Yogi Berra, and then later Lenny Kravitz, who said “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

    Or in terms you might better be able to understand… Chip and a chair, brother.

    Hope it was a peaceful slumber.

  6. Snake…

    Not if you ask Tim Kurkjian. He was coming out of this own skin last night, all over ESPN telling anyone who would listen that those games are the reason baseball is the greatest sport ever invented.

    I’m not sure I agree with him, but last night was pretty wild to watch.

  7. Dub…

    Weird how that kinda shit happens to that franchise, huh?

    Just friggin’ odd.

    Although we knew all along their starting pitching, other than Beckett, was horrific.

    And losing Youk to injury didn’t help either.

    Here comes the fallout.

  8. Dub…

    Weird how that kinda shit happens to that franchise, huh?

    Just friggin’ odd.

    Although we knew all along their starting pitching, other than Beckett, was horrific.

    And losing Youk to injury didn’t help either.

    Stay tuned because here comes the fallout.

  9. Chris

    If he’s (Dan Johnson) batting .108 then someone must’ve put something in his drink supplement . Last night’s games were simply unbelievable . Somewhat torn the Braves met their demise in the way that they did ! But there’s always next year ……. or is there ? I can tell you this however , all this talk of firing Francona isn’t justified . The sports’ talk hosts on WEEI need to get a clue ………. he’s not the reason the team folded like a cheap suit .

    Can I now come up for air before the postseason begins ? I don’t think that any of the upcoming series can match the suspense of last night .

    Who’s To Blame And Who Not To Blame …. Better Yet What Do You Do After That ?

    Pick ‘em At Your Peril

    Never Too Late To Apologize It’s All In How You Say It ………..

    tophatal ………

  10. Baseball usually is boring. It almost never is a panoply of excitement (H/T To Dub). However, last night it most certainly was…I watched more last night then the previous four months combined.

    Any room on the Rays bandwagon?

  11. Al…

    I don’t think Francona’s gone but I do think we’ll hear some interesting Epstein-to-Chicago rumors over the winter.

    Gotta hand it to Maddon. I haven’t heard anyone mention today that Johnson and Wade were former teammates in the minors. I heard the FSN guys mention that, so in that respect, pinch-hitting Johnson at a .108 clip made a lot more sense.

    I’m catching up on my reading now so I’ll be over to your site in a bit to see what ya’ got up.

  12. Congrats man! I think you’re the only Rays fan I’ve ever met, and I’m glad that I know at least one! Epic collapse vs. epic win, tough to tell which is the better story. Seems like the media likes the collapse angle better, but I like the winning side better. I hope they square off against Detroit in the ALCS…

  13. It appears we’ve just witnessed one of the strangest nights in the history of this well documented sport. Truly miraculous for the Rays!

    Now… One step, one out, one run, one game, one series at a time…

  14. I’m really happy for the Rays. They put together a real team effort and despite losing so many key guys during the off-season were able to make one of the most spectacular comebacks in all of sports history. It’s just points to a really well run front office that puts together a great farm system and finds good talent. This doesn’t happen too often around the league and it should be praised.

  15. Chris

    I’m not so sure about Epstein as there’s been a bit of a falling out between he Francona during the season . And I don’t know if you heard this also but there was a flare up between he (Epstein) and Lucchino concerning a couple of the team’s offseason acquisitions which he felt weren’t necessary .

    Also remember Theo Epstein’s contract is up at the end of this season and there’s no guarantee that he’ll re-sign with the Red Sox . Do I also need to remind you how Grady Little was shown the door having finished second twice in the AL East with managing this organization ?

    tophatal …….

  16. To be honest with you Rev a game like the one the other night would have required me to drink heavily for twelve innings and my boss doesn’t like it when I come to work drunk:)
    Cheers!

  17. Chap…

    Interestingly enough I grew up a Sox fan. I had even planned on writing a post asking when it’s okay to switch allegiances, but now if I put it up, I’ll just look like a bandwagoner.

    The thing is is that the Rays are a tough team not to like. Living in the area, I’m obviously exposed to them all the time. I’ve watched most of their ballgames this year.

    You have to love that they’re doing what they’re doing with a forty million dollar payroll.

  18. Dwin…

    The Rangers took pretty good care of the Rays in last year’s playoffs.

    Here’s hoping the Rays carry a little chip on their shoulder headed into that series.

  19. CR…

    Don’t forget Maddon.

    I mean, guys who play in a lineup that’s shifted around day-to-day could easily cop an attitude.

    But they don’t. They buy into what the old man is selling and it shows.

  20. Al…

    But Little never won them anything.

    In the minds of Red Sox fans everywhere, Francona has a lifetime pass.

    If anyone’s out, it’ll be Epstein who optsteins for the Cubs gig.

  21. What a special game, I can’t believe you would had gone to the play-in-game. Oh well, at least we all got to witness baseball history. You think Tampa is going to beat Texas?

  22. The Rangers are solid, DHS. I’m not sure the Rays have the bats to contend. They beat ‘em pretty good last year.

    Although, the Rays do have those memories, and momentum, on their side, so what they hell.

    Yea, I’ll take the Rays over Texas.

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