If you stayed awake late last night you have a story to tell. A story about how you witnessed the most improbable and exciting night in American League baseball history, or possibly in all of sports.
The night was made possible due to a late surge by the Rays and a mighty collapse by the Red Sox. The Rays went 17-10 down the stretch playing 18 of those 27 games against the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rangers. The Red Sox went 7-20 down the stretch playing the Rays, Yankees, and Rangers 14 times.
With both teams tied for the AL Wild Card the Rays were looking at the toughest last match. They had the Yankees and their entire starting lineup. The Red Sox had the last place Orioles. We all know how this should have played out but, again, you cannot predict baseball.
The Rays were down 7-0 going into the 8th inning. The Red Sox were up 3-2 in the 7th inning when Mother Nature decided to intervene.
The Rays would load the bases with no one out and Sam Fuld would draw a walk, Sean Rodriguez would get hit by a pitch for the 18th time this season, Desmond Jennings struck out, then B.J. Upton hit a sacrifice fly. The score was now 7-3 with two outs and two on for Evan Longoria. The Red Sox were sitting and waiting while Mother Nature played her part in this epic night.
Longoria would then hit a no-doubter to make it a 7-6 ball game. I cannot imagine what Red Sox players and fans were thinking at that point.
We then head to the 9th and with two outs and down 1-2 in the count Dan Johnson, the Great Pumpkin, would take a ball, foul off a tough pitch. The count is 2-2 now.
Remember, this is the same Dan Johnson that was the worst hitter in the Majors this year and was mediocre in Triple-A. What else would the worst hitter in the Major do but rip a hanging change-up by 2011 former Ray and Durham Bull teammate Cory Wade for a game-tying homerun.
That homerun will forever change the way I speak about miracles. I cannot help from here on out but to say “you pulled a Dan Johnson” whenever someone will be down to 2-strikes and 2-outs in life and find a way through it.
Anyway, the night goes on. The Rays head into extra innings and get into trouble in the top of the 12th with no one out and two on thanks to a bloop hit by Eric Chavez. With runners on the corners Jorge Posada hits a groundball to Longoria who makes a great play and tags a diving Greg Golson for out number one.
With runners on first and second Jake McGee would get out of the jam by striking one out and getting a ground out to end the half inning.
Simultaneously, thanks to Mother Nature, the Baltimore Orioles decided to become Rays fans and Nolan Reimold doubled in the tying run with two outs off of Jonathan Papelbon in the bottom of the 9th, who, by the way, gave up the dramatic homerun in 2008 to Dan Johnson that kept the Rays playoff dreams alive.
Robert Andino would step up to the plate and with two strikes would deliver a base hit that none other than Carl Crawford would try to slide and make a game saving catch. Only problem was that he missed and by sliding in kept him away from making a legitimate throw to home to stop the winning run from scoring. The Red Sox found a way to lose yet again.
Now it’s the Rays half of the 12th and with one out Evan Longoria steps up to the plate. He already did his part with a 3-run bomb and great defensive play just a half inning ago but he decided that wasn’t enough.
Longoria is down 1-2 in the count, just like Johnson in the 9th, and takes ball two. He then fouls off a very tough slider away. The count is 2-2 now and Longoria hits an absolute rocket down the left field line that would go about 318 feet deep and 5 feet off the ground. Luckily the wall right next to the foul pole was only 315 feet away and 4 feet tall.
The Red Sox were supposed to win it all. The AL East and the World Series. I picked them to make it to the World Series. All 45 ESPN baseball analysts picked them to make the playoffs as well. It didn’t happen. The Rays are in and the Red Sox are sitting at home. It wasn’t supposed to end this way, at least not on paper.
The Atlanta Braves also finished off a colossal collapse that may be forgotten thank the Red Sox having a worse collapse. For one night, the best bullpen in all of baseball was out played by another bullpen and missed the playoffs by one game. That game also went into extra innings.
Last night was simply the greatest night I have ever witnessed in the greatest game that has ever been played. No one could have written this ending. Not the best of Hollywood’s writers. Not the best published authors. No one.
We can try, and I try every year, but you simply cannot predict baseball.
Filed under: Digging Deep - Analysis Tagged: | Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Cory Wade, Dan Johnson, Evan Longoria, Jonathan Papelbon, New York Yankees, Nolan Reimold, Playoffs, Robert Andino, Tampa Bay Rays