MLB Playoffs 2011: The Tampa Bay Rays' Top 5 Moments of the Last 48 Hours
Wow. Just wow.
There really aren't enough words to describe the events of Wednesday night.
Or maybe there are simply too many.
The Tampa Bay Rays completed the most improbable of comebacks last night by overcoming a 7-0 deficit against the Yankees and beating them 8-7. Moments earlier, the Orioles beat the Red Sox on a walk-off single. The combination of the two won the Rays the American League Wild Card.
As the dust settles from all of this, let's look at the top five moments of the last 48 hours for the Rays. From Tuesday's 5-3 comeback win to Wednesday's epic 8-7 victory, there was plenty to cheer about.
No. 5: A Game-Saving Triple Play
Situation: 3-2 Yankees in the top of the sixth. Bases loaded, no outs, Russell Martin at the plate.
What happened: Martin hits a chopper to third baseman Evan Longoria, who steps on third base. He then fires to second baseman Ben Zobrist, who makes a quick turn to throw to Sean Rodriguez at first base.
The throw beats a diving Martin by a split second.
I think it's fair to say that without this play, the Rays would have lost the game. You could just smell a huge inning coming.
No. 4: Matt Joyce's Huge Home Run
Situation: Bottom of the seventh, two men on with nobody out. Matt Joyce at the plate.
What happened: With Yankees reliever Ray Rafael Soriano clearly off his game, Joyce took a ball, then crushed a poorly located fastball into the right field bleachers. The blast put the Rays ahead 5-3, a lead they would not give back.
Coupled with a Red Sox win, the Rays' win set the stage for the events of Wednesday night.
No. 3: Evan Longoria Gets the Rays Back in the Game
Situation: Yankees 7, Rays 3. In the bottom of the eighth, the Rays mounted a rally. After being down 7-0, a few timely hits brought the Rays to within four runs. With two outs and two men on, Evan Longoria came to the plate.
What happened: Yankees reliever Luis Ayala had been having a mini-meltdown. Longoria came to the plate and jumped on the first pitch, a fastball right down the middle. The ball was absolutely torched.
All of the sudden, it was 7-6 Rays.
No. 2: Dan Johnson Does It Again
Situation: It all came down to this. Bottom of the ninth, two outs, nobody on and two strikes. Dan Johnson, a first baseman who has hit some of the biggest home runs in Rays history—including a huge one in 2008 off Jonathan Papelbon—was facing his old Durham teammate, Cory Wade.
What happened: Johnson recognized a pitch that broke back over the middle of the plate, and turned on it. He got just enough on it, and was just late enough to power the ball over the right field fence just to the left of the foul pole.
The Rays tied the game, 7-7, to send it into extra innings.
No. 1: The Wild Card Clincher
Situation: First off, we have to go back half an inning. The Yankees had two men on and nobody out in the top of the 12th.
Jorge Posada hit a ground ball to third base that was fielded by Longoria. With Greg Golson a bit too far down the baseline, Longoria ran over to tag him out. With a more manageable situation, the Rays escaped unharmed.
In the bottom of the 12th and with Scott Proctor pitching, B.J. Upton struck out to bring Evan Longoria to the plate.
What happened: Moments after Robert Andino's single beat the Red Sox (much to the delight of the Tampa Bay crowd), Proctor made a 2-2 pitch to Longoria. The 95 MPH fastball was located up in the zone, but Longoria turned on it and hit a frozen rope to left field.
What appeared to be a double kept on rising, and finally cleared the low left field wall to give the Rays the win and a berth in the 2011 playoffs.