October 20, 2008 [LINK / comment]

Rays withstand Red Sox

This had to be one of the most exciting postseason series I've seen in a long time. The Tampa Bay Rays had crushed the Boston Red Sox in Games [3 and 4] of the ALCS and were leading by a seemingly insurmountable 7-0 margin at the seventh inning stretch. With two outs in the bottom of the inning, Dustin Pedroia batted in the Red Sox' first hit with a single, and then David Ortiz made up for his recent cold streak by smashing a three-run homer to right field. The Rays' reliever Grant Balfour (Ball Four?) was taken out, and the rest of their usually-reliable bullpen crumbled in the crunch. The Red Sox tied it in the eighth inning, as J.D. Drew got a two-run homer. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Evan Longoria's errant throw to first allowed Kevin Youkilis to get to second, and two batters later he scored the winning run on a line-drive hit by J.D. Drew. Un-[BLANKing]believable!!!

Here's a trivial question that bugs me: The game-winning hit by J.D. Drew hit to right field clearly bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double, so why was it officially scored as a single? If the ball had not bounced over the fence into the bullpen, it would have been a double or a triple, and the runner on first would have scored if the game was not yet decided. Since it was (or should have been) a ground-rule double, however, he could only have advanced to third base.

I'll have to admit, I was among those thought the Rays were going to win it all on Thursday, and after that historic comeback by the Red Sox, I thought the Rays would have to win Game 6 in order to stop Boston's momentum. ("Mojo," you know.) Back in Tampa Bay on Saturday night, it seemed that Boston was on its way to yet another amazing postseason series triumph over adversity, as they won, 4-2.

Sunday night's game at The Trop was just perfect, replete with high tension and a stadium packed with loud fans. (More cowbell! smile) The Red Sox scored in the first inning on a home run by Dustin Pedroia, giving every impression of nailing down a Game 7 victory, but after that they were shut down to my surprise. Meanwhile, the Rays kept battling back and tied the game 1-1 on a double by Evan Longoria in the fourth inning. In the fifth inning they took the lead on a single by Rocco Baldelli, and in the seventh inning they got an insurance run from Willie Aybar's home run. Rays' starting pitcher Matt Garza, who was awarded the ALCS MVP, faced down the Boston sluggers in the latter innings. Even with multiple runners in scoring position, the Red Sox could not catch up. The Rays withstood the supreme test of nerves against the vaunted Red Sox, winning by a score of 3-1. For all the details, see MLB.com.

And so, hearty congratulations to the Tampa Bay Rays for winning their very first American League pennant! And a respectful tip of the cap to the Boston Red Sox for living up to their team's reputation of battling back against near-impossible odds. Those two teams made this October a postseason to remember.