By Taylor Gaines, Newsome High
Greatest night in baseball history? Certainly not for the Boston Red Sox who completed a monumental September collapse of nine games by losing in the last at-bat Wednesday night. Greatest night in baseball history? Certainly for the Tampa Bay Rays, who nervously watched the scoreboard while picking up an incredible postseason-clinching win.
There is no doubt that the sequence of events on the final night of the 2011 regular season was one of the craziest ever. The Rays were down 7-0 to the Yankees entering the eighth inning. Thousands of fans had already hit the road, all hope for the 2011 season lost. Then, a six-run inning, propelled by Evan Longoria’s three-run home run, brought the Rays back to within a run.
Later, as I listened to the game on the radio in the bottom of the ninth, Joe Maddon inexplicably called upon Dan Johnson, whose .108 batting average sent even more fans filing to the exits. On his final strike Johnson belted a clutch home run over the right field wall to tie the game at 7-7. My jaw dropped.
In Baltimore, the Red Sox entered the bottom of the ninth leading 3-2, with their star closer Jonathan Papelbon in the game. They hadn’t blown a lead in the ninth inning the whole year, with a record of 78-0. Then, with the Orioles down to their last strike, back-to-back hits delivered a walk-off victory. In the most ironic twist of all, former Ray Carl Crawford botched a line drive to left field on the final play of the game to give the Rays a chance to clinch a postseason berth.
Finally, not three minutes later, Evan Longoria lined a walk-off home run over the left field wall to give the Rays the win and a spot in the playoffs. They were nine games out! They were down to their last strike! Heck, the Yankees had runners on first and third in the top of the 12th with no outs, and they didn’t score! The Red Sox had the bases loaded with no outs in the ninth against Baltimore and they went on to lose!
The Rays comeback story was an improbable one, an incredible one, certainly one for the ages. The team that had lost everyone made the playoffs and the team that had “the best lineup ever in the history of baseball” couldn’t even muster a wild-card spot. Greatest night ever for the Rays? I’d say so.