Meanwhile in Tampa, the Rays got off to a horrible start against the Yankees. Mark Texeira hit a grand slam in the 2nd inning, and took a 5-0 lead against the Rays. The Yanks tacked on 2 more runs to take a 7-0 lead into the 8th inning. That’s when the character of the Rays came through, and the Red Sox got to watch it. During the rain delay in Baltimore, the Rays mounted an incredible comeback, scoring 6 runs in the 8th inning. Watching that, you felt different about the Rays than you did about the Red Sox and the Braves. They didn’t look like a dead team, and they got help, having a player hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Still, the Rays were down a run in the 9th with two outs, and when lighting for Dan Johnson struck again. Johnson who had a terrible year, stepped up in the 9th and hit a game tying pinch-hit home run. Just his 2nd of the year.
As extra innings chugged along, the top of the 12th saw rookie Jake McGee wiggle his way out of a huge jam. McGee had runners on 1st and 3rd with no out, and managed to get Jorge Posada to bounce out to 3rd, where the momentum of the play took Tampa 3B Evan Longoria right into the runner Greg Golson. It was a fortuitous play for the Rays, but it wasn’t surprising given the way they came back earlier.
The most bizarre thing occurred in the bottom of the 12th. While the Rays were coming to bat in their game, the Orioles were making their comeback off of Papelbon. The fans that didn’t leave were cheering loudly when they saw the Orioles beat the Red Sox, right in the middle of B.J Upton’s at-bat. While Upton struck out, Evan Longoria stepped up to the plate next, and hit the game winning home run, his 2nd of the night. This was literally within minutes of the Orioles winning against the Red Sox.
What looked like sure elimination just hours before turned into a wild scene in Tampa, and for fans all across baseball. I found myself cheering, not because I am a fan of the Orioles or the Rays, but because of the drama. It was unbelievable watching the events unfold tonight. MLBTV analysts Harold Reynolds and Dan Plesac couldn’t even contain their excitement over the dramatic events.
That is what baseball is all about. After all, it starts off for most of us when we are a kid. I think anyone who is a baseball fan can remember back when they started to love this game. Going to the park with family, playing it in the neighborhood. You felt elation hitting the plate scoring a run, or striking a guy out. As a fan, you don’t forget those feelings, and watching these games tonight I was reminded fondly of that.
I’m sure the heartbreak felt by the fans of the Braves and Red Sox fans will eventually subside, and maybe they can appreciate at some point what they saw tonight. What I saw was teams like the Orioles and Phillies playing the game, not because there was anything on the line, but because they loved it. They loved the competition.
The celebration by the Orioles when Reimold scored that winning run against Papelbon was the epitome of baseball; elation and heartbreak all rolled into one, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.