Friday, September 30, 2011

Rays leave it very late

Whether or not the wild card should be extended, as is reportedly being considered for 2013, there's no doubt that it's here to stay.

And what better proof of the excitement it generates could there be than the Tampa Bay Rays' amazing comeback to seal the Wild Card spot in the American League?

Going into the 162nd and final game of the regular season, the Rays were left hoping that the sad-sack Orioles could pull off an improbable victory over their rivals, the Red Sox.

But when Tampa found themselves seven runs down to the Yankees at Tropicana Field, what was happening elsewhere seemed completely academic. People who bet on baseball would have expected a simple result.

Somehow, though, this team that refuses to accept defeat finally found a way to make it into the playoffs.

The Rays were nine games out as recently as September 4, facing the challenge of being the first team ever to come from so far back in the final month of the regular season.

But having given themselves a chance going into the final game with the Yankees, they were not about to roll over, regardless of the scoreline.

They were 5-0 down after two innings, and went into the eighth trailing by seven runs. Cue the comeback of all comebacks.

Luis Ayala loaded the bases with no outs, then saw Sam Fuld draw a walk to drive home their first run.

Sean Rodriguez got hit by a pitch to score the second, and B.J. Upton's sacrifice fly made it 7-3.

The man of the moment, though, was Evan Longoria, whose 30th home run of the season drove in three runs. Suddenly, there was a chance, and Dan Johnson's solo homer tied the game. Anyone following the baseball betting will have been amazed.

With one out in the 12th, the Tropicana Park scoreboard revealed Baltimore had beaten the Red Sox, meaning if the Rays could score one run they were in the post-season.

Longoria, again, was the key. He laced a 2-2 pitch from Scott Proctor over the short porch in left to give the Rays a walk-off win and a play-off spot. It's hard to imagine anything topping that.

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