Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rays let the Series slip away...

By JC De La Torre

7 outs - 7 run lead. That's what the Rays had to advance to the World Series. Instead of their third straight convincing victory over Boston at Fenway, the Tampa Bay Rays suffered the second greatest playoff collapse in Major League history as the never-say-die Red Sox refused to die, rallying for an unbelievable 8-7 win.

Wasted in this monumental loss was the tremendous pitching performance by starter Scott Kazmir, who pitched 6 innings, striking out 7, allowing on 2 hits and no runs.

Tampa Bay was staked to a big lead thanks to their power hitting. BJ Upton's 2 run homer in the 1st inning to give the Rays a 2-0 lead. In the 3rd, Carlos Pena's 2 run homer got Rays up to 4-0. Then Longoria followed with his own homer to go back-to-back for the second time in the seires, giving the Rays a 5-0 lead. It would stay that way to the top of the 7th, when BJ Upton doubled off the scoreboard scoring Bartlett and Iwamura to give the Rays a seemingly insurmountable 7-0 lead.

Bottom of the 7th, with Grant Balfour was on the hill, Lowrie doubled and but Balfour got the first outs in the inning quickly. Then the wheels fell off. Coco Crisp singled to left, advancing Lowrie to third. Then Dustin Pedroia down to his final strike, ripped a single to right to score Lowrie and get the goose egg off the board for Boston. Then disaster. David Ortiz - big Papi - found a Grant Balfour fastball blasted a 3 run homer to right to cut the lead to 7-4 and got the crowd back into the game. Dan Wheeler would check into the game and get Youklis.

After Papelpon put down the Rays in order, in the bottom of the 8th Wheeler walked Bay to lead off, then JD Drew blasted a shot to right - Fenway went bananna's - suddenly the dead Red Sox had risen and those Boston fans who left when the team was down 7-0 were scrambling back with the Sox down 7-6. Wheeler got Lowrie to fly out, then struck out Shawn Casey. Unfortunately, Kotsay doubled off of BJ Upton's glove. Then after a 10 pitch at bat, Coco Crisp singled to right, scoring Kotsay to tie the game.

The Rays got two men on with only one out in the top of 9th, but Pena, who only hit into two double-plays all season, hit into one here - ending the Rays threat. Then the bottom of the 9th, JP Howell trying to stop the bleeding gets Pedroia and Ortiz, Youklis hits an infield single to Evan Longoria, but then Longoria threw it past 1st baseman Carlos Pena for an error, allowing Youklis to get to 2nd. The Rays intentionally walked Jason Bay and then JD Drew singled over Gabe Gross head in right, scoring Youklis for the game winning run.

What a comeback by the Red Sox and what a devastating loss for the Tampa Bay Rays. So close to the World Series they could taste it, with the game in the hands of the bullpen that was one of the catalyst to their amazing turn around - and the bullpen implodes, blowing a 7 run lead and a terrifc effort from Scott Kazmir.

The good news for the Rays is that the live to play another day. They're back at the Trop and will have Big Game James Shields on the mound. The Trop fans need to pick up our young team - because I'm sure their not going to be feeling to good on the way home tonight.

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