Before the conspiracy theorists put it out there, Carl Crawford did not drop that fly ball to let the Rays get in the playoffs. Rafael Soriano did not groove that pitch to Matt Joyce the night before, when he hit the home run to give the Rays the win. The Rays just happen to have really good players that they can’t afford to keep, that end up with the free spending clubs that they have to compete with for the postseason every year.
The schedule, which seemed so unfair earlier in the year; setting up the Rays with a barrage of games against the AL East’s best, turned out to be just what the Rays needed at the end of the year. Tampa Bay faced Boston and New York seven times each in the last month of the season. They went 6-1 against the reeling Red Sox and went 4-3 against the Yankees. The games against Boston allowed them to make up ground in a hurry and the games against the Yankees to finish the year, were against a team that had nothing to play for and was setting itself up for the playoffs.
The Rays performance in their last game was just as unbelievable as their performance over the last four weeks. They went 17-8 after they fell nine games behind the Red Sox on September 3. They were down 7-0 through seven innings in a game they had to have, on the last day of the season. They scored six runs in the eighth and in the ninth got a homer from a back-up, who hadn’t gotten a hit since being called up from Triple-A in mid-September. Did I mention he was down to his last strike with two outs on the board? After they got the game to extra innings; the face of their franchise, Evan Longoria, ended it with one swing in the bottom of the twelfth.
That is baseball. Six months and 162 games came down to a three minute flurry of late inning heroics. The Rays should never have been in this position. They were written off when they lost so much of the talent off the team that made the playoffs last year. They were written off when they lost eight of their first nine games to start the year. They were written off for good when they found themselves nine games behind Boston with 25 games left on the schedule. It seems like it was just meant to be. The way the Red Sox lost some of their games in September, the way the Rays won some of their games in September sure made it feel that way.