With Spring Training around the corner, it’s good to look back at the highlights of last season and then imagine what 2013 could hold for the Rays. On April 26, 2012, the Rays gave us an inspirational moment early in the season when they beat the Angels 4-3 thanks to Brandon Allen’s walk-off home run.
Rookie Matt Moore took the mound for Tampa Bay, striking out Howie Kendrick in the top of the first inning. Things continued to get better for the Rays as Desmond Jennings hit a leadoff single to second base and scored in the following play after Ben Zobrist’s double. The Angels’ starting pitcher, Jerome Williams, was able to finish the inning strong as he struck out Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria. Moore, meanwhile, continued to keep up the good work early on as he struck out three batters in the second and third innings.
However, Moore found himself in a sticky situation in the top of the fifth inning as Mark Trumbo hit a leadoff homerun, tying the score 1-1. Alberto Callaspo kept up the pace with his single to center field, but Moore was able to strike out the next batter, Bobby Wilson. Things began to spiral downward as Moore threw a wild pitch to batter Peter Bourjos, allowing Callaspo to advance to second base, then Morre walked Bourjos. Fortunately, Moore was able to escape the inning with no more runs crossing the plate.
The bottom of the fifth inning looked promising as Sean Rodriguez singled to center field, then stole second base with Jennings at bat. Jennings was walked, but neither he nor Rodriguez were batted in. However, things heated up in the sixth inning. Moore struck out the first batter he faced, Howie Kendrick, but Torii Hunter retaliated by singling to right field, and then Mark Trumbo delivered a double, allowing Hunter to score. After the Angels’ second run scored of the night, Burke Badenhop relieved Moore. However, Trumbo went on to score off of Vernon Wells’ single before Badenhop was able to strike out Callaspo for the innings’ final out.
Luke Scott helped the Rays stir up some action as he drew a walk from Williams, but Matt Joyce stole the show with his triple to center field. Scott scored, putting the Rays only one run behind the Angels to set the game up for a exciting finish.
Tampa Bay’s relievers Joel Peralta and Brandon Gomes held the Angels at three runs for the remainder of the night as they struck out a combined three batters in the eighth and ninth innings. Down just a run, the Rays held out hope for a victory as B.J. Upton stepped up to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning. Upton did not disappoint as he singled to right field, but the best was yet to come as Brandon Allen approached the plate as a pinch-hitter for Jose Molina. In his second game with the Rays, since being claimed off waivers from the Oakland A’s only a week earlier, Allen hit a two-run walk off home-run, bringing home the win for his new team.
It is amazing victories like this one in the bottom of the ninth inning that remind us all why we love baseball- the exhilaration, the unpredictability, and a late rally by our favorite team keep us watching game after game. As Rays fans, these types of games definitely keep us on our toes- doesn’t the story of a pinch-hitter hitting a walk-off home run in his first official at-bat with the team sound too good to be true? But in baseball, anything can happen and everything does. As the countdown until Spring Training and eventually Opening Day continues, we’ll all be waiting to experience moments like these once again.