“It seemed over at 4-0, it was over at 5-0, and it was laughably over at 7-0.” – Tim Kurkjian, ESPN.
Thursday night, during Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, the Tampa Bay Rays blew a 7 run lead over the final two innings as the Boston Red Sox came storming back to survive one more day.
Fenway Park fell silent and fans began exiting the stadium once they believed their Red Sox were going to fall without a whimper.
Then, baseball’s comeback kings did it again.
The Red Sox, trailing by seven runs with seven outs left in their season, pulled off the biggest postseason comeback baseball has seen since 1929. Boston had staved off elimination with their 8-7 victory. J.D. Drew was the hero after his 9th inning double into left-field scored Kevin Youkilis, but you can safely say that the better half of the Red Sox lineup were all heroes in the game.
The comeback was the largest in an elimination game and the second largest in Major League Baseball postseason history.
The Red Sox have rallied back from a 3-1 series deficit twice this decade to win the pennant and then the World Series. They’ll now have a chance to do it an unprecedented third time in five years as the series is headed back to Tampa Bay and Tropicana Field for Game 6, and if necessary, Game 7.
The American League champion will face the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series beginning next Wednesday, October 22nd.
“There’s a lot of fight in that dugout,” J.D. Drew, the hero, stated. “A lot of guys knew that as soon as we got some runs on the board, we could get something going.”
The Boston rally began when Dustin Pedroia hit an RBI single proceeded by a David Ortiz three-run round-tripper off of Grant Balfour. Drew connected on a three-run blast in the eighth, and Coco Crisp tied it with a two-out RBI single off Dan Wheeler.
Boston has won eight consecutive games when facing elimination in the ALCS, an unfathomable statistic.
“It was pretty much the most amazing thing I’ve ever been a part of, to be down 7-0 in an elimination game and be able to come back,” Crisp said.
In the ninth, Kevin Youkilis reached on an infield single with two outs when he hit a sharp chopper to Evan Longoria and wound up on second base after the third-basemen made a great pick but an ill-advised throw that short-hopped Carlos Pena at first and bounced into the stands for an error.
Jason Bay was intentionally walked and Drew lined a ground-rule double off J.P. Howell over the outstretched glove of left-fielder Gabe Gross as Youkilis scored.
“Hopefully, there’ll be a time when we can sit back and think ‘This is what got us over the hump,’” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “But we’re still climbing.”
No team has repeated as World Series champion since the New York Yankees won three straight Fall Classics from 1998-2000. The Red Sox, certainly, still have a chance to do so.
Hall of Famer Yogi Berra’s infamous words hold true once again, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
The cowbells will be ringing, the tarps will be coming off the upper-deck seats to accommodate the Rays’ newly-found fans, and the catwalks will definitely be in play at Tropicana Field for another game.
We have ourselves a series, folks!!!
-Chris Barfield (with a special thank you to The Associated Press)