Stat Line Of The Night — 9/28/11 — Evan Longoria And The Tampa Bay Rays
You couldn’t have written a better script than that. Sure, the St. Louis Cardinals’ run that saw them come from 8.5 games back of the Atlanta Braves to capture the NL Wild Card on the final day of the season was pretty impressive, but how about what unfolded in the MLB’s other Wild Card race last night?
After holding a nine game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the AL Wild Card on September 2nd, the Boston Red Sox managed to let it all slip away, as they entered the final night of the season tied with the Rays for the final playoff spot. At approximately 10pm last night, it appeared as though the Sox would salvage their season and live to fight another day, as the Rays trailed the Yankees by a score of 7-0 heading into the eighth inning, while the Red Sox were in the visitors clubhouse at Camden Yards, clinging to a 3-2 lead during a rain delay in the seventh inning.
The rain lasted long enough to allow the Sox to stay in the clubhouse and watch the Rays put up a six-run eighth inning, which was capped off by a three-run homer off the bat of Evan Longoria. However, at that point the Yankees were still leading 7-6, and it looked like the game would end that way when the Rays were faced with two outs and two strikes to pinch-hitter Dan Johnson – who entered the game batting .108 – in the bottom of the ninth. But as we all have learned at some point in the past, you can throw away batting averages and all of those other numbers at this time in the season, because in some cases all it takes is one swing of the bat to turn everything around. And Johnson proved just that, sending the two out, 2-2 pitch just over the fence in right field, tying the game at 7-7.
The Sox got to see it all, and with the Rays and Yankees now headed into extra innings, the Sox were also getting set to get back onto the field and finish off their game with the Orioles. When that finally did happen, it appeared as though the Sox were in control, getting through the seventh and eighth inning with their lead still intact. Closer Jonathan Papelbon came in to close things out in the ninth, and he recorded the first two outs with ease, via strikeouts. However, that third out would never come, as back-to-back doubles by Chris Davis and Nolan Reimold would tie the game and set up the game-winning walk-off single by Robert Andino.
The Sox had just blown their ninth inning, two out lead, losing to the Orioles by a score of 4-3. When the Rays’ players and the fans at Tropicana Field heard that news, they went wild, and about one minute later (literally), Evan Longoria stepped up to the plate and belted a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning to send the Rays into the playoffs and cap off the wildest final day of the season in baseball history.
When it was all said and done, the Sox put themselves in the record books, as their 9-game wild card lead was the biggest blown lead in the month of September in baseball history, while the Braves fall just behind them after blowing an 8.5-game lead. As for the hero of this entire story, that would be Evan Longoria. His two homers last night capped off the Rays’ incredible run to the playoffs, and they also earned him “The Stat Line of the Night” for Wednesday, September 28, 2011.