Each baseball season is filled with ups and downs, highs and lows, and walk-offs and heartbreak. It fuels the part of our emotion that helps us to believe that when your back is against the wall, anything is possible. You always have a fighting chance as long as you still have an out available to be made. Our seasons are dotted with unbelievable plays that we will watch over and over again years from now as well as those home runs that never seem to find their way back to Earth. Just as a fire can light a team’s road to the postseason it can also, coincidently, be what burns a team out of it. In October, you have to be perfect.
Believing that a comeback was still in our future, I made my way to Tropicana Field with my friend Kristen last night for ALDS game 4. What’s really funny is that Kristen and I met via Twitter last year after watching each others video submissions on YouTube for the third season of the MLB Fan Cave. When we saw their 2014 video starting to play on the screen at the stadium, we had to have someone take our photo. Though you cannot really see the video playing in the background–it’s there, trust me.
Facing our fifth elimination game since September 29th, I felt that the odds were in our favor despite what anyone else would suggest. We had proved our determination and fearlessness against Toronto, Texas, and Cleveland so Boston was just the next victim on the list. We had gained momentum by eliminating the Orioles and Yankees prior to our trip to Canada. We were ready. We had played our AL East rivals and were positioning ourselves to be one of the biggest threats in the 2013 postseason. By the time the team landed in Boston, we had been in three other cities, facing three tough teams in do-or-die situations that week. Fatigued? Over worked? I don’t know. I think it was a combination of things, yet the Rays never lost their will to keep fighting.
In Boston, the Green Monster looked to be something out of our nightmares. The ball seemed to be magnetized to the structure during the first two games, and caused more problems with fielding for the the three brave souls that had the job of patrolling left, center and right field. The most notable victim of the first two games in Boston was Wil Myers who somehow missed a routine fly ball to right during game 1.
Undoubtedly that’s not a position any player–let alone a prized Rookie–wants to find themselves in. Wil became the target of Sox fan’s chants, “My-ers! My-ers!” During game two when Myers caught a ball in right field, he received a standing ovation from the fans at Fenway–he smiled.
After fighting for their lives on the road since September 24th (that’s twelve days), the Rays FINALLY made it back to Tampa Bay to play for their fans. In front of a crowd of 33,675 the Rays showed everyone why you can never count them out during game 3. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Evan Longoria single-handedly launched a ball to left field to tie the game at 3-3.
Catcher Jose Lobaton stepped courageously into the box against Boston’s closer Koji Uehara with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. For the first time since June 30th, Uehara found himself sending a pitch across the plate that was destined to jump over the outfield wall. Lobaton hit a home run to center field that wound up in the Ray Tank–only the third ever to make a splash (he joins Miguel Cabrera and Louis Gonzalez). For the hit the Tampa Bay Rays will be making a donation to the Florida Aquarium, which is a traditional promise the Rays have made, and to a charity of Lobaton’s choice–which he chose Tampa Bay Children’s Home. The total donation made between the two equals $10,000.
Soaring high after game 3, the stage was set for the Rays to forge forward and force a game 5 in the series. The Rays were first to strike last night and got on the board in the sixth inning. This is what that moment felt like–can you see our goosebumps?!
In the top of the seventh, Boston scored on, first, a pitch from Joel Peralta that Jose Lobaton was unable to stop. Before the inning was over, Boston had added their second run to the board.
To try to further secure their spot in the ALCS, Boston tacked on another run in the 9th. Sadly, at that point, many people began to get up out of their seats and head for the exit. As for the rest of us, we were on our feet. The heart of our lineup was due up beginning with Wil Myers. Sadly Myers, Loney and Longoria couldn’t get the job done. Loney and Longoria were also 0-4 on the night, followed by Zobrist and Jennings who were 0-3.
It was hard to stomach the loss. In a season where we had gone 21-5 in the month of July, sent Ben Zobrist and Matt Moore to represent the team at the All Star Game, saw Yunel Escobar make flashy behind-the-back ball flips for fancy outs–our first real shortstop since the departure of Jason Bartlett, had David Price, Alex Cobb, and Matt Moore on the disabled list for different periods of time, Longoria hit 32 home runs, we pulled off a hidden ball trick against the Dodgers, won four elimination games to stay alive for #OneMoreGame, and more. It’s almost impossible to pick out the best moments of the 2013 season because we really have shared SO many. This felt like such a special year for the team so it’s unfortunate that it had to come to an end with a loss against our rivals from Boston. We had to deal with bad calls, bad luck, and both offensive and defensive woes in October. Just as quickly as October makes stars, it sends them home.
Regardless of our outcome, I’m still proud of them.
My personal 2013 MVP thoughts for the team: Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar, James Loney.
It really was a team effort but the upgrades to the defense with Loney and Escobar is key. Don’t be surprised if Yunel wins a Gold Glove for his work this season. Loney’s bat also helped the team immensely. Chris Archer stepped up in a big way to help the team win while several of our starting pitchers spent time on the DL–even earning both the American League Pitcher of the Month and A.L. Rookie of the Month for July. Ben Zobrist continued to be Mr. Reliable no matter what position he was playing. Alex Cobb probably had the hardest road to walk than any other player on the team. After getting hit in the head this season by a line drive, Cobb had to battle back from his injury, get over his fright and reclaim his form. When he came back, Cobb surprised everyone with his consistency and perseverance. As for Longoria… he was just Longoria being Longoria all season. This year he had a career high 160 games played and made a big impact both with his defensive skills and his bat.