If someone had told me before the season started that the Rays would be in the World Series this season, I would have said that was crack-induced. Never in a million years would I have guessed it. Yet here they are, having their first winning season and their first trip to the World Series, beating Boston 3-1 in Game 7 of the ALCS. In the process, they did what the Yankees in 2004 and the Indians in 2007 could not do–stave off Boston’s enormous comeback bid. Although Pedroia homered off Garza in the first, Garza settled in and allowed only two hits in 7+ innings. The Rays tied it in the fourth when Longoria’s double drove in Pena, took the lead in the fifth when Baldelli drove in Aybar, and added important insurance in the seventh with Aybar’s homer.
Tampa escaped a big jam in the eighth when Cora reached on Bartlett’s error and Crisp singled. But with lots of bullpen juggling, Tampa held off Boston, with rookie David Price getting Drew on a check-swing K with the bases loaded to end the eighth. Price pitched the ninth, working around a lead-off walk to Bay to eventually get PH Jed Lowrie on a force to second to send the Rays to the Series and end Boston’s season and reign as World Series champs. Kudos to the Rays for getting to the series, holding off Boston, and having a remarkable season.
All those high draft picks (Price #1 overall in 2007, Longoria in the 1st round of 2006, Upton in the 1st round of 2002, Crawford in the 2nd round of 1999, the oft-injured Baldelli in the 1st round of 2000) paying off, all that young talent mixed with the experienced players, finally coming together to propel the Rays to heights no one but perhaps the Rays players themselves saw coming. I never did.