Sunday, August 25, 2019

The 2011 AL "Wild" Wild Card Race 8/25/19

Hey baseball fans!

We're coming down to the final month of the 2019 MLB regular season and playoff seedings are starting to shape. However, as the great Yogi Berra said, "it ain't over 'til it's over." About eight years ago, a comeback in historically one of the most competitive divisions in MLB history shocked the sports world, making the 2011 AL Wild Card race one to remember.

It was September 1, 2011. The Red Sox were nine games up on the Rays in the American League Wild Card race, with the Yankees leading the AL East. The Sox were expected to do well in 2011, having acquired veteran All Stars Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford (from Tampa) in the offseason. The Rays were three years removed from their first AL pennant in team history, with much of the same core still on the roster, including all-time great member of the Rays, Evan Longoria, and the since-added 2010 AL Cy Young runner-up, David Price. Boston had actually led the AL East for much of the year, only to relinquish it to the Yankees late in the season. But as I said before, by September 1, they had the only AL Wild Card spot pretty much locked up. Remember: the Wild Card Game wouldn't debut until 2012, so there was one Wild Card team per division at this point in the history of baseball.

But the Red Sox caught the injury bug and had massive pitching issues during baseball's final month. Meanwhile, the Rays soared into autumn, with the help of hitters such as the versatile 2015 World Series MVP, Ben Zobrist, Melvin Upton Jr., Casey Kotchman, and Matt Joyce, among others. Their pitching was also incredible. Price, James Shields, and Jeremy Hellickson all had ERAs south of 3.5. By the time the final series of the season arrived, the Sox still controlled their own destiny, but would need to come up clutch against the Orioles to seal the deal. Elsewhere, the Rays would have to take down the division-winning Yankees if they wanted a chance at the World Series for the second time in franchise history.

It came down to Game 162, with both teams tied at 90 wins. The Yankees looked to be ending the Rays season, leading 7-0 entering the bottom of the eighth at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. The Red Sox, playing in Baltimore, also had a lead entering the later innings at 3-2. In Tampa, the Rays magically scored seven runs in the final two innings, thanks to a three-run shot by Longoria in a six-run eighth and a game-tying solo shot by Dan Johnson in the ninth. In extras, Longoria finished off the game with a walk-off homer in the twelfth that just snuck over the left field wall, giving the Rays 91 regular season wins. The Sox and O's had been in a rain delay, so whatever happened in Camden Yards was out of the Rays' control. But miraculously, the Orioles scored two in the ninth, the second one on a botched sliding attempt by Crawford in left, giving the Orioles the win and the Rays the AL Wild Card spot.

So, what does this show you? Anything can happen when the playoffs are on the line. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of "all the buzz on what wuzz."

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