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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

More Lives Than A Cat

Two years ago, we compared the Tampa Bay Rays to the early 20th century monk Rasputin, who seemingly could not be killed in spite of many attempts. Since that metaphor has been used on The Hat Trick already, I will go with something more simple and traditional. The 2013 Tampa Bay Rays appear to have nine lives.

September 29, 2013 - Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Rays 7 Blue Jays 6 

In the 162nd and final scheduled regular season game of the 2013 MLB season, the Rays entered the day tied with the Texas Rangers for the second and final American League Wild Card spot. The Rangers won that day, meaning the Rays would need to do the same for their season to continue beyond that day.

After taking a 7-0 lead on the Toronto Blue Jays in the 4th inning, the Blue Jays put on a furious rally and cut the Rays' lead down to one run in the 9th inning. Rays closer Fernando Rodney, with ice in his veins, shut down the Blue Jays and sent his team to Arlington, Texas for a 163rd game for the right to travel to Cleveland to play the Indians in the American League Wild Card Game.

September 30, 2013 - Arlington, Texas: Rays 5 Rangers 2

Playing for the right to play on, Rays ace pitcher and reigning American League Cy Young winner David Price put his team, and its season, on his back. Price was brilliant in a complete game, two earned runs allowed performance on the road. The Rays cruise on to to play for their lives, again, after snuffing out the life of the Rangers' season before their deflated fans.

David Price put the team on his back throughout the game. His teammates wrap their arms around him afterwards. 3
October 2, 2013 - Cleveland, Ohio: Rays 4 Indians 0

Playing in their third game in their third state away from home in their second country in just a little over 48 hours, one would think the travel and pressure would wear on the Rays. It just made them stronger. On paper, the Rays couldn't have a better pitcher, other than Price, on the mound with the season on the line than Alex Cobb (11-3, 2.76 ERA).

Still, the Indians were at home. The Indians were red hot. the Indians were...scalped. Cobb took a shutout into the 7th inning before the Rays' bullpen nailed it down for a 4-0 win and a trip to Boston for the American League Division Series. Three straight de facto or actual playoff elimination games...three straight contests on the road...three straight clutch wins.

The Rays celebrated their Wild Card Game win with silly string, but there was nothing silly about it. They lived to play another day...again! 2
October 7, 2013 - St. Petersburg, Florida: Rays 5 Red Sox 4

After being beaten soundly twice by the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, the Rays returned home fighting for their playoff lives. The Rays trailed 3-0 in the bottom of the 5th inning with two outs, about to strand their fourth and fifth runners of the night. Rays Third baseman Evan Longoria comes through with a two-out three run homer to tie the score.

After taking the lead for only the second time in the entire series in the 8th inning, 4-3, Tampa surrendered the tying run in the top of the 9th inning with two outs. Fernando Rodney did not buckle. He struck out Mike Carp of the Red Sox, stranding Jacoby Ellsbury at third base. In the bottom of the 9th with the score tied, the Red Sox sent out their closer, Koji Uehara, and the reserve catcher Jose Lobaton of the Rays notched his first career postseason hit, which was also the first postseason walkoff home run in history of the franchise, the ball landing in the ray tank behind the outfield wall.

Jose Lobaton gets a Gatorade bath. Rachel Nichols, to his left, acts surprised. 1
Die Hard

Four do-or-die games...four wins. I don't know if the Rays can rally to push the series to a fifth game in Boston and pull off the road win. The Red Sox are very good on the mound and loaded with weapons from top-to-bottom at the plate. I don't know if the Rays have the bats to keep pace with Boston in the next two games, if they can even force two more games. But the decades-old cliche, "The game ain't over until the Fat Lady sings," could not be more applicable to a more fitting franchise.

At least we might get treated to Julianna Zobrist, wife of Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist, singing during the 7th inning stretch one more time. 4
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