To usher in the new year, the DRaysBay writing staff has been discussing favorite moments of the year. Here's some of the highlights of what stood out as the most memorable moment of 2013.
My favorite play of the season came on June 4th, in a game against the Tigers. If you look at the boxscore, you are probably wondering what makes the game so special. It was a 10-1 blowout loss to the Tigers in which Matt Moore was hammered for six runs in only two innings. It seems like one of those games you just try to forget and move on. But the third inning of the game provided what I believed to be the most amusing moment in the season.
Even though Moore allowed six runs in the first two frames, Maddon sent his southpaw to the mound to start the third, hoping he could eat a couple of innings. Instead, Moore allowed the first three runners to reach, loading the bases with no one out. Maddon called on Torres, who had been promoted not too long ago, to get out of the huge jam with Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera, and Prince Fielder the next three hitters.
After inducing a force-out at the plate from Hunter, Torres fell behind Cabrera 3-0. Instead of pitching carefully to the slugger, Torres aggressively came right back at him, throwing a fastball for a strike, and then getting Cabrera to whiff on a clever changeup. Then, with a 3-2 count and the bases loaded, Torres through a fastball right by the games best hitter. As Cabrera turned back to the dugout, he gave a little tip of his cap to Torres. As I'm sure you remember, Torres also stuck out Fielder to escape the jam without surrendering a run.
Even though it came in a loss, it was still something to see the Rays young southpaw befuddle the game's best hitter, and nice to see Cabrera show his respect for Torres's fight.
Favorite Song of 2013: "Mirrors" by Justin Timberlake
As soon as word broke that Wil Myers was being called up to the Rays, I immediately went to StubHub and found front row tickets to right field for the next home game. That game happened to be June 24, against the Toronto Blue Jays. I grabbed two tickets for my friend Jamie and I, so that we could ‘Welcome Home' Wil to the Trop and represent WilVille in right field.
Fast forward to the second inning of the game. Myers is standing on deck as James Loney is at the plate facing Esmil Rogers with one out. On a 1-1 pitch, Loney connected for his ninth homerun of the season, giving the Rays a 1-0 lead.
Myers then stepped to the plate to loud cheers from everyone at the stadium who had been waiting to see Wil in a Rays uniform at the Trop since Tampa Bay had acquired him in a trade last December.
Wil quickly fell behind in the count, 1-2. Next thing you know, the ball gets launched to dead-center, putting the Rays up 2-0. Myers rounded the bases and headed to the dugout, where he would emerge moments later for a curtain call as the crowd was still giving him a standing ovation.
The legend, Sam Fuld, came up to bat next. In his career, Fuld had only hit five home runs prior to that at-bat, but he must have had his Wheaties that morning, because sure enough, on a 2-0 pitch, Fuld blasted his second homerun of the season into right field.
Back to back to back jacks off the bats off Loney, Myers and Fuld: My favorite moment of the 2013 season.
Favorite song of 2013: "Brave" by Sara Bareilles
My favorite play of the season came on May 11th, in a game against the San Diego Padres. The Rays had a six run second inning, knocking rookie hurler Burch Smith out of the game. It looked like the Rays were cruising until Hellickson and Jamey Wright fell apart and the Rays gave up five runs in the 7th, and fell behind 7-6.
The game stayed that way until the 9th, when Padres closer Huston Street took the mound. Matt Joyce and Kelly Johnson flew out, and Zobrist came to the plate, the Rays last chance. Zorilla worked a tough seven pitch walk, bringing up Longoria. Longo swung and missed badly at a slider. Street went back to the trusty pitch the next two times, but Longo was able to lay off. Then, he went to the well one too many times, and served up a cement mixer which Longo roped over the left field wall. 425 feet later, the Rays had a walkoff win, and the +.91 Win Probability Added was the most clutch hit of the season.
Favorite Song of 2013: "Rust Belt Fields" by Rod Picott
September 30, Game 163 at Texas.
The last three innings were as good a stretch of baseball as I've seen, and the stakes couldn't go higher. In the bottom of the sixth, the Rangers had cut the lead to two. The Rays were able to put two men aboard in the top of the seventh with two outs, and Delmon Young hit a liner that fell into center field and should have scored runs, but when Leonys Martin sold the trap to end the inning, it began to feel like the Rangers had the momentum.
The back of the Rays bullpen had been used heavily the past few games. Maddon got Brandon Gomes and Jake McGee warming up, but Price was able to work out of the inning on his own. Joel Peralta warmed up before the eighth, but for some reason Maddon decided to stick with his ace. It seemed like maybe the plan was for Price to face one lefty, and then Peralta would come in, but after Price retired Martin, he was left in against the righty Ian Kinsler, who doubled down the line. Still no Peralta. Elvis Andrus bunted down the first base line, and nearly beat it out, but Price (rarely lauded for his fielding) was able to run down the bunt, scoop it, and flip to first all in one motion.
One half-inning later, the Rays got the sweetest of insurance runs when Sam Fuld singled and advanced to second on a grounder. He then timed up Tanner Scheppers and stole third, drawing a wild throw. Fuld slid over the base on his belly and popped up like a frog to scurry home and extend the lead.
David Price completed the game to send the Rays to the wild-card round of the playoffs.
Favorite Song of 2013: "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons
July 29, 2013.
Rays had the one-game series vs. Boston to decide first-place in the AL East. David Price, fresh off a complete game against the Red Sox a few days prior, started again and dominated...again. However, things looked bleak as the Red Sox started a rally in the bottom of the 8th inning. The Rays were up 2-1, but with a team like the 2013 Red Sox, it always seemed darn near impossible to put them away. Runners were on 2nd and 3rd with only one out.
Meanwhile, I'm watching the game at my in-laws in a room by myself.
At this point, I'm completely avoiding whatever work I was supposed to get done that night and completely focused on the television screen. As the fly ball is hit to left center field, I initially thought it was plenty far for the run to score on the sac fly. Sam Fuld unloaded the throw towards home and as the ball got closer to the plate, I slowly rise out of my chair, anticipating the call at home plate.
I see the tag and the umpire signals Daniel Nava out as I hear Dwayne Staats exclaim,"The throw to the plate it is... IN TIME!"
Much like our friend Jose Molina, I too jumped up from my chair and let out a shout that brought my family into the room to see what was wrong. After explaining the reason behind me yelling, I sat in almost disbelief about how amazing that situation played out for the Rays. They benefit from a bad call...IN FENWAY PARK...to the chorus of boos from the worst and most annoying fan base in all of sports and keep the lead.
The Rays would go on to win the game and take control of first place in the AL East. Although the Red Sox got the last laugh in 2013, that was a game that I won't forget for a long time.
Favorite Song of 2013: "Pusher Lover Girl" by Justin Timberlake
My favorite moment of the season was the extra innings extravaganza that turned into a costume party.
It was a Friday night (September 20th) and I was on my way to see some DJ in Denver, when I checked my phone for the final score and instead saw a Twitter feed full of screenshots of a Rays dugout full of costumed players. It was already pretty late in CO and I realized that the game had been pushed into extra innings - it ended up being the longest game in team history at six hours and 54 minutes, 18 innings of crazy baseball, with the Rays winning 5-4 over the Orioles.
Now, the team does lots of wacky things on a regular basis (see: penguins in the clubhouse, mariachi bands, etc.) but considering when this game occurred - late September, team in possible playoff contention after a long season of ups and downs (what else is new), the true Rays spirit seemed to shine through and remind me why I love this team so much, and have for so long.
What other professional team would don Chewbacca and KISS masks post midnight to amp up team morale? Better yet, what other team would have those costumes lying around?
Also, I just discovered the Rays got mentioned on KISS' official website for Jamey Wright's mask...
Favorite Song of 2013: "Modern Jesus" by Portugal. The Man
Maybe the top moment of the season for me came on June 22nd against the Yankees: Wil Myers' first big league home run.
The Rays ended up losing the game, but an opposite field grand slam off C.C. Sabathia with an emphatic bat flip is still memorable. He had gotten off to a pretty poor start in his first handful of games after his promotion, and his three hit game that day got him on track to win Rookie of the Year in 2013.
[Editor's note: Scott failed to provide a song, because he literally cannot name one song that came out this year, so here's the most notable "new" song to reach the Trop last season: Wil Myers's walk up music! -DR]
Favorite Song of 2013: "Kickstart My Heart" by Mötley Crüe
Somehow undiscussed thus far is the climactic moment of the 2013 season: the soon-to-be-traded Jose Lobaton, launching the first homerun by a Rays player into the Rays tank in center field, giving his team its only victory in last season's ALDS.
The Divisional Series saw the wheels come off for the Rays as Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson faltered in their post season appearances to the eventual World Series winners, but the Rays had one respite. Game 3 belonged to a sold out crowd in Tampa Bay.
I had begun the off-season writing a recap for the Rays post season performance, but emotionally I couldn't complete it. After writing about the amazing Wild Card ride, and the two losses in Boston in the ALDS, I knew what was ahead. An emotional win, an emotional and penultimate loss.
As I wrote in those two articles, "the bullpen giveth, and the bullpen taketh away..." That was the case in Games 3 and 4 of the ALDS. Let's reflect on the good and remember Game 3.
ALDS Game 3: "Splashdown"
Let's take you back to the final moments of the first game of the homestand. The Rays salvaged their postseason chances on two incredibly important home runs on repeat pitches.
Evan Longoria went yard to left field on an 0-1 change up inside from an expiring Clay Buchholtz, who had used the same pitch previously to get Longoria looking at strike three. On the second try, Longoria crushed it for a three run homer to tie the game.
This article could be about that home run alone. Watch that video again and again. Such joy bursts through in Tropicana Field.
Then there's the other guy:
Per #Rays, Jose Lobaton on Monday became 1st player in postseason history to hit a 2-out, walk-off home run in an elimination game.— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) October 8, 2013
Jose Lobaton, rightfully so, gets the fame and attention, and his "repeat pitches" happened in the same at bat.
Koji Uehara, a reliever so talented a team once traded Chris Davis to acquire him for half a season, started Lobaton with a splitter middle-low in the zone, and the catcher whiffed -- so Uehara tried again. The second splitter dipped slightly out of the zone, but had nearly identical placement middle and low.
That pitch was swimming with the fishes.
First there's the fine gentleman who enthusiastically deflected the ball en route to the Rays tank -- which probably would have landed in the water either way -- made his best effort to lean in against the netting keeping the fans from the fishes, and turned his back to the camera, revealing a very pleasant reminder of the Rays' greatest cult hero: Dan Johnson.
This guy was clearly pumped because he's an adult that brought a glove to the game and almost had a chance to use it, but this is excusable because of all the good luck that jersey surely brought along with it.
Enter random guy to his right. (No, not blue-shirt man, we'll get to him in a moment.) Both jersey wearing hero and some other guy near by had the exact same idea: F*** THIS NETTING. Unfortunately the GIF does not capture this struggle.
Then there's the typical Red Sox fans:
With all of that craziness lined up, let's dive in:
Lobaton's signature arms wide open, spreading good vibes and peace, en route to some delicious ice cream waiting for him in the dugout -- as is his tradition. And for the first time ever, a Rays player hits a homerun into the Rays Tank. And not just any homerun -- THE home run of the season!
Favorite Song of 2013: "Seven Sisters" by The Shouting Matches