Until game 162, game 7 of the 2008 ALCS between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox was probably the most thrilling and dramatic game in team history. It featured a fierce rival that the team had fought (literally) all year long in some very competitive games. The ALCS was a culmination of a season long battle between the two teams.
Leading up to the ALCS the Rays had taken on the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS. Questions surrounded the young team and whether they'd be prepared to play in a playoff series. The question was quickly answered when rookie phenom, Evan Longoria, blasted 2 homeruns in Game 1 en route to a victory. The Rays would win the series with ease in four games.
In the other ALDS of 2008, the Red Sox took on the Los Angeles Angels in a rematch from 2007. The Red Sox took the first two games from the Angels, but lost Game 3 in a five-hour long extra inning affair. In Game 4, Boston blew their lead late, but walked off in the bottom of the 9th to take the series and set up a thrilling ALCS against the surprising Rays.
Sox take series lead
Game 1 - 10.10.2008
Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Boston bullpen silenced the Rays bats in Game 1. Matsuzaka held the Rays hitless for the first 7.0 innings until Carl Crawford finally notched a single off the Japanese righty. Boston would take Game 1 of the ALCS with a frustrating 4-hit shutout over Tampa Bay.
Full game below:
Upton's Sac-Fly evens Series
Game 2 - 10.11.2008
The Red Sox scored first in what would turn out to be a slugfest, but thanks to some quality pitching from top-prospect David Price and the speedy Fernando Perez, the Rays walked off in the bottom of the 11th. You can read a more detailed recap of Game 2, here.
MLB.com Recap of the Game
Rays Batter Fenway
Game 3 - 10.13.2008
Heading into Game 3, the big question was whether the Red Sox would continue to dominate the Rays at Fenway. The Rays quickly laid that to rest by abusing Jon Lester.
B.J. Upton and Longoria both homered off Lester in the 3rd, and later in the game Rocco Baldelli and Carlos Pena would have homers of their own; meanwhile, Matt Garza was dominant and the Rays took the victory and the series lead, 2 games to 1.
MLB.com Recap of the Game:
Silencing the Fenway Faithful
Game 4 - 10.14.2008
Tim Wakefield, who has dominated the Rays in his career, was expected to put the Sox in position to even the series, but he allowed 3 runs in the first thanks to a 2-Run HR by Pena, and a new rookie record 5th postseason HR by Longoria. Andy Sonnanstine went 7+ innings for Tampa and the Rays would win, 13-4, putting themselves one game away from the World Series.
MLB.com Recap of the Game:
Game 5 - 10.16.2008
B.J. Upton gave the Rays a quick 2-0 lead in the 1st with another Rays homerun. Longoria and Pena would also homer and by the time the 7th came around, the Rays had a taken a 7-0 lead and the Boston fans began clearing out of the stadium in what looked like the end of the Red Sox season.
But then the Rays bullpen imploded and the Red Sox were able to comeback and walkoff in the 9th. The comeback was the 2nd largest in postseason history and the most by any team on the brink of elimination.
Red Sox win Crucial Game at the Trop
Game 6 - 10.18.2008
The series returned to St. Petersburg with the Rays only 1 win away from advancing to the World Series, but the Red Sox would take Game 6 in a low scoring affair. B.J. Upton hit yet another homerun, but Kevin Youkilis tied the game in the 2nd with a Solo-HR of his own. The Red Sox eventually win the game, 4-2.
"Full" Game Below (TBS technical problems caused game not be seen until the bottom of the 1st):
Going to the Ship!
Game 7 - 10.19.2008
Both teams had their backs to the wall entering Game 7. The Red Sox had made a miraculous comeback in Game 5 and their victory in Game 6 forced a pivotal Game 7. Terry Francona went to Jon Lester as the reigning champs, and Joe Maddon went to Matt Garza to try and advance the Rays to their 1st World Series.
Matt Garza was able to retire the first batter of the game, Coco Crisp, when he tried to bunt his way on, but Dustin Pedroia followed by taking a 1-1 pitch and shooting into the seats in left to give Boston an early one run lead. Garza then walked David Ortiz, but was able to retire the next two batters to get out of the inning. The Rays would go down 1-2-3 during their half of the inning.
After giving up the HR to Pedroia, Garza seemed to lock in and set down the Sox in order in the 2nd (two on strikeouts). Lester was in command as well, though, and also had a 1-2-3 second inning.
In the 3rd, Garza got himself into a mini-jam when he hit Pedroia with two outs. Pedroia would then steal 2nd, but would be stranded when Garza struckout Ortiz. The Rays would once again go down in order in the bottom half of the inning and remained hitless against Lester after three frames.
Garza quickly retired the side in order in the top of the 4th and Lester went back to the mound, yet to have allowed a hit.
Akinori Iwamura led off the inning for Tampa Bay and lined Lester's 2nd pitch into left field for the Rays first hit of the game. Lester struckout Upton, then was able to coax a soft groundball from Pena. However, it was hit too softly for the double play, and Pena made it to first on a fielder's choice to bring Evan Longoria to the plate.
The count had gone to 2-2 after Longoria was badly fooled on a curve ball, but with Lester's next pitch, Longoria sliced it down the right field line. Pena was running on contact and chugging around the bases. Tom Foley was eaving him around, but Drew had gotten the ball in quickly to the cutoff man, Pedroia, who turned and fired to Varitek at the plate...
but the throw was slightly offline and Pena slid around Vairtek to tie the game at one run apiece. Longoria ended up at 2nd with a double. Carl Crawford struckout to end the inning, but the game was now tied heading into the 5th.
Garza had been dominant since allowing the solo-HR in the 1st (the only hit he'd allowed), and continued to dominate setting down the Sox in order again in the 5th.
Willy Aybar led off the 5th for Tampa Bay, and on a 2-1 pitch was able to square up a pitch and send it off the base of Crawford's Corner in left and hustled into 2nd with a leadoff double.
The Rays All Star catcher Dioner Navarro was now up with the chance to give the Rays a lead. With a full count, Navarro hit a slow roller towards the left side of the infield. Alex Cora was able to get to it, but didn't have a play on Navarro at 1st and had to eat it.
This brought the remarkable Rocco Baldelli up with runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs.
On a 0-1 pitch, Baldelli turned and blasted one deep down the left side, but it fell into the seats foul. On the very next pitch, Baldelli hit a sharp grounder through the left side, Foley waived Aybar around and he was able to beat Bay's throw with plenty of time to spare to give the Rays a 2-1 lead.
After the single the Rays were still threatening, but Lester was able to get out of it without allowing another run.
In the top of the 6th, Garza allowed his first baserunner since the 3rd when he walked Pedroia with 1 out. He would be quickly erased though thanks to a double play ball from Ortiz.
The Rays would also go down in order in their half of the 6th, and heading into the 7th it was 2-1 Rays.
In the top of the 7th, Garza would run into some trouble. Youkilis led off the inning with infield popout, but then Garza walked J.D. Drew on 4 pitches. Jason Bay would lace a 0-1 pitch into left for the first Red Sox hit since Pedroia's longball back in the first. This caused Joe Maddon to run to the mound for a talk with Garza.
After the conversation, mark Kotsay flew out to right that allowed Youkilis to advance to 3rd. With the tying run 90ft away, Jason Varitek, who had a big HR the night before, came up to face Garza. The count got to 1-2, when Garza delivered his 116th pitch of the game...a nasty breaking ball that Varitek tried for: an ugly swing and miss to end the inning and the threat.
In the bottom of the 7th, Jon Lester was still in the game for Boston and Aybar came up to lead off for Tampa. After working the count full, Lester tried to blow a fastball by Aybar. Mistake.
Aybar absolutely crushed it and sent the pitch deep into the seats in left to give the Rays an insurance run in the late innings.
After Aybar's HR, Lester was able to retire the next three batters with ease. In the top of the 8th, Maddon sent Matt Garza back out to the mound, also replacing Baldelli in right with the defensive specialist Gabe Gross.
Garza's first oponent would be Alex Cora, who took a 0-1 pitch and grounded it towards Jason Bartlett at short. Unfortunately the ball took a bad hop and deflected off of Bartlett and it skipped into center field for an error. That would end Garza's night and he would leave to a standing ovation, his line on he day:
7.0 IP / 2 H / 1 ER / 3 BB / 9 K
Dan Wheeler came on to replace Garza and try to preserve the Rays lead with Cora on 1st and no outs. Coco Crisp was the first to face Wheeler, and on a 2-2 pitch, he grounded a ball through the right side for a single to advance Cora to 2nd. That brought Dustin Pedroia back to the plate, a guy who had been a thorn in the Rays side his entire career. On a 1-1 pitch, Pedroia just missed one and flew out to Crawford in left field for the first out of the inning.
After Pedroia was retired, Joe Maddon brought in J.P. Howell to face David Ortiz. They battled for seven pitches, but on the final pitch, he grounded one towards Iwamura at 2nd. Iwamura fielded the ball cleanly and quickly tossed the ball to Bartlett who was covering the bag. Crisp slid trying to disrupt the double play, but his slide caused him to be out.
With a normal slide, Crisp would have been safe and the bases would have been loaded with only 1 out, but instead it was 1st and 3rd with two outs. Now Joe Maddon was turning to his submariner righty, Chad Bradford, to face Kevin Youkilis.
Bradford would walk Youkilis on six pitches to load the bases for Boston and bring Game 5's hero J.D. Drew to the plate. Joe Maddon decided use his fifth pitcher of the inning, and went with his young highly-touted flame throwing lefty, David Price.
The situation is Game 7 of the ALCS versus a fierce division rival. Two outs, a two run lead, bases loaded, and a rookie flamethrower comes on to try and maintain the lead for Tampa Bay.
Price threw a first pitch slider that crossed the outside corner of the zone for strike one. Price's next pitch was also a slider that he got Drew to swing through for strike two. The third pitch of the at-bat was a 96 mph fastball that was just outside for ball one. Price turned and fired another 96 mph fastball past J.D. Drew, and this time it caught the outside corner for a called strike three to end the threat.
Hideki Okajima replaced Lester for the 8th and set down the Rays in order. David Price went back out for the top of the 9th to try and send the Rays on, and he needed to dominate just 3 outs to do so. Price's first opponent would be Jason Bay, whom he walked after an eight pitch battle to bring up Mark Kotsay with a runner on and none out.
Price's first pitch to Kotsay was a slider, that Kotsay tried to bunt, but popped it foul out of the reach of Longoria at 3rd. Price came back with another slider that Kotsay would be way in front of and chopped it foul into the Rays dugout, 0-2 the count. Price geared up and blazed a fastball to the plate, but missed way high for ball one. Price geared up again and unleashed another fastball that just missed the outside corner for ball two. With his 2-2 pitch, Price aimed for the outside corner again, this time hitting his mark with a 95mph fastball to strikeout Kotsay looking for the first out of the inning.
Next up was Jason Varitek, the Red Sox captain. Price went back to the slider to begin the at-bat, but missed low for ball one. Price came set and blazed a 95mph fastball by the Boston catcher for strike one. Price came back with another fastball, this time high and away, and Varitek fouled it straight back to make the count 1-2. Price overthrew a fastball that missed badly for ball two. Then with pressure mounting, Varitek geared up for another fastball but was fooled when Price threw a nasty slider that had the Red Sox captain way out in front and he swung through for the second out of the inning.
Now Jed Lowrie pinch-hit for Alex Cora as the last hope for Boston. Price found a first pitch called strike to Lowrie, then on the second pitch Lowrie hit a sharp grounder to Iwamura at second.
It took a bad hop, but the solid fielding Iwamura played it smoothly and ran to step on the bag for the force. The moment his foot touched the bag, he sprung into the air and mobbed Price on the mound. The Rays came sprinting from all corners of the field, and along with the rest of his teammates, they piled on Price as the celebration was on.
Matt Garza was named the ALCS MVP for his performances in Games 3 and 7. In those two games, Garza developed a terrific line that looked like this:
The Rays played a sloppy, cold, and wet World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. The harsh conditions, plus some key players underperfoming cost the Rays as they lost in five games over six days of play.
Here's the full game: