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Fever Dreams: Who will be the Next Dan Johnson?

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A thought experiment for the stretch drive

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images

Dan Johnson is a folk hero in Tampa Bay for a reason. His several huge and improbable clutch hits altered not just the course of seasons, but of the franchise as a whole. So let’s not bury this lede: there will never be another Dan Johnson because you never forget your first love.

But will there be another Freddy Guzman? With a roster-expanded bench that has the dugout bulging at the seams, that’s a distinct possibility. So just who are our heroes in waiting?

Thursday, September 19, 2019

One thing people seem to forget about The Great Pumpkins greatest hits is that they more often tied the game than won them. The 2008 Papelbon homer is a prime example:

But this only tied the game. It took doubles from reserve outfield Fernando Perez and catcher Dioner Navarro to grab the lead. So who are those likely heroes on the current Rays?

The Rays drop the opening game to the Dodgers and could really use a split given the Indians have already beaten the Tigers twice to pull into a temporary tie with the Rays. With two outs and the game tied in the ninth, Dave Roberts brings in Adam Kolarek to face Kean Wong. Not wanting to waste a pinch-hitter in a low leverage situation, Kevin Cash does not make a counter move and allows the lefty Wong to hit. The youngster responds by slapping a double the other way. Now, with a runner in scoring position, Cash pinch hits for the struggling Mike Zunino, sending up switch-hitter Michael Perez. Perez falls behind in the count, and soft-serves a single to right, scoring Wong. Emilio Pagan secures the win, and the Wild Card lead is back to one game.

Saturday September 21, 2019

Johnny Davis has already made his mark twice this season: first by unceremoniously falling down while trying to steal, and then getting picked off; second, with a big triple in his first plate appearance. And while the hit was nice, Davis’s best chance at entering the pantheon remains on the bases, right next to Freddy Guzman.

You remember 2013, right? That year was nuts, with the Red Sox collapsing and the Rays surging. Onto this stage stepped Guzman where his pinch-run steal helped the Rays rally against Texas.

We’re in Boston later this week. The series has gotten off to a rough start, and the Indians have pulled into a tie for the Wild Card. The Tribe have a late inning lead on the Phillies and the Rays are locked into a 1-1 tie with Boston. Ji-Man Choi works a one-out walk and is replaced by Davis. Not showing any of nerves this time, Davis goes first move on Andrew Cashner, swiping second easily on the first pitch. Then, against the shift, pinch-hitter Daniel Robertson (who was sent up for Mike Zunino) hits a chop toward the hole between first and second. The first baseman makes the pickup, and the long toss to Andrew Cashner covering just gets Robertson.

But what’s this? Davis – who had gotten a huge secondary lead and jump off second – was rounding third and steaming toward home. A startled Cashner makes a late throw wide of the plate, and Davis slides in safely with the winning run under a cloud of dust.

The Phillies rally to beat the Tribe, and the lead is back to a game.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

I don’t need to tell you about Game 162, so let’s get right to the fan fiction.

The Wild Card race is tied again, and the Rays are looking to avoid a two-game home sweep to the Yankees. They are down to their last out, trailing by one in the ninth. But with the division secure, Aaron Boone has given Aroldis Chapman the night off. Rookie Ben Heller is on close it out, and he makes quick work of the first two batters. But with Mike Zunino due up, Cash makes a move to the bench, and it’s – is that the recently added Brandon Lowe?

It is! He is noticeably hobbling, but he looks determined.

Lowe quickly falls behind 0-2, late on a pair of fastballs. Lowe steps out, adjusts his helmet, and takes a deep breath. Heller tries to put him away with a slider, but it catches too much plate. BLowe drives a liner just inside the foul pole to tie the game.

The Rays win the game an inning later on a drive into the 162 landing by Tommy Pham. Cleveland beats the White Sox to keep pace.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Hey remember when David Price was a reliever and saved Game Seven of the ALCS? I wonder if there’s anybody on the current roster who could fill that role?

The Indians have dropped two of three to the Nationals. A victory on the final day of the season will lock up the second wild card. The Rays perform splendidly, getting a solid five innings from Tyler Glasnow. The offense gets contributions from Nate Lowe, Avisail Garcia, Austin Meadows and ... Mike Zunino? Huh, look at that.

Blake Snell works the ninth inning for the save.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Rays hang “Second Wild Card Champions” banner.