The walk-off win is one of the most amazing things you can experience as a fan. Whether your team had just rallied back from a deficit, or had blown the lead only to regain it in glorious fashion. I had the great fortune to see a Rays walk-off way back on June 11th, 2004. It seems when things are going well for the Rays, there's always a walkoff involved somewhere during the stretch. I'll look back at some of the memorable walkoffs in the team's history to help you remember exactly when it happened, starting with Game 2 of the 2008 ALCS.
The Tampa Bay Rays had just finished one of the more miraculous seasons in baseball history. In 2007, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays finished with the worst record in the Major Leagues at 66-96. In 2008, the team exonerated the Devil and changed the team colors. During the 2008 season, the Rays went from being a perennial doormat in the AL East to being a powerhouse and a contender. The season included many come from behind victories against what felt like insurmountable odds.
The Rays were able to secure a playoff spot for the first time in team history with a victory over the Minnesota Twins on September 20th. The Rays would eventually win the AL East crown and play the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS. The Rays showed that their inexperience in the playoffs didn't matter, as they took the first two games of the series at Tropicana Field. They'd eventually win the series after the fourth game in Chicago.
Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox were taking on the Los Angeles Angels in their ALDS. Boston would win the first two games in Los Angeles. Game 3 went into extra innings and the Angels eventually put across a run in the 12th to win that game. In game 4 however, the Angels would not have that luck. After the Angels had comeback to tie the game in the 8th, the Red Sox walked off in the bottom of the 9th, thanks to a Jed Lowrie single. The Red Sox had won the ALDS, 3 games to 1.
In the first game of the ALCS, the Rays were shut down by Daisuke Matzusaka and the Red Sox bullpen. James Shields pitched a great game, but the Rays lost the 1st game of the series, 2-0.
Start of Game 2
Game 2 of the ALCS took place at Tropicana Field on October 11th, 2008 at 8pm. Scott Kazmir was tabbed with the start for Tampa Bay, while Josh Beckett got the start for Boston. Kazmir, a dominant pitcher when he has command, struggled early in the game. It took him 11 pitches to record the first two outs of the inning, then he walked David Ortiz on 7 pitches. Kevin Youkilis followed that up with a groundball through the left side of the infield for a single to bring up Jason Bay. Kazmir started off the AB with two straight called strikes, but followed it up with three straight balls. On the 7th pitch, Bay turned on Kazmir's fastball and drove it off the Left Field wall. Carl Crawford played the carom and threw the ball in. Ortiz and Youkilis would score and Bay would get to 2nd with a stand up double, 2-0 Red Sox.
After Kazmir was able to limit the damage and get out of the inning, the Rays came to the plate in the bottom half. Akinori Iwamura led off the inning against Beckett by popping out in foul territory, and he was followed by a B.J. Upton strikeout. Carlos Pena would line a double down the Left Field line to bring up Evan Longoria. Thee count got to 3-1, when Longoria lifted a high fly ball deep down the Left Field line. Jason Bay gave chase, but watch the ball sailed over the wall and into the seats for a 2-Run HR, that tied the game at 2.
Both teams would have quiet 2nd innings, with Dioner Navarro being the only player to reach base when he singled off of Beckett with one out. In the top of the 3rd, Dustin Pedroia worked Kazmir to a 3-2 count, than on the 6th pitch, Pedroia hit a laser to left. It seemed to just keep rising, and it barely skimmed over the top of the Left Field wall, and landed in the first row of seats to give Boston a one run lead.
In the bottom half of the inning with one out, B.J. Upton came up for the second time against Beckett. With the count 2-0, Upton demolished Beckett's pitch and sent it deep to Left Field, eventually landing underneath the Party Deck a couple of rows from the stadium wall. The game was tied again.
After a Carlos Pena popout, Longoria came up and ripped another long drive to left. This time it banged off the Left Field wall, similar to Jason Bay's double in the 1st, and Longoria slid into second with a double. Carl Crawford was now up, and he lined a ball into right field that Jacoby Ellsbury fielded after one hop. Longoria was running on contact, so he scored easily from second to give the Rays a 4-3 lead. Crawford was immediately picked off first to end the inning.
Back and Forth
The Rays had their first lead of the series and Kazmir was able to work around a Coco Crisp double to maintain that lead. In the bottom of the 4th, Cliff Floyd took a 1-1 pitch and crushed it to straightaway Center Field. Crisp ran back for and climbed the wall but didn't have a chance at making the catch, and Floyd had just given the Rays a 5-3 lead.
Entering the top of the 5th, the Rays held a 5-3 lead with Kazmir approaching the 100 pitch mark. Dustin Pedroia led off the inning the same way he had led off the 3rd, by sending a ball into the 1st row of seats in Left Field to cut the Rays lead to one run. Kazmir was able to get Ortiz to fly out, but then, on a 1-0 pitch, Kevin Youkilis tied the game with a line drive to left that hugged the foul line. It landed halfway up the outfield rows and tied the game for Boston to end Scott Kazmir's night.
Grant Balfour came on in relief, greeted by Jason Bay. The count got to 2-2 when Bay got hold of Balfour's next pitch. He sent it way back to left, straight down the line. Again the Rays watched a shot wrap around the foul pole as it landed in the last row of seats in Left Field to give Boston a 6-5 lead. Grant Balfour would walk Lowrie and Jason Varitek following Bay's HR. In response, J.P. Howell would relieve Balfour and work his way out of the inning without allowing another run.
In the bottom half of the inning, Iwamura led off again Beckett with a strikeout. Beckett would walk Upton, who would steal 2nd during Pena's AB. On the very next pitch, Pena lined a ball past a diving Pedroia in shallow right. Upton came charging around 3rd and was able to beat the throw to tie the game at 6.
Now in stepped Evan Longoria, with a 1 out, and Pena on 1st. The count reached 3-1 when Longoria hooked a line drive down the Left Field line. Pena was chugging around the bases, Tom Foley waved him around 3rd. Jason Bay bare handed the ball in Left and threw in the cutoff man who threw home, but it was too late. Pena slid in safe and Longoria advanced to 3rd on the throw, giving the Rays a 7-6 lead.
Carl Crawford was now up against a new Red Sox pitcher, Javier Lopez. Crawford greeted Lopez by grounding a ball through the drawn-in infield. Longoria scored easily from 3rd to give the Rays a 2-run lead. Manny Delcarmen came on in relief of Lopez and retired Willy Aybar (pinch-hitting for Floyd) and then Navarro to end the 5th inning.
In the top of the 6th, Howell got Ellsbury to lineout, walked Pedroia, and struck out Ortiz to end his night.
Joe Maddoon came out and replaced Howell with Chad Bradford to face the right-handed Youkilis. Bradford was able to get Youkilis 0-2, before he grounded a single up the middle. Jason Bay replicated Youkilis' single, with one of his own. Upton charged the ball in center and threw a dart home, but it wasn't in time and Pedroia scored while Youkilis advanced to 3rd. Bradford was able to get Lowrie to flyout to end the top half of the inning.
The Rays went down quietly in the bottom half of the inning, outside of a infield single from Jason Bartlett. The game was now 8-7, heading into the 7th inning.
Untimely Wild Pitch
Both teams went down quietly in the 7th, with Crisp being the only player to reach base, from an infield single.
In the top of the 8th, with Bradford still in the game, Pedroia led off the inning with a groundball into Right Field. Trever Miller came on in relief of Bradford after that, and walked Ortiz, the batter he'd face. Runners were now on 1st and 2nd, with no outs and Joe Maddon went to Dan Wheeler to try and preserve the lead against Kevin Youkilis. With a 0-1 pitch, Youkilis hit a hard grounder to Bartlett at short, who flipped to Iwamura, who threw to Pena at 1st for a 6-4-3 Double Play, but Pedroia would advance to 3rd with 2 outs.
Jason Bay now stepped up against Wheeler with the chance to tie the game for Boston. Wheeler struggled to find the strike zone to start the AB with 2 straight balls. On the third pitch, Wheeler threw a pitch that sailed over Navarro's glove and back to the backstop. Pedroia recognized it right away and dashed home, but Navarro got a good carom and a good throw would get Pedroia. Unfortunately, Navarro bounced his throw to Wheeler and Pedroia scored the tying run. The Rays went down in order in the 8th, heading into the 9th, the game was tied at 8.
In the 9th inning, both teams were able to get baserunners, thanks to a ground-rule double by Crisp and an infield single from Iwamura, but it wouldn't result in anything as they'd both be stranded. The game would go into extra innings.
Perez's 90 Foot Dash
Entering the 10th inning, Dan Wheeler was still in the game, and he would set down Boston in order in the top half. Johnathan Papelbon was in the game for the Red Sox, and he would also set down the Rays in order, to bring the game to the 11th.
In the 11th, Wheeler struck out Bay to start the inning, but than walked Lowrie. This prompted Maddon to with his recently promoted, highly touted prospect David Price.
J.D. Drew came up 1st against Price and walked on 5 pitches. Price would strike out Mark Kotsay on 4 pitches and he'd get Crisp to ground into a forceout to end the inning.
In the bottom of the 11th, Mike Timlin came on in relief of Papelbon. Navarro led off the inning for Tampa with a leadoff walk, Joe Maddon would have Fernando Perez pinch run for Navarro.
Timlin countinued to struggle with his control, and he walked the next batter, Ben Zobrist, to put runners on 1st and 2nd, with no outs for Jason Bartlett. With a 1-2 count, Bartlett hit a nubbler to 3rd, Youkilis fielded it, but his only play was at 1st so both runners advanced. Akinoria Iwamura was walked, to bring up B.J. Upton with the bases loaded and only 1 out.
Upton fouled off Timlin's 1st pitch and swung through the 2nd. He was able to get a piece of the 3rd one stay alive. Than on the 4th pitch of the AB, Upton hit a shallow popfly up the Right Field line.
J.D. Drew was able to get under it, but got in poor position to make a strong throw home. The speedy Perez was waiting on 3rd, as soon as the ball hit Drew's glove, Perez took off. Drew quickly got the ball in his hand riffled the ball, but Perez slid in just as Varitek was receiving the throw. Perez was able to slide around Varitek and score the game winning run and giving the Rays their first victory in the ALCS.
MLB.com's recap of the game
The Rays went to Boston, where they had struggled to win all year. What happened, completely shocked fans everywhere, when in the first two games, the Rays offense decimated the Red Sox pitching to take the series lead, 3-1. In the fifth game, played at Fenway, the Rays looked primed to win the series, but the Red Sox made a miraculous comeback in the final innings and walked off with a win.
The series moved back to Tropicana Field, and the Red Sox took game 6, to force a pivotal game 7. The Rays sent Matt Garza to mound to go against Jon Lester. Both pitchers put up superb displays, but the Rays were able to pull the trigger on some opportunities and came through with the victory, and advanced to an ill-fated World Series attempt against the Philadelphia Phillies.