There’s something about a walk-off victory that tends to wipe the rest of the game from your mind. Throughout extra innings, you stress about the mistakes Farnsworth made in the ninth, and that the Rays couldn’t capitalize more on early opportunities. You stress about these things until the home team comes to bat in the bottom of the inning, and as soon as there’s hope of a walk-of victory your mind can think of nothing else. That’s how I felt, watching the ball jump off of Desmond Jenning’s bat in the bottom of the 11th. My first thought was that if it got past the outfielders it was an inside-the-park home run, then as Darnell McDonald and Jacoby Ellsbury closed on the ball I thought it would become an out, and finally (when Jennings was standing on third with no one out) I thought that this game could be one more step on the road to the post-season. And then Evan Longoria drove a pitch into center field and it was finally over, and the Rays were a mere 4 ½ games back in the wildcard, with the potential of a sweep intact for tomorrow.
But to get to the extra-inning heroics, you had to go though some pains as a Rays fan. The Rays got to Kyle Weiland early and often, putting runners in scoring position throughout the game. While they scratched out a run in 5 of the first 6 innings, they could have scored far more. The offensive highlights aren’t sticking out in my mind as vividly because, outside of the home run by Casey Kotchman, the runs were generated without base hits. Groundouts in the 1st and 2nd and sac flies in the 3rd and 6th led to the Rays’ runs. The Red Sox tied the game in the top of the 5th with a 2-run homer from Adrian Gonzolez, but the Rays would eke out a 5-3 lead until the ninth inning.
Then Kyle Farnsworth started throwing batting practice. 2 solo home runs to Josh Reddick and Jacoby Ellsbury tied the game, and after allowing another double he was pulled for Cesar Ramos. After the game, Joe Maddon said that Farnsworth is day-to-day with some elbow soreness. Outside of the Farnsworth catastrophe, the bullpen really did well tonight. Peralta, McGee, Howell, Cruz, Ramos, and Gomes all threw zeros for the home team, allowing the 11th inning heroics to take place.
And take place they did, quieting the Red Sox fans in attendance and sending the Rays fans into a frenzy. Not just because it was just one game, but because it gives hope that the Rays may yet reach the playoffs this season. If teams can continue to take advantage of the Red Sox starting rotations’ woes, and the Rays continue their hot streak, then the Tampa Bay Rays may yet reach the post-season in 2011.