|N.Y. Yankees (97-65)||1||4||0||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||7||9||1|
|Tampa Bay (91-71) «||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||6||1||0||0||1||8||10||1|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Down by nine games in early September, down by seven runs on the final day of the season.
And yet somehow, these Tampa Bay Rays made it to the playoffs.
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Evan Longoria capped a startling comeback by hitting his second home run of the game, hooking a drive barely inside the left-field foul pole in the 12th inning Wednesday night and giving the Rays the AL wild-card spot with an 8-7 victory against the New York Yankees.
Pinch-hitter Dan Johnson saved the Rays with a two-out, two-strike solo home runs i the ninth that made it 7-7.
Longoria connected shortly after midnight, four minutes after Boston blew a ninth-inning lead and lost at Baltimore 4-3. The Red Sox, who seemed to be running away from the Rays a few weeks ago, and Tampa Bay began the day tied for the final AL playoff spot.
"It's a good feeling knowing that one put us into the playoffs and not into a playoff game," Longoria said. "So I'm just thinking about, 'Wow, did this just really happen?' ... Man, when I saw it clear the fence it didn't seem real."
The crowd of 29,518 at Tropicana Field was mostly silent as the Rays trailed 7-0 going into the eighth. But Longoria's three-run homer finished a six-run burst in the eighth and Johnson, hitting only .108, tied it with a shot off Cory Wade.
The fans roared when the Red Sox loss was posted on the scorecard. Moments later, they erupted again when Longoria connected.
"It's a storybook finish," designated hitter Johnny Damon said. "Definitely gratifying."
Boston led by nine games on Sept. 4. If the Red Sox had held on to win, the teams would have met in a one-game playoff at Tropicana Field on Thursday.
Instead, the Rays will open the first round of the AL playoffs on Friday at Texas.
"It was a crazy night," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "What happened out there goes beyond the imagination."
"I want to say this: The Yankees are true champions," he said. "They played us great. They made us work for every inch of it."
The AL East champion Yankees pulled their regulars throughout the game and finished with a lineup that looked more like a Triple-A team.
"The emotion of the day was something you can't dream up when you look at the schedule," Yankees star Alex Rodriguez said. "Longoria had a magical night. They're very dangerous because they have good pitching."
Moments before Tampa Bay won, it looked as if Boston would instead be going to the playoffs.
The Orioles were down to their last strike in the ninth before scoring twice off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.
The Rays, meanwhile, escaped a first-and-third, no-out jam in the 12th. Longoria made the key play, fielding a grounder at third and making a snap tag to catch the runner diving back to the base.
"Weird. Just when you think you've see it all," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "It's one of those days. You have a team down seven runs in the eighth and Boston winning. It was very bizarre."
Mark Teixeira hit a grand slam off All-Star David Price and a solo homer as the Yankees built their big lead. The Rays sputtered against a parade of New York pitchers, until the eighth. Longoria connected off Luis Ayala to pull Tampa Bay within a run.
Teixeira's second-inning slam put the Yankees ahead 5-0. His solo shot made it 6-0 and came simultaneously as Dustin Pedroia went deep for Boston to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead in their game. The Rays began cutting into their deficit during a rain delay in Baltimore.
A night after Matt Joyce's three-run homer gave Tampa Bay a 5-3 victory that kept the wild-card race tied, the crowd didn't have much to cheer until the eighth when the Rays loaded the bases with no outs against Boone Logan.
Ayala replaced Logan and walked pinch hitter Sam Fuld to force in one run, then hit Sean Rodriguez with a pitch to force in another. B.J. Upton's sacrifice fly trimmed Tampa Bay's deficit to 7-3 before Longoria connected.
The crowd lingered long after the game ended and celebrated by players, who returned from the clubhouse to spray fans behind the dugout and along the railings with champagne.
"That was one of the best days in baseball's history, probably," Teixeira said. "I really can't believe it. I think the fans should be excited."
|Evan Longoria stomps on home plate before Tampa Bay's jubilant players and fans after his clinching walk-off home run. (US Presswire)|
|Players of the Game|
|New York Yankees|
|Derek Jeter, SS||3||1||0||0||1||1||0||.297|
|Ramiro Pena, 2B||2||0||0||0||0||2||0||.100|
|Curtis Granderson, CF||3||1||1||0||0||1||3||.262|
|a- Greg Golson, PH-CF^LF||3||0||1||0||0||0||0||.182|
|Mark Teixeira, 1B||4||2||2||5||0||0||1||.248|
|Eric Chavez, 3B||2||0||1||0||0||1||0||.263|
|Robinson Cano, DH||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||.302|
|b- Jorge Posada, PH-DH||2||0||0||0||0||1||0||.235|
|Nick Swisher, RF||3||0||1||0||1||0||0||.260|
|Chris Dickerson, RF||1||0||0||0||1||1||2||.260|
|Andruw Jones, LF||4||1||1||1||0||1||3||.247|
|Brett Gardner, CF||1||0||0||0||1||0||2||.259|
|Jesus Montero, C||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||.328|
|Austin Romine, C||1||0||0||0||0||1||2||.158|
|Eduardo Nunez, 2B-SS||4||1||1||0||1||1||0||.265|
|Brandon Laird, 3B-1B||5||1||1||0||0||0||2||.190|
|a-fouled out for Granderson in the 6th|
|b-struck out for Cano in the 10th|
|2B - Nick Swisher (30, Price), Eduardo Nunez (18, Price)|
|HR - Mark Teixeira 2 (39, Price, Price), Andruw Jones (13, Cruz)|
|RBI - Mark Teixeira 5 (111), Andruw Jones (33)|
|2-OUT RBI - Mark Teixeira 5 (37)|
|SB - Curtis Granderson (25, 2nd base off Price/Shoppach), Chris Dickerson (4, 2nd base off Farnsworth/Lobaton), Eduardo Nunez (22, 2nd base off Price/Shoppach)|
|Team LOB - 8|
|E - Eduardo Nunez (20, Misplayed grounder)|
|New York Yankees|
|Cory Wade (BS,1)||0.2||1||1||1||0||0||1||2.04|
|Scott Proctor (L,2-6)||2.2||3||1||1||2||3||1||7.14|
|HBP - Damon (by Aaron Laffey), Kotchman (by Boone Logan), S. Rodriguez (by Luis Ayala)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Dellin Betances 44-23, George Kontos 14-5, Aaron Laffey 16-8, Phil Hughes 20-14, Raul Valdes 22-13, A.J. Burnett 5-3, Andrew Brackman 13-6, Boone Logan 12-6, Luis Ayala 24-13, Cory Wade 14-9, Scott Proctor 56-35|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Dellin Betances 1-3, George Kontos 1-1, Aaron Laffey 1-2, Phil Hughes 1-1, A.J. Burnett 1-0, Andrew Brackman 2-0, Cory Wade 1-1, Scott Proctor 2-3|
|Batters Faced - Dellin Betances 9, George Kontos 3, Aaron Laffey 5, Phil Hughes 4, Raul Valdes 5, A.J. Burnett 1, Andrew Brackman 3, Boone Logan 4, Luis Ayala 7, Cory Wade 3, Scott Proctor 13|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|Desmond Jennings, LF||6||0||0||0||1||1||7||.259|
|B.J. Upton, CF||4||0||0||1||2||1||2||.243|
|Evan Longoria, 3B||5||2||2||4||2||1||3||.244|
|Matt Joyce, RF||3||0||0||0||0||2||3||.277|
|a- Russ Canzler, PH||1||0||0||0||0||1||2||.333|
|Justin Ruggiano, RF||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.248|
|b- John Jaso, PH||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||.224|
|Elliot Johnson, PR||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.194|
|Jose Lobaton, C||1||0||0||0||0||1||1||.118|
|Johnny Damon, DH||4||1||1||0||1||2||4||.261|
|Ben Zobrist, 2B||5||1||1||0||1||1||2||.269|
|Casey Kotchman, 1B||5||1||2||0||0||0||1||.306|
|Kelly Shoppach, C||3||0||0||0||0||0||4||.176|
|c- Sam Fuld, PH-RF||0||1||0||1||1||0||0||.240|
|d- Dan Johnson, PH||1||1||1||1||0||0||0||.119|
|Brandon Guyer, RF||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||.195|
|Reid Brignac, SS||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.193|
|e- Sean Rodriguez, PH-SS||3||1||1||1||1||0||2||.223|
|a-struck out for Joyce in the 7th|
|b-singled for Ruggiano in the 8th|
|c-walked for Shoppach in the 8th|
|d-homered for Fuld in the 9th|
|e-walked for Brignac in the 5th|
|2B - Ben Zobrist (46, Logan)|
|HR - Evan Longoria 2 (31, Ayala, Proctor), Dan Johnson (2, Wade)|
|SF - B.J. Upton (3)|
|RBI - B.J. Upton (81), Evan Longoria 4 (99), Sam Fuld (27), Dan Johnson (4), Sean Rodriguez (36)|
|2-OUT RBI - Evan Longoria 3 (44), Dan Johnson (1)|
|SB - Desmond Jennings (20, 2nd base off Kontos/Montero), B.J. Upton (36, 2nd base off Betances/Montero), Elliot Johnson (6, 2nd base off Ayala/Romine)|
|Team LOB - 15|
|E - Ben Zobrist (6, Misplayed grounder)|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|Dane De La Rosa||1.1||0||0||0||0||1||0||9.82|
|Jake McGee (W,5-2)||1||1||0||0||0||1||0||4.50|
|IBB - Nunez by David Price, Gardner by Kyle Farnsworth|
|Pitches-Strikes - David Price 97-55, Juan Cruz 24-15, Cesar Ramos 17-11, Dane De La Rosa 17-10, Joel Peralta 14-9, Kyle Farnsworth 19-10, Brandon Gomes 20-15, Jake McGee 14-10|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - David Price 4-6, Juan Cruz 1-3, Cesar Ramos 1-2, Dane De La Rosa 2-1, Jake McGee 2-0|
|Batters Faced - David Price 22, Juan Cruz 6, Cesar Ramos 3, Dane De La Rosa 4, Joel Peralta 3, Kyle Farnsworth 5, Brandon Gomes 4, Jake McGee 4|
|Attendance - 29518|
|Game Time - 4:54|
|Temperature - 72|
|Umpires - Home - Joe West, First Base - Sam Holbrook, Second Base - Paul Schrieber, Third Base - Chad Fairchild|