In the 2008 American League Championship Series, the Tampa Bay Rays (sans Devil) rolled in on an improbable run and faced the defending champions Boston Red Sox.
The Rays dropped Game One at home before coming back to take Game Two. The series shifted to Boston and Fenway Park where certainly the young and inexperienced Rays would wilt under pressure.
Well, Games Three and Four were blowout wins for the Rays and things looked to be in control during Game Five. Up 7-0 going into the bottom of the seventh, the Red Sox pushed across four in that frame, three more in the bottom of the eighth, and then…
Makes me want to puke. Here is the AP highlight, since that is not the best video. I remember Chip Caray’s disgusting comment, “We’re going to Tampa!!” Actually, St. Pete, you dumb fuck!
The game went back to Tampa Bay [different from Tampa], where Boston forced Game Seven before the Rays won and went to the World Series.
Ah, I remember that like it was yesterday.
Speaking of yesterday, history repeated itself…somewhat.
The Texas Rangers won Game Four of the ALCS by pulling away and eventually blowing out the New York Yankees to pull within a game of the World Series. But the whole thing is eerily familiar.
Like the Rays, the Rangers are relative playoff novices. Although the Rangers had been to playoffs before (unlike the Rays in 2008), the Rangers had never advanced in the playoffs. What is interesting is that in the 2008 ALDS, the Rays beat the Chicago White Sox — a team that had recently made the World Series (in 2005, winning it all). In the 2010 ALDS, the Rangers beat the Rays — a team that had recently made the World Series (in 2008, but losing to the Philadelphia Phillies).
Like the Rays, the Rangers lost Game One to the defending World Series New York Yankees. This was also a home loss for Texas; just like what happened to Tampa Bay.
Like the Rays, the Rangers bounced back and took Game Two. The series then shifted to the home of the defending champs.
Like the Rays, the Rangers took Games Three and Four decisively. In 2008, Tampa Bay pulled away late. In 2010, the Rangers pulled away late (both times in the final two innings).
And like the Rays, the Rangers enter Game Five with the momentum and a chance to dwindle the list of teams to never make the World Series to two (if the Rangers win today, only the Seattle Mariners and Washington Nationals [Montreal Expos] would have never won a pennant).
But hopefully the Rangers have learned from the Rays’ trial. While Tampa Bay would eventually win the American League pennant, Texas does not want this to get that far.
So, when the first pitch from CC Sabathia is thrown in a little less than an hour, the Rangers want — check that…NEED to jump on him. They need to keep the foot on the peddle and on the necks of the Evil Empire. They want to turn Manhattan bars into boring places for the remainder of October, send Jeter and A-Rod out to the golf courses, and cause Yankee fans to start up even more “Fire Girardi” blogs.
Because baseball history has shown that if you give a team just a sliver of hope, a leak can turn into a flood.
Ask the Rays.
Or, if you need a more disastrous example, ask the guys in pinstripes, circa 2004.