After 14 innings, Boston had something to celebrate. No, they didn’t clinch the Wild Card. They didn’t clinch anything, in fact. Except maybe some breathing room. With Tampa Bay winning their game Sunday and Boston losing the first game of their double-header with New York, game two was a must win. And if you think the Yankees were going to just roll over since they had already clinched everything they could clinch, you’d be dead wrong.
Brett Gardner’s steal, playing the in-field in, Mo in the 9th. The Yankees were playing to spoil the Red Sox season. And that’s what would have happened had Boston lost this game. Had they lost, the Rays would have been tied with them for the Wild Card and the Angels would have been just one game back. Instead, both the Red Sox and Yankees played like this was game seven of the World Series, and finally in the 14th inning, the Red Sox broke through with three runs to win it.
Let’s take a look at what this game really means. Both the Rays and the Red Sox have three games left. The Red Sox have three against the Orioles, the Rays three against the Yankees. The Red Sox have their three on the road, and the Rays have their three at home. The Yankees would be setting their postseason rotation, so the Rays likely won’t see the Yankees’ best. The Orioles, on the other hand, have nothing but pride on the line. Teams like this love to play spoiler, and their fans would love to see them knock the Red Sox out of the play-offs.
What else? Well, had Boston lost, they would have completed the biggest collapse in baseball history. No one had ever had a 9-game lead on September 1st then blown it. That’s exactly what would have happened had the Red Sox lost game two of the double-header. Sure, there are more games to play and a loss yesterday would not have precluded the Sox from the postseason, but it would have completed a meltdown of historic proportions.
Let’s not forget the added momentum the Rays would have taken from a Red Sox loss. The Rays are already hot, despite three straight losses to the Yankees last week. This time around, the Rays will be playing for their postseason lives. The Yankees will likely be resting their starters. Tampa Bay, if their fans actually come out to the park, will be rocking in hopes of a miraculous play-off berth.
Yes, a Boston loss in game two of that double-header yesterday would have changed things, but these last three games should be intense. While a tie leading into these last three games would have been more interesting, and it will still take quite a bit of work for the Rays to pull of this upset, play-off baseball has already started.