Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Dream Dies...

The dream season is over.

Just moments ago, a 16-inning Game 7 thriller between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Devil Rays culminated with a Johnny Damon walk-off home run that sent the BoSox to the World Series.

The loss ended the season of the Devil Rays, who rallied from a 3-1 ALCS deficit to force a Game 7 in Boston.

"Stunned. Just stunned," Tampa shortstop B.J. Upton said. "This is like seeing my new born child for the first time, and somebody ripping him out of my arms and killing him."

Damon's blast - which came off lefthanded reliever Dan Meyer - gives Boston the opportunity to repeat as World Champions. For Tampa Bay, it ends a landmark season that will surely leave a bitter taste during the offseason.

"We just worked so hard," Miguel Cabrera said. "To win the Wild Card and the ALDS is great. But we were right there."

Tampa found itself in a 3-1 hole in the best of 7 series when Boston's Tim Wakefield baffled Tampa hitters in Game 4. To salvage the series, Tampa needed to defeat Wade Miller in Game 5 to keep its season alive.

Behind the arm of Zack Greinke, Tampa defeated Boston 1-0 in Game 5 to send the series back to Boston. In Game 6, the Devil Rays found some extra-inning luck of their own, winning 3-2 in 11 innings.

In Game 7, the Devil Rays jumped out to an early lead, as Upton smashed a David Wells pitch over the Green Monster. In the 7th inning, Boston answered, as David Ortiz took a curveball deep for a 2-run homer and the lead.

But the Devil Rays again rallied. In the 8th inning, Rocco Baldelli - who slumped most of the year - hit a deep homer to centerfield to tie the game at 2. The teams then battled back and forth into the 16th inning before Damon's heroics.

Tampa had several opportunities to put the pressure on Boston, but could never convert. In the 13th, Kendry Morales hit a deep shot to rightfield, but Trot Nixon reached up and robbed Morales of a potential game-winning round-tripper.

In the top of the 16th, Tampa again squandered an opportunity. Carl Crawford led off the inning with a single, and Upton was intentionally walked after a sacrifice. But Justin Morneau lined out, and Morales came up empty handed with two outs and Crawford in scoring position.

Tampa now faces a difficult offseason after a 95-win season. The Devil Rays have a ton of personnel decisions that carry significant financial ramifications. Tampa must do all it can to remain competitive in the AL East.

"We will be back," General Manager Chuck McGill said. "If I have to sell my soul to the devil, have sex with a man, or watch American Idol - mark my words - we will be back."


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