Welp, Here We Go

When the Rays decided they weren’t content being the doormat of the American League ahead of the 2008 season, many eyebrows arched at the nickname bestowed upon James Shields. “Big Game” seemed a little charitable for a man yet to play in one of those mythical Meaningful Games in September.

After two division titles in three years, you can’t say that about James Shields any longer. Shields has starts in the World Series under his belt at this point. He knows Big Games and proved he knows them well when he took the hill for the Rays against the Yankees tonight. Eight and two-thirds innings of two-run ball, Shields put his team in a great position to win and grab a share of the American League wild card. And win they did.

As for the Red Sox…hit the jump for their entire season encapsulated in one gif.

Image courtesy of Mock Session

That, to me, looks a lot like the Red Sox season. That was almost a spectacular play, one you’d remember for a long time. Then the ball came loose and the whole thing turned into some kind of bizarre French pratfall comedy.

The Red Sox squandered many opportunites to put up runs against the Orioles. The Sox loaded the bases in the first inning but couldn’t score. They loaded the bases in the eighth inning but didn’t score against O’s relief ace Pedro Strop, he of the single run allowed in the eleven September outings.

Everything started looking OriLOLe-ish in the 9th inning, when a hit by pitch and balk moved Jacoby into scoring position. (MVP! KING OF CLUTCH!) A ground out and single by Dustin Pedroia got the Sox within three. David Ortiz followed with a single of his own and it looked, just maybe, like the Sox had a comeback in them.

Until Adrian Gonzalez fouled out and Jed Lowrie struck out swinging. Game over, the Rays and Red Sox are tied for the Wild Card with two games remaining on the schedule for each.

The whys and hows of this situations are many but, really, who cares? The Red Sox now turn to Erik Bedard against his former team with, potentially, the season in the balance.

The Rays go to rookie Jeremy Hellickson against Bartolo Colon and the New York Yankees. Hellickson hasn’t been good lately but neither has Colon. The Yankees played their A lineup tonight and will likely do the same against the young Rays righty tomorrow. If the game turns to a slugfest, the Yankees certainly have the advantage. As for the Red Sox…any game against the Orioles looks like a mismatch on paper but, clearly, you can’t predict baseball.

The Wild Card races are officially interesting. Pack a lunch, my friends. The next few days are going to provide a great deal of entertainment.