The Rays are set to kick-off a three-game series in Fenway this weekend, which got me thinking about the rivalry they have built over the past years. Considering the two teams have been playing each other for just the past fourteen years now, the Rays and Red Sox have one of the most intense rivalries in baseball. The Rays and Sox have never liked each other one bit, but now they’re not just enemies; they’re also serious contenders.
Ever since the Rays’ miracle 2008 season, these two clubs have battled it out ’till the end, and have been the spotlight of sports’ biggest playoff races in recent years. The rivalry only seems to be getting stronger, as Boston was victim to one of the worst collapses in baseball history in the midst of the Rays’ historical comeback.
Here are the five most memorable games ever in the history of Major League Baseball’s fastest growing rivalry:
5. August 29, 2000: Pedro Martinez Throws One-Hitter at the Trop, Starts Outing with Bench-Clearing Brawl
Although the Rays-Red Sox rivalry really didn’t start to heat up until the ’08 season, many believe the bad blood began as long ago as the Devil Rays’ awful early years. Back in 2000, then Boston ace Pedro Martinez started what would be a masterful outing with a beanball at outfielder Gerald Williams. Williams charged the mound, and the benches cleared. After the delay, Pedro retired 24 straight and struck out 13 batters, taking a no-hitter into the ninth inning which was ended by a John Flaherty leadoff single. It was one bad day at the Trop that Tuesday night, as eight players and coaches were ejected in the 8-0 loss—many of them resulting from the four hit Boston batters in retaliation for the first-inning incident.
4. 2008 ALCS, Game Two: Rays Walk-Off in Extras to Tie Series
If one thing was for sure, the Rays needed to win Game 2 of the 2008 AL Championship Series if they wanted to keep their pennant hopes alive. They did it in walk-off fashion, beating the Red Sox 9-8 in a six-home run, back-and-forth slugfest in extras. The nearly five-and-a-half-hour marathon was started by Scott Kazmir and Josh Beckett, who both—surprisingly—were hit hard. After a scoreless ninth and 10th, B.J. Upton had a chance to tie the series with the bases loaded and nobody out. He blooped a soft pop-up to short right, which scored the speedy Fernando Perez, who slid home safely, sending the Tropicana Field crowd into a frenzy. The thrilling victory not only kept the Rays very much alive in the series, but it also gave them the momentum they needed going to Boston for Games 3-5.
3. 2008 ALCS, Game 5: Red Sox Comeback at Fenway to Stay Alive
When the Rays were leading 7-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning, it seemed the Rays were going to complete the Beantown sweep, beating the Red Sox in three straight blowouts at Fenway Park to win the pennant. Boston refused to go down without a fight, as the Rays bullpen—which had been dominant all season—saw one of the biggest singe-game playoff collapses in baseball history. The Red Sox tied the game in the eighth inning and then capped off the incredible comeback with a walk-off base hit from J.D. Drew.
2. June 5, 2008: Benches Clear in Boston
This bench-clearing brawl from June 2008 is one incident that will never be forgotten by either Tampa or Boston fans. It was the day that everyone in the baseball world realized that the Rays-Red Sox rivalry was for real. After starter James Shields predictably threw at Coco Crisp, he charged the mound, starting what would be one wild fist fight on the diamond. Three were ejected, but a total of eight players from the two teams served suspensions. The Rays have had their share of brawls with the Red Sox in the past, but this one stands atop them all. The best thing that came out of this quarrel during Boston’s 7-1 win was that it made beating the Red Sox later that year in the ALCS even sweeter for the Rays.
1. 2008 ALCS, Game 7: Rays Win the Pennant
October 19, 2008: The greatest night in the history of the Tampa Bay Rays franchise thus far. The Rays shocked Red Sox Nation with a 3-1 pennant-winning victory at the Trop, led by an ace-like performance from Matt Garza. Garza would later win the much-deserved MVP award for the series. Rookie David Price came on to close out the game and send the Rays to their first World Series. He finished off the Sox with a ground ball off the bat of Jed Lowrie to Akinori Iwamura, who stepped on second base to start the biggest celebration ever at Tropicana Field. It was the highlight of their magical season, as their incredible run was ended by the Philadelphia Phillies in the Fall Classic.