Rays fans will long remember what they were doing one year ago tonight, where they were watching or listening to the game, who they were with, who they texted, what they felt when Evan Longoria, Dan Johnson and then Longoria again hit their famous home runs that enabled the Rays to engineer a comeback for the ages against the Yankees and grab the American League wild card on the final night of the regular season.
And, while caught in the moment of another playoff drive, the Rays remember it well.
"Just seeing the pure joy in the rest of my teammates' faces (as I rounded third base)," Longoria said, "and kind of the unbelieveable-ness of the whole situation — if that's a word — the shock and awe factor of everybody's faces and the tone of voices and the reactions of everybody. I'll never forget how special that was."
Longoria's home run in the bottom of the 12th gave the Rays an 8-7 victory that, coupled with the Red Sox loss in Baltimore, completed their incredible September run from nine games back in the standings to a date with the Rangers in the American League Division Series.
What made Longoria's game-winner possible was Johnson's two-out, two-strike homer in the ninth that tied the score at 7.
Johnson, now with the White Sox, will be in the other dugout this series.
"It's eerily ironic, I guess, for him to be on the other side," Longoria said.
Said Rays manager Joe Maddon, "He's a big part of Ray history. What he did for us was incredible twice, 2008 and what he did last year, that's pretty much fictional kind of stuff that became reality."
That's how the Rays view Game 162 — a fairy tale ending.
"We were out and we were done, and somehow we found a way to win," LF Desmond Jennings said.
The game has been celebrated with a T-shirt, a figurine and a discount ticket package aimed at attracting more fans to the final 10 home games this season.
"It's a special day," Longoria said. "It's going to be a special day for the rest of my life. This year I really haven't given it much thought. I've been pretty focused on what's going on in here on a daily basis and how I can help us win in the situation we're in now. That situation is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I'll never be able to replicate again. But I think this year is a great opportunity for us to make new memories."
Astros pass on Martinez
Bench coach Dave Martinez was passed over for the Astros managing job. Astros GM Jeff Lunhow called Martinez late Wednesday night with the news they hired Bo Porter.
Martinez said he was disappointed he didn't get the job, but not disappointed with how the Astros handled the hiring process. Martinez was interviewed twice, once in Houston and once in Tampa.
"Eventually, I want to manage," Martinez said. "If it were sooner, great, but just because I didn't get the Houston job it doesn't mean that I don't feel like I can't manage. I know one day I'm going to manage. When the opportunity rises, it's going to be the right fit. And everybody's going to be happy."
The Rays rookies were a popular group Thursday when videos and photos of their dance the previous night in left field at Fenway Park hit the internet.
RHP James Shields organized the annual rookie rite of passage, including several non-rookies like Jennings because of his short major league service time.
The players wore wigs and dressed in pantyhose and leotards. Shields hired Annie Meier to choreograph the show, which included RHP Alex Cobb jumping into the arms of RHP Dane De La Rosa (think "Dirty Dancing") and a show-stopping back flip from Jennings to end the production. The players practiced Saturday at the Trop and again Tuesday at the hotel in Boston.
"James was very proud that they were practicing," Maddon said.
Led by C Stephen Vogt, they walked onto the field and danced to "Call Me Maybe."
"The moment of the dance was Desmond Jennings' back flip," Vogt said. "The sheer athleticism, in a leotard, to be able to pull that off."
Jennings said he used to do back flips when he was young, but admitted he never attempted one dressed like Jane Fonda from her old workout videos.
"Hope I don't have to do that again," Jennings said.
RHP Chris Archer was voted both best looking and scariest.
Said Jennings: "I think the most natural was probably Archer. I think he can pass for what he was wearing."
Said Maddon: "Archer was scary. I think he really enjoyed it."
Said Vogt: "(Archer) was scary good. He's a good-looking man, so therefore he's a good-looking woman."
Maddon entered Thursday's game needing a win for the 600th victory of his managerial career. He had 19 with the Angels and 580 with the Rays. … C Jose Molina (right quad) might miss this series.