Rewatch Rays' pennant-clincher in '08 ALCS G7

April 18th, 2020

Remember the emotions you felt as you watched Akinori Iwamura step on second base, sending the Rays to their first World Series? Relive the moment the Rays won Game 7 of the 2008 American League Championship Series whenever you want, right here.

That Game 7 is the most important game in franchise history, as it capped one of the most improbable seasons in MLB history. The Rays, who had finished near the bottom of the standings in their first decade of existence, were considered long shots to win the division, but they used an infusion of young talent and veterans to win the AL East and eventually beat the Red Sox in the ALCS to make it to the World Series.

“We’ve proved doubters wrong this entire time, and we just told each other, ‘Keep believing, keep fighting,’" said Matt Garza, who started Game 7 for the Rays. “Keep playing the way we played all year, and good things are going to happen.”

Good things certainly happened for the Rays, but it was the Red Sox that struck first in Game 7. Dustin Pedroia hit a first-inning solo homer off Garza, giving the Red Sox the 1-0 lead. After that, Garza gave the Rays seven incredible innings, holding the Red Sox to just the one run before handing the ball to the bullpen.

As Garza took care of the Boston lineup, the Tampa Bay lineup went to work against Jon Lester, who had built up quite the postseason resume. But this night belonged to the Rays.

Evan Longoria got the Rays on the board, hitting an RBI double to drive in Carlos Pena, tying the game at one in the fourth inning. Rocco Baldelli gave the Rays the lead in the fifth with an RBI single, driving in Willy Aybar. Then in the seventh, Aybar added a much-needed insurance run with a solo home run off Lester, pushing the lead to 3-1.

Manager Joe Maddon turned to relievers Dan Wheeler, J.P. Howell and Chad Bradford to get the next two outs. But as left-hander J.D. Drew came up with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, Maddon turned to 22-year-old lefty starter David Price to record the final four outs of the game. And he delivered.

Price struck out Drew to end the threat in the eighth inning and then followed it up with a scoreless ninth inning to send the Rays to the World Series with a 3-1 win. The last out turned out to be a memorable moment, as Iwamura handled a tough hop at second base before stepping on the bag to end the game. The second baseman jumped as high as he could, and then the celebration was on at Tropicana Field.

“I thought it was going to be an easy play and all of a sudden I saw that hop,” Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett told The Athletic in 2018. “Everyone stopped breathing for a second. Once he caught it, everyone started to celebrate. Dogpile on the mound.”