Below, you will find a graph detailing the probabilities that the Rays or the Red Sox would represent the American League as the Wild Card as the wild night of September 28th, 2011 progressed, based on Win Probability. Although we could never truly quantify whatever it was that happened yesterday, let these numbers be a handy guide as we highlight 16 of the key moments (with video links when possible) that ultimately resulted in the craziest night — and the craziest five minutes — in my baseball life and probably in baseball history.
Odds are calculated assuming a 50% win probability in a one-game playoff.
Click to embiggen as we dive into the night that was.
A. 7:48 PM. Dustin Pedroia hits an RBI single to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead and a WP of 70%. The Rays remain tied at zero in the top of the second, but the Yankees are rallying, loading the bases with two outs, giving the Rays a WP of 30%.
Overall Odds: Boston 70%, Tampa Bay 30%.
B. 7:51 PM. Mark Teixiera clears the aforementioned loaded bases with a grand slam, giving the Yankees a 5-0 lead and leaving the Rays a WP of 10%. The Red Sox fail to score again in their half of the third, as David Ortiz grounds into a double play and Ryan Lavarnway strikes out, but the Sox hold a solid WP of 60% at this time.
Overall odds: Boston 75%, Tampa 25%.
C. 8:05 PM. J.J. Hardy homers (his 30th!) to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead and stick Boston with a WP of 37%. Still, the Red Sox appear headed for a tiebreaker with a loss at this point, as Tampa Bay still trails 4-0 in the bottom of the fourth, with a WP of 8%.
Overall odds: Boston 64%, Tampa Bay 36%
D. 8:33 PM. After Marco Scutaro scored on a balk in the fourth inning to tie the game, Dustin Pedroia homers off Alfedo Simon in the fifth to earn the lead and raise the Red Sox WP to 62%. Simon wouldn’t record another out. In St. Petersburg, the Rays have all of one hit through three innings and still trail 4-0, for a WP of 4%.
Overall odds: Boston 79%, Tampa 21%
Overall odds: Boston 72%, Tampa Bay 28%
Overall odds: Boston 81%, Tampa Bay 19%
G. 9:30 PM. Rain delay in Boston with the score still 3-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, for a 64% win probability. Tampa Bay’s efforts still prove futile, as the Rays trail 7-0 following homers from Mark Teixeira (again) and Andruw Jones. The Rays’ WP is down to 1%.
Overall odds: Boston 82%, Tampa Bay 18%
H. 10:22 PM. After Yankee wildness leads to the Rays’ first three runs in the eighth inning, Evan Longoria breathes life into the Rays with a three run home run off Luis Ayala to close the margin to 7-6. It’s a home run one could feel coming — the Rays’ announcer declares it a “moment Evan was made for” seconds before the crack of the bat. The Rays still have work to do, but winning the game is a possibility now, and they hold an 18% win probability as rain continues to fall in Baltimore.
Overall odds: Boston 70%, Tampa Bay 30%
I. 10:42 PM. The Great Pumpkin strikes again. Dan Johnson, known for his pinch-hit game-tying home run in 2008 off Johnathan Papelbon, hits another pinch-hit game-tying home run with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth off former Tampa Bay Ray Cory Wade to tie the game. As the tarp stays on in Baltimore, it’s a whole new game in Tampa Bay. The Rays fail to finish it in the 9th, carrying a 50% WP into extra frames with the score 7-7.
Overall odds: Boston 57%, Tampa Bay 43%
J. 10:58 PM. Play resumes in Boston, as Mark Reynolds is hit by an Alfredo Aceves pitch, lowering Boston’s WP to 56%. Meanwhile, the Rays are an out away from taking their turn in the 10th, and their WP sits at 60%, giving them their first “lead” of the night since 7:15 PM.
Overall odds: Tampa Bay 52%, Boston 48%
K. 11:17 PM. Johnny Damon strikes out against Scott Proctor, stranding B.J. Upton at first base as the Rays and Yankees head to the eleventh. The Sox head to the bottom of the eighth, holding on to a one-run lead and a 70% WP. The tide is back in Boston’s favor.
Overall odds: Boston 60%, Tampa Bay 40%
L. 11:38 PM. Brandon Guyer singles to left, giving the Rays runners on first and second with one out, a 70% WP. At Camden Yards, the Red Sox have runners on the corners with one out as they look for insurance runs in the top of the ninth, giving them a solid 89% WP. At this point, a playoff seems more likely than at any other point in the day (62%). Both Boston and Tampa Bay would fail to score in the ninth and eleventh respectively.
Overall odds: Boston 59%, Tampa Bay 41%
M. 11:51 PM. Boston approaches the victory, as Jonathan Papelbon records two quick strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth. With the bases empty and Chris Davis coming to the plate, the Red Sox hold a 95% win probability and look to force at least a one-game playoff. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is in trouble at the trop, as the Yankees put runners on first and third with nobody out.
Overall odds: Boston 89%, Tampa Bay 11%
N. 11:55 PM. The worm turns. Jonathan Papelbon allows two straight doubles to the Orioles’ eight and nine hitters, Davis and Nolan Reimold, and the Orioles tie the game and have the winning run in scoring position, giving the Sox a 39% win probability, nearly equal to their total after the Hardy home run. At the Trop, the Rays escape as Jake McGee induces a grounder and and out at third thanks to a heads-up play by Evan Longoria and an awful baserunning mistake by Greg Golson. The Rays now have two out and only one on and a 52% WP, holding their best situation of the night.
Overall odds: Tampa Bay 56%, Boston 44%.
O. 12:00 AM. The Rays escape to the bottom of the 12th inning with the game still tied. The Red Sox are less lucky, as Robert Andino lines a ball into left field that slips in and out of Carl Crawford‘s glove and the Orioles walk off to finish Camden Yards’s season in style. The Red Sox must now hope the Rays, who own a 63% win probability, fall to the Yankees.
Overall odds: Tampa Bay 81%, Boston 19%.
P. 12:03 AM. As the fans in the Trop cheer the news of the Red Sox demise, Evan Longoria connects on a Scott Proctor fastball that seems to glide over the top of the left-field wall as it leaves the park. Never have the fates of a 162 game season changed more over 10 minutes of game action. The Rays take the victory 8-7 and win the Wild Card with a 91-71 record.
Overall odds: Tampa Bay 100%, Boston 0%.