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LEEInks list: Top moments in Red Sox-Rays rivalry

05.24.10 at 6:43 am ET
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The Red Sox and Rays have had a spirited rivalry of late, which included this fight between Coco Crisp and James Shields in 2007. (AP)

The Red Sox and Rays have had a spirited rivalry of late, including this fight between Coco Crisp and James Shields in 2008. (AP)

Whenever the Red Sox and Rays meet, as they will on Monday to start a three-game series, there’s always the possibility of a great moment.

Before Tampa Bay’s improbable World Series appearance in 2008, the Red Sox only had to contest with the Yankees year in and year out in the American League East. Considered as bottom feeders since their inception as a franchise in 1998, the Rays have only recently become a comparable rival to go alongside New York. What’s remained constant, however, are the great moments Tampa Bay and Boston seem to provide when they get together for games.

With the Rays being one of the youngest and most talented teams in the majors, competitive contests don’t seem like they will stop anytime soon. Thinking of the most memorable games in the past decade, Red Sox fans may be surprised at how many involved Tampa Bay. Here are the 10 of the top moments in the history of the Red Sox and Rays rivalry:

10. June 20, 1998: Tampa Bay’s first win

It took four losses before Tampa Bay finally earned its first franchise win against Boston on June 20 in its 1998 inaugural season. The then-Devil Rays used their offense to build an early lead and held on to defeat the Red Sox, 8-5. Julio Santana allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings to earn the win, while Bret Saberhagen suffered the loss, giving up six runs in only four innings.

At that time, wins would come few and far between for the Devil Rays. Though it was one of only three wins Tampa Bay had over Boston that season, it was significant because it was the first in franchise history.

9. June 12, 1998: Boston’s first win

The first ever meeting between the two teams occurred on June 12, 1998 – days before Tampa Bay’s first franchise win. Like Boston did frequently over the next few years, the Red Sox defeated the Devil Rays, 5-1. Tim Wakefield kept the Rays offense at bay, allowing only one run in 6 2/3 innings. Reggie Jefferson led Boston at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a two-run homer to provide the pitching staff with all the runs it would need.

Before the recent emergence of the Rays, Boston was the big brother and would bully around Tampa Baby. Even when they weren’t reaching the World Series, the Red Sox had the Rays’ number, and it all began with that first win.

8. April 1, 2003: 16-inning marathon

The Devil Rays and Red Sox wasted little time before playing an extra-inning game in 2003. In only the second game of the season on April 1, the two teams played 16 innings at Tropicana Field with Boston coming out on top, 9-8. The scoring went back and forth until the bats of both offenses went quiet after the bottom of the eighth inning.

Finally, in the top of the 16th inning, Kevin Millar hit a solo home run off Jorge Sosa to give Boston the lead. Brandon Lyon finished off the Devil Rays in the bottom half to earn the victory. A total of 14 pitchers and seven reserves were used in the contest, with Rocco Baldelli having a game-high nine at-bats.

7. Oct. 10, 2008: Matsuzaka’s Game 1 gem

On Oct. 10, 2008, in the first game of the first playoff series between the two teams, Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka delivered a dominant performance. Matsuzaka was nearly unhittable, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning until Carl Crawford broke it up with a single. He finished with eight shutout innings while allowing four hits. Jonathan Papelbon closed the game with his fourth career ALCS save with a perfect ninth.

Tampa Bay starter James Shields pitched well in his own right but couldn’t keep the Red Sox offense scoreless. Boston’s two runs came on a sacrifice fly by Jed Lowrie in the fifth and an RBI double by Kevin Youkilis in the eighth. The ALCS opener would set up a memorable seven-game series with more great moments.

6. Oct. 11, 2008: Game 2 walk-off sacrifice fly

After being shut down in Game 1, the Rays bounced back and won 9-8 in dramatic fashion in Game 2 on Oct. 11, 2008. Boston and Tampa Bay traded punches with scoring runs, but nine innings weren’t enough to decide the game. Despite a majority of the runs coming on home runs, it was a sacrifice fly by B.J. Upton off Mike Timlin in the bottom of the 11th that gave the Rays the victory.

The game lasted 5 hours, 27 minutes and included a total of seven home runs, breaking an ALCS record and tying the all-time LCS record. After the pitching duel in the series opener, Game 2 was all about offense.

5. June 5, 2008: Coco Crisp vs. James Shields

At Fenway Park, Coco Crisp charged the mound after being hit on the hip by James Shields in the second inning. Crisp ducked a right hook by Shields before taking a few swings himself. Both Crisp and Shields were ejected, as well as designated hitter Jonny Gomes.

The dispute was rooted in an incident from the previous game, when Crisp slid hard into second baseman Akinori Iwamura as retaliation for shortstop Jason Bartlett blocking the bag two innings earlier. As for the game, Boston received 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball by starter Jon Lester to earn the 7-1 victory. Manny Ramirez drove in five runs alone, going 2-for-3 with a three-run homer.

4. Aug. 29, 2000: Pedro’s near no-hitter

On Aug. 29, 2000, Tampa Bay leadoff hitter Gerald Williams was hit by Pedro Martinez in the bottom of the first. Williams charged the mound but was contained quickly by Brian Daubach and the rest of the Red Sox. The Devil Rays pitchers retaliated by throwing at Daubach and other Boston batters the rest of the game. The umpires weren’t shy in ejected players as they tossed five Tampa Bay players, manager Larry Rothschild, and two coaches, while no one on the Red Sox was ejected.

Martinez, meanwhile, was unfazed by the extracurricular activities and carried a no-hitter into the ninth. Rays catcher John Flaherty spoiled the effort with a hit to lead off the inning, forcing Martinez to settle for a one-hitter. The Boston starter struck out 13 and had his best effort in a season in which he went 18-6 with a 1.74 ERA.

3. Oct. 16, 2008: Red Sox Game 5 comeback

After suffering three straight losses in the 2008 ALCS, Boston faced elimination in Game 5 on Oct. 16. Tampa Bay built a quick 5-0 lead on the strength of home runs by B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena, and Evan Longoria. Upton drove in two more in the top of the seventh off Jonathan Papelbon to put the Red Sox in a 7-0 deficit.

Boston, however, would not be eliminated so easily, as it responded with seven runs in the bottom of the seventh and eighth to tie the game. After Kevin Youkilis reached second base on a Longoria error in the ninth, Jason Bay was intentionally walked to bring up J.D. Drew. Drew hit a single off J.P. Howell into right field to bring across the winning run and keep Boston alive in the series. The game marked the second-biggest comeback in postseason history and the largest ever for a team on the brink of elimination.

2. April 27, 2002: Lowe’s no-hitter

After Hideo Nomo’s no-hitter against the Orioles in 2001, Derek Lowe pitched the second Red Sox no-no of the 21st century on April 27, 2002. He received 10 runs of support but only needed one as he allowed one walk and struck out six Devil Rays hitters. Jason Tyner was the final out on a grounder to second base.

The performance was the first no-hitter at Fenway Park since Dave Morehead shut down the Indians on Sept. 16, 1965. Since Lowe’s performance, Boston has since received two more no-hitters from Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

1. Oct. 19, 2008: Rays win ALCS

Tampa Bay put its stamp on the American League with a Game 7 win on Oct. 19, 2008, against Boston to earn a trip to the World Series. After a hard-fought series, the Rays won a close 3-1 game to take their first pennant. Starters Matt Garza and Jon Lester had strong pitching performances, but the Tampa Bay offense outperformed Boston, which received its only run on a solo homer by Dustin Pedroia in the first inning.

The moment of the game came in the top of the eighth when rookie David Price came in to face J.D. Drew with the bases loaded and two outs. Price came up big with a strikeout and proceeded to record his first career save in the ninth. With the win, the Rays joined the 1991 Atlanta Braves as the second team to go to the World Series after having the league’s worst record the previous season.

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