SARASOTA The Baltimore Orioles could have laid down and finished 68-94.
But they didnt.
And because they didnt, the Orioles helped create a chain reaction that led to what was arguably the greatest final day in regular season baseball history.
Baltimore came from behind to edge the Boston Red Sox 4-3 to finish the regular season 69-93 and sent the Tampa Bay Rays, who later defeated the New York Yankees, into the postseason.
On Friday at Ed Smith Stadium, a few Baltimore players remembered that magical night as they prepared for another season. It was the first day of camp for position players.
We had a rain delay, so we were inside watch
ing the Tampa game, and I think they were losing big and clawed their way back, said Mark Reynolds, who played first base against the Red Sox that night. And then (Tampa) tied it up. I think when they tied it up, we were out of our rain delay. We came out and finished playing. We kind of knew the situation.
The situation was this: a Baltimore victory coupled with a Rays win meant Tampa Bay was heading to the playoffs.
Bostons closer at the time, Jonathan Papelbon, had the Sox one out away from victory in the ninth inning, but Baltimores Chris Davis kept Rays fans hopes alive with a two-out double. Nolan Reimold followed with a two-strike double that plated pinch-runner Kyle Hudson and tied the game.
Then Robert Andino delivered the game-winning hit.
The Boston Red Sox had finished off an epic collapse, blowing a nine-game lead in the final month.
One thing after another, it was a pretty cool night, Reynolds said. I texted (Rays third baseman Evan) Longoria and I told him, Hey, we better get some playoff shares, because we got you guys in. ... It was a good time.
So many things developed off that series of events.
Most notably, the issues in Boston surfaced with the Boston Globe reporting players eating fast-food fried chicken, drinking beer and playing video games during games in September, while former manager Terry Francona lost control of the clubhouse.
First of all, stuff like that shouldnt even be out. I dont know who leaked it or what happened, but that stuff is in-house, Reynolds said. Players are going to do what players are going to do. Its up to people in charge to control that kind of stuff. But its all in-house stuff. But at the same time, if we lose that night and Boston, theyre in the playoffs. Youre right, a lot of people still have jobs, probably half that team is still together. Everythings the way Im sure people wanted it to be.
Another development from that game was that Orioles ended their season on a winning note.
I dont think thats the character of our team, Reimold said. We werent going to the playoffs, but were still going to play until the last out. I think we finished the year and gave our fans something to cheer about and look forward to next year.
But for one night, the Orioles, who defeated the Red Sox three out of four in Boston the previous week before snagging two out of three in Baltimore to finish the year, were in a playoff atmosphere.
And for one night, they turned the baseball world on its ear.
The momentum and showing the baseball world, and even showing ourselves that we can compete, and were not going to be no doormat, Andino said. I dont believe in luck. Thats how its supposed to go down that night.