COMMENTARY | A walkoff. It's the most exciting play in baseball. It's a buzzer-beater, a goal in overtime and a touchdown with no time left on the clock.
In one moment, the outcome is in doubt and the next you're celebrating with your teammates in victory. And as Herm Edwards tells us, it's the reason games are even contested in the first place.
In 2013's first half, the Boston Red Sox managed to secure eight walkoff victories, erasing comparisons to teams of the last few years. These Red Sox are different, consistently coming up big when it matters.
A victory is a victory, but this one seems lesser than the others. The Red Sox entered the top of the ninth inning looking to close out their 50th victory, but plans were changed after a home run by Jose Bautista. Koji Uehara blew the save, but prevented the tie from becoming a deficit. In the bottom half, Victorino's innocent looking chopper with one out was misplayed, and the winning run scored. Nevertheless, the team was elated. No asterisk necessary.
7. Stephen Drew vs. Minnesota Twins (May 6)
Drew had a big night, going 4-for-5 with 3 RBIs and a home run, but everything about this walkoff feels a bit subdued: A lazy flyball to the scoreboard that hits low, outfielder Ryan Doumit making a halfhearted swat at it, and Drew cruising into second like he just doubled in a seven-run loss. It's not until he's mobbed by teammates that he realizes he just won the game.
6. Shane Victorino vs. Tampa Bay Rays (April 13)
The first of three walkoffs on the year against Tampa Bay was handled by Victorino. With the speedy Jacoby Ellsbury on third, he hit a shot up the middle toward a diving attempt by second baseman Ben Zobrist, who threw to first in time. If there were already two outs, it would have been the night's top web gem. But there was only one. Ellsbury was probably safe regardless, but Zobrist has to at least try to save the game there.
This one should be higher for the celebration alone, but it gets docked for being against the fifth-place Padres. This game was highlighted for its lack of them prior to Gomes coming up in a pinch-hit situation where he sent a 2-2 pitch into the first row above the Green Monster. Gomes sprints around the first half of the diamond before taking his helmet off and doing his best Mike Alstott impression through his teammates' "line of scrimmage" at home. And he caps it off with the double-biceps flex. Touchdown.
4. Mike Napoli vs. Tampa Bay Rays (April 15)
The second walkoff against the Rays in three days may have been the most emotional one of the season, in retrospect. An hour after Napoli's heroics, tragedy struck about a mile away as the Boston Marathon was winding down. What was supposed to be one of the biggest days of the year for the city was marred by an act of senseless violence. In the grand scheme of things, Napoli's winning double won't matter when the day is remembered, but it was no less important on the then-young season against a divisional opponent.
3. Jonny Gomes vs. Tampa Bay Rays (June 18)
If there were ever any doubts as to which member of the Red Sox has the best celebrations, Gomes may have ended that conversation in 2013. After seeing Andrew Bailey yield the tying home run in the top of the ninth, Gomes worked his own magic in the bottom half with a towering shot to the top of the Green Monster. As he came down the third base line, he punted his helmet and jumped into the mob of teammates at home. It ended a long day with a doubleheader sweep of the Rays that included a three-hour rain delay.
If there's one piece of advice that Rangers manager Ron Washington could learn from this one, it's simply "don't anger Big Papi." With Gomes standing on second after his leadoff double, Washington inexplicably walked Dustin Pedroia to get to Ortiz. There were no outs so Ortiz was coming up regardless, but now he had a chip on his shoulder. It took one pitch for the decision to blow up in Washington's face.
1. Jacoby Ellsbury vs. Cleveland Indians (May 26)
Everything about this moment makes it one of the greatest of the season. From the relief on Ellsbury's face, to the team's biggest ninth inning since Mother's Day 2007, to the shots of the hilarity in the stands. Before the walkoff, Ellsbury had been in a major slump to begin the year. Since that moment, he has raised his average nearly 60 points and his OBP 50. It was a true turning point on the season for him.
To fans of the Red Sox, the term "walkoff" means the lowest of lows (Aaron Boone, 2003) and the highest of highs (David Ortiz, 2004, twice). In 2013, it's brought elation eight times. And counting.
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- Shane Victorino
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Jacoby Ellsbury
- Jonny Gomes