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01/21/09 9:42 AM EST
Relive Rays walk-off victory over Yanks
MLB.com/Live to air Gross' clutch hit on Wednesday
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
For the first six weeks of the 2008 season, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was essentially untouchable. In his first 14 appearances, he didn't allow a single run and surrendered just six hits over 15 innings. But Rivera's early season run stopped on May 13 when the Rays ended his scoreless streak in dramatic fashion in the 11th inning on a walk-off single by Gabe Gross to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 win over New York at Tropicana Field. "Wow. It's just big to win that game," Gross said at the time. "Coming back in extra innings in the end -- that's a big win for us." Every day from now to Spring Training, MLB.com/Live will air a classic game on Baseball's Best. The Rays' walk-off win can be seen on Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET. The Rays win was a big one at the time as it moved the club into first place and put them seven games over .500 for the first time in franchise history. It also showed the team's resiliency, especially after blowing a 1-0 lead in the ninth inning when Hideki Matsui hit a game-tying home run off Rays closer Troy Percival. But the Rays battled back in the bottom of the 11th when Cliff Floyd opened the frame with a single off Rivera, who was pitching in his second inning. Jonny Gomes then pinch-ran for Floyd and promptly stole second base with no outs and Gross at the plate. Gross understood the situation and the fact that Rivera had been so dominant during his career. "[Rivera is] the best, and has been for some time," Gross said. "All I was concentrating on was trying to get Jonny to third, hopefully squeak a ground ball through, sac fly or something like that." Instead, Gross hit a 1-1 fastball into center field to score Gomes from first to give the Rays an exciting victory over the Yankees. It was the first time Rivera took a loss all season but the closer said afterward that it's just part of the game. "It's not my first time," Rivera said. "But it's kind of hard right now. The team needs you and you let them down like that." The Rays were helped by a solid outing by Edwin Jackson, who tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing five hits and one walk along with five strikeouts. But Jackson didn't figure into the decision despite leaving with a 1-0 lead after an RBI single by Eric Hinske in the fourth inning. Instead he was stuck with a no-decision because the Yankees tied the game in the ninth on the home run by Matsui. But in the end it was an important early-season win for the Rays, who didn't realize at the time that they were on their way to a magical season that ended with a trip to the World Series for the first time in franchise history. "As good as that is [being in first place], it's about four and half months premature right now," Gross said at the time. "We've got a long way to go right now, but it's good to be there now."
Rhett Bollinger is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.