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Total Disaster: Red Sox Put Bow On One Of Baseball's Biggest Collpases

It was the best of times, it was the worst of time. On one night in late September, the Boston Red Sox incited feelings of anxiety, excitement and despair, all in a matter of hours. When it was over, the Sox were on the outside looking in. Again.

To borrow the extremely overused words of Charles Dickens, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. One night, arguably the best evening for the sport of baseball in recent memory, filled with so many emotions that it was tough to process exactly what they were.

Despair was preceded by sheer nervousness, which was preceded by joy and excitement, all wrapped around anticipation. The Boston Red Sox, in partnership with the Tampa Bay Rays, incited all of these feelings in one night.

There was a point where it looked like the Red Sox were going to pull it out and make the postseason. Then, there were points where it seemed uncertain. Finally, at the very end, there were moments of pure shock.

The night started off with very encouraging events, with the Red Sox taking an earl 1-0 lead on an RBI-single in the third inning and the New York Yankees jumping out to a commanding 7-0 lead over the Rays after five innings.

Baltimore fought back to take a 2-1 lead on a two-run home run from J.J. Hardy in the third inning, but there was still a sense of optimism. Hey, there's still plenty of time. Even if the Sox don't pull it out, at least the Rays will lose, right?

Things got even better when Marco Scutaro scored on a balk in the fourth inning to tie the game and, to cap it off, Pedroia connected for a home run to deep left, putting Boston on top 3-2 as the game reached its later stage.

But then, the rain came, literally and figuratively. A rain delay kept the Red Sox off the field for nearly an hour and a half. Down in Tampa Bay, the Rays began stirring the pot on a comeback, turning a seven-run deficit to a six-run one, and then to a five-run one and a four-run one.

And then, reality set in. Evan Longoria hit a three-run homer to bring the Rays' deficit to one run in the bottom of the eighth inning, and that's when we started to think it. No...this is really going to happen, isn't it?

Sure enough, the dominoes continued to fall. Dan Johnson hit a home run with two outs and two strikes, tying the game at 7-7. Great, now it's looking like we're going to a one-game playoff. Oh well, at least we're still in it.

On our side of the race, play finally resumed in Baltimore, and the Red Sox - courtesy of some elusive pitching from Alfredo Aceves (after hitting two batters to open the seventh) and some solid pitching from Daniel Bard, the Red Sox carried a one-run advantage into the ninth inning.

Things were looking, well, alright. Pedroia's single to right set up a first and third situation with nobody out and David Ortiz heading to the plate. Good, good, Papi's going to pull through for us. We're going to be OK.

But Ortiz grounded into a fielder's choice, forcing Pedroia out at second. Joey Gathright came in to run for Ortiz, and Adrian Gonzalez was intentionally walked to load the bases for 'Super Man', aka Ryan Lavarnway.

Alas, Lavarnway was no help this time around, grounding into an inning-ending double play. Shoot, missed opportunity there. But we still have a lead, and one of the best closers in the business is up next.

And then came the bottom of the ninth inning. Jonathan Papelbon steps on the mound, and the Red Sox are three outs, three outs, away from at least guaranteeing that they'll live on for one more day.

Pap struck out the first two batters he faced, fanning both Adam Jones and Matt Reynolds. Ok, yes, yes! One out away! We're in the clear, baby! 

The final dominoes then began to fall. Chris Davis doubled to left. Nolan Reimold doubled to deep right center, scoring Kyle Hudson, who pinch ran for Reimold, tying the game. Oh, come on...

At last, the final salvo. Robert Andino, the newest Red Sox killer, hit a bloop single to left that grazed Carl Crawford's glove. Crawford quickly recovered and fired the ball home, but it was just too late. It was just too late.

It was over. No, no... The Orioles were celebrating, and that sinking feeling of collapse began to set in. No way, there's no chance a nine-game lead is completely blown. It just can't happen.

For all the bad that happened in that inning, remarkably, there was still hope. If the Yankees beat the Rays, Boston would have one more chance to get into the playoffs. They only needed another win from the team that has hoisted 27 World Series trophies. Alright, it's up to you, Yanks. Can you help us out?

In a matter of minutes, which felt like ten seconds, it was over. Longoria hit a laser that found its way out of the ballpark in what seemed like two seconds, and there you have it. The Rays won, the Rays won.

The Rays won, and the collapse was finally complete. No more hope. No more chances. It was over, all over.

And just like that, a season that started out with World Series aspirations ended with such a shocking thud. The same team that so many said was destined to win its third title since 2004 didn't even make the playoffs. The championship aspirations, gone, with nothing left in the tank.

All that was left was a team that finished third in its division for the second straight year and a club that hasn't won a postseason game since 2008 and won't get to change that now. 

One team, one nine game lead. All gone, with only a long list of questions left behind.