Photo by Kelly O'Connor

Photo by Kelly O’Connor –

Come on. You knew it was gonna be the Rays.

Sure, all this talk of Tito coming back and playing Obi Wan to John Farrell’s Darth Vader was tantalizing. And the sort of warming nostalgia that was made for cold October nights. But in the back of your mind, they were there all along. Joe Maddon and his foxy grandpa specs, boldly proclaiming in early September that he’s “looking forward to playing [the Sox] in the playoffs.” David Price and his seemingly newfound invincibility. The sound of cowbells and visions of that cavernous, void-of-fans Trop. You somehow figured things were going to end like this.

And here we are. Again. Starting tomorrow at 3:07pm.

As we sit back and drink ourselves into playoff mode, I felt it appropriate to look back at some of the more memorable Sox-Rays mash-ups. See if you agree with me. If not, that’s why God invented the comments section.

5. Carp Turns Out the Lights
The ghosts of Septembers past still loom pretty large in these parts. And considering that the last two Septembers nearly put half of Red Sox nation into Betty Ford, and that September 2013 saw us playing our AL east rivals almost exclusively, we had reason to be concerned once Labor Day rolled around. By the time the Sox hit the Trop on September 10 for a three-game set, the East was pretty much ours. But that didn’t make it any less awesome to see our penchant for the dramatic re-affirmed in the second game, when, in the tenth inning of a 3-3 tie, with one out and the bases loaded, pinch hitter Mike Carp deposited a Roberto Hernandez pitch into the right field seats. The Sox got the win, the Rays dropped 9.5 back, and we all breathed a little easier.

4. Twitter Fight!
Folks, there’s nothing lamer than a Twitter fight, expect possibly an argument over who can eat the most “hot wings” (answer: always bet on the fat guy). But the widely-noted exchange between the Sox and Rays’ official Twitter accounts helped fuel the continuing rivalry between these teams. And will no doubt be brought up 3,294 more times between now and Friday.

3. Coco Unchained!
During a Fenway series back in June, 2008, Maddon called out Coco “Covelli to You” Crisp for what he thought was a dirty slide. The next night, James Shields came up and in on Cokes, prompting a mound-charging and bench-clearing that caused the Rays to temporarily displace the Yankees as the most hated Red Sox opponent. Coco’s post-game comments were even better, accusing the Rays of pulling his hair “like little girls.”

2. Pedro vs. Gerald Williams
Never let it be said that Pedro Martinez was afraid to go up and in on an opposing batter. And during an August 2000 game against the then-Devil Rays, he plunked lead-off batter Gerald Williams on the hand, inciting a brawl for the ages. Petey really didn’t acquit himself well in the donnybrook — he looks kinda like a rag doll swatting at flies — but Jason Varitek reaffirmed his value to the team with a magnificent take-down, protecting his pitcher and, at the time, the Sox’ most valuable asset.

What the Rays didn’t know was that you can’t kill Pedro, you can only piss him off. And for the balance of the game, he tore into them mercilessly, carrying a no-hitter into the ninth. The no-no was broken up, tragically might I add, by former Sox catcher John Flaherty. I was so pissed, I put my fist through a wall. I then finished my beer and walked straight out the door, spending the next hour wandering aimlessly through the neighborhood, working off my aggressions by shouting at trees and squirrels.

I’ve got a video of the fight here, worth noting for none other than Timmeh Wakefield stepping into the fray to maintain law and order and an undercard battle between Brian Daubach and Roberto Hernandez.

1. 2008 ALCS, Game Five
I’ve spoken at length about Game 5 of the 2008 ALCS and the vast scope of its awesomeness. But here I go again. it’s a game very richly deserving of a place among the great Red Sox Victories In Playoff Series We Eventually Lost, alongside game six of the 1975 World Series and game six of the 2003 ALCS.

I was watching it at The Fours down on Causeway, packed in with all the other drunks and diehards who knew that, in the wake of the 2004 ALCS, nothing was impossible. But in the seventh inning, we were down 7-0 in the game and 3-1 in the series. So the beers were draining faster and with extreme prejudice. Then the Elf knocked in a run. Then Papi cracked a three-run bomb. And we headed to the eighth down by 3. And one inning later, we had those runs too, courtesy of a JD Drew two-runner and a Coco RBI. By now, the crowd was frenzied. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t try to get a spirited call of “WHEN I SAY KOTSAY, YOU SAY F$#K YEAH” going.

By the time Drew pulled another rabbit out of his hat, knocking in the winning run with a walk-off double, the full grip of 2004 Mania was upon us. While we can never take away the magnitude of what the original band of “Idiots” achieved that magic post-season, that game five comeback in the 2008 ALCS was the second-biggest in playoffs history. And the possibility of going to the World Series in consecutive years, and the accompanying thought that we may be witnessing a dynasty in the making, was almost too much for my beer-soaked brain to process.

I have no idea what the 2013 ALDS is gonna bring. But if history is any indicator, it’s gonna be loud, sometimes painful and induce plenty of screaming at the television (good and bad). It will also require a lot of self-medicating with alcohol. So warn the neighbors, tape the windows, chill the kegs. It’s October in Boston and the Rays are coming to Fenway.