Standing Room Only: A true Classic

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Standing Room Only: A true Classic

We try to keep the spotlight on Boston in this space, but every once in a while you cant help but burst through the local bubble.

For instance, last night, while the Pats were packing for Pittsburgh, the Bruins were rolling over at the Garden, the Celtics eyes were on New York and the Sox were kicking back a cold one, the Cardinals and Rangers were playing one of the ugliest baseball games Ive ever seen.

Im serious. It was awful, and not just for a potential World Series clincher. This wouldnt have been acceptable for opening day of Spring Training. There were dropped pop-ups in the infield . . . flubbed fly balls in the outfield . . . two booted grounders . . . there were five errors through the first six innings! (And that doesnt count the comedy of errors spewing out of Tim McCarver). But thankfully, in the top of the seventh, with the score tied at four, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz hit back-to-back homers to put the Cardinals (and the baseball world) out of their misery. Or so we thought . . .

Instead, right around 12, as night turned to morning and the Pats (dreaming of Terrible Towels), the Bruins (with Montreal nightmares), the NBA (starring David Stern in a night cap and footie pajamas) and the Sox (passed out in front of an empty box of DiGiornos) were all deep in sleep, the Rangers and Cardinals combined for what will go down as one of the most exciting and historic baseball games Ive ever seen. The most uplifting, heart-wrenching, unbelievable back-and-forth battle since . . . honestly, I dont know. From a personal standpoint, Id have to say Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS or (gulp) Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, but all bias aside neither could match this stage.

If you saw it, you know exactly what Im talking about. If not, Im sorry, but theres no way I can do it justice. There were so many different heroes, so many different goats. You felt for so many people Matt Holiday, Nelson Cruz, Nolan Ryan, Neftali Feliz, Scott Feldman, Josh Hamilton, Lance Berkman, David Freese, Ron Washington, Tony Larussa, Alexi Ogando, Mark Lowe, Mike Napoli, Joe Buck on so many levels.

The Cardinals were trailing by two runs and down to their last strike on TWO different occasions. Crazy, right? Well, how about the fact that the Rangers were one strike away from WINNING a World Series on two different occasions?

Its funny, because when you have a dog in the fight, you only deal with one side of those emotions, but as an innocent and unbiased spectator, you burn the candle at both ends. Every moments bittersweet, every big play's a simultaneous high five and gut punch. When David Freese, the same guy who hit the game-tying triple in the ninth, the same guy who GREW UP in St. Louis cheering for the Cardinals, hit a walk-off 11th inning homer to send his hometown team to the seventh game of the World Series, I stood up and cheered, yet at the same time, part of me died. The Rangers, man. One pitch away . . . twice! It was an absolute trip. Probably the purest, yet most emotionally-confusing sports viewing experiences Ive had in years.

And as Freese crossed home plate, while a large part of me was relieved to finally get to bed, another part was bummed that the game couldn't go on forever. It was history. We were living baseball history. And I didn't want it to end.

Although in many ways, it didnt. In reality, I guess Freeses homer marked more of an intermission. The real ending plays out tonight, and Boston team or not, Ill be along for the ride.

Rich Levine can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Sunday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: JBJ sits, Vazquez catches

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Sunday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: JBJ sits, Vazquez catches

Jackie Bradley Jr. gets the day off and Christian Vazquez get the start at catcher as the Red Sox look to extend their winning streak to 11 games today against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg. 

Andrew Benintendi replaces Bradley in center, Chris Young is in left and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (3-7, 4.84 ERA) is on the mound as the Red Sox close in on the A.L. East title. Their magic number to clinch the division is three with seven games left. 

Right-hander Jake Odorizzi (9-6, 3.73) is on the mound for the Rays.

The lineups:  

RED SOX 
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez LF
Travis Shaw 3B
Chris Young LF
Andrew Benintendi CF
Christian Vazquez C
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Eduardo Rodriguez LHP 

RAYS
Logan Forsythe 2B
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Evan Longoria 3B
Brad Miller SS
Mikey Mahtook RF
Corey Dickerson LF
Curt Casali DH
Luke Maile C
Richie Shaffer 1B
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Jake Odorizzi RHP 
 

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

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Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

MIAMI  — Jose Fernandez, the ace right-hander for the Miami Marlins who escaped Cuba to become one of baseball's brightest stars, was killed in a boating accident early Sunday morning. Fernandez was 24.

Authorities said Fernandez was one of three people killed in a boat crash off Miami Beach.

Chief Petty Officer Nyxolyno Cangemi told The Associated Press that a Coast Guard patrol boat spotted an overturned boat at 3:30 a.m. on a jetty near Government Cut. The bodies were discovered a short time later.

In the statement, the Marlins say they are "devastated by the tragic loss of José Fernández. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time."

"Hands down one of my favorite guys to watch pitch! He brought nothing but intensity and passion," Red Sox pitcher David Price said on Twitter early Sunday.

Because the boat was on a jetty, the Coast Guard notified Miami-Dade police, which turned the investigation over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Fernandez was on a 32-foot vessel that had a "severe impact" with a jetty, said FWC's Lorenzo Veloz.

"We are stunned and devastated," Major League Baseball said in a statement.

City of Miami Fire-Rescue workers were seen carrying bodies, draped and on stretchers, at the Coast Guard station after sunrise Sunday. The names of the other two individuals are being withheld pending notification of relatives, the Coast Guard said.

Fernandez was a two-time All-Star who went 38-17 in his four seasons with the Marlins, winning the NL's Rookie of the Year award in 2013. The native of Santa Clara, Cuba became a U.S. citizen last year and was enormously popular in Miami.

He tried to defect from Cuba at least three times — landing in jail after one of those unsuccessful tries — before eventually getting to the U.S. and going to high school in Tampa, Florida. The Marlins drafted him in 2011 and Fernandez was in the majors two years later.

The Marlins' game Sunday at home against the Atlanta Braves has been cancelled.

"I'm still in shock," former Marlins player Gaby Sanchez said on Twitter. "The world has lost a remarkable person. You will be missed and my heart goes out to the Fernandez family."

© 2016 Associated Press.