Most Exciting Day in Baseball History
This is one of those nights when I'm so sorry for all those people out there who are not baseball fans. For this night brought to a close the 2011 season with an incredible array of games. I don't think I've ever seen a single season last day packed with so much drama. The division winners in all six divisions had been decided. But the wild card teams, the fourth team to get into the playoffs in each league, had not. One of the amazing things about this year is that the wild card spot at the beginning of September looked like it was no contest at all. Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves were both ahead of the immediate trailing team (Tampa Bay Rays and St Louis Cardinals, respectively) by about 9 games. This is like a horse being 9-10 lengths ahead down the stretch. In short, it's a huge lead. But, wonder of wonders, both those teams lost out on the final day of the season. The collapse of both these teams during September was epochal.
Boston and Atlanta collapses
Nobody knew who were the wild cards till the last minute. For the Rays to get in, Boston had to lose to Baltimore, a weak team. They did, but how they did was amazing. Boston went into the bottom of the 9th inning in Baltimore leading 3-2. And then they gave up two runs with nobody on and two outs. Amazing! (Box score and play-by-play)
And the Rays themselves had to beat the accursed New York Yankees. By the eighth inning in St Petersburg, it appeared this was a forlorn hope indeed. The Rays were down by 7 runs, 7-0. But here comes the miracle: the Rays score 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th. Trailing by a run in the bottom of the 9th, with two out, they tie the game on a home run by a guy named Dan Johnson. Who? This guy is a journeyman ballplayer, one of the worst hitters in baseball. He hit .119 for the year. Hit two homers, counting this one. Had an on-base percentage of .187. These are miserable numbers, trust me. He hits the ball out to tie and game goes into extra innings. Tampa goes on to win the game in the bottom of the 12th inning on a homer by a guy who had already hit one in the game. Box score and play-by-play of the game.
In the other league, St Louis had to win and Atlanta had to lose. St Louis, playing against the Houston Astros, the worst team in baseball, won handily. Everything depends on the Atlanta game, and Atlanta is leading by a run in the top of the 9th. But they cannot hold the lead against the best team in baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies. Their game goes into extra innings and the Braves lose it by a run in the 13th inning. Box score and play-by-play of the game.
Wow! I am just out of superlatives. I am so pumped for the post-season. Go Rangers! (who won a close one tonight and secured home field advantage for the beginning of the American League Divisional Series).