LAst Night's Action: The Best Night of Regular Season Baseball Ever
When people find out I write about sports the question invariably comes up: what sport do you like the most? I always answer baseball which elicits strange looks. It’s as though they feel I’m strange because baseball is an old-timey sport that drags and is boring. After what happened on this final day of the baseball season, I hope people finally understand.
At the beginning of the month, writers across the country were bemoaning how uninteresting the playoff races were with the exception for the AL West. The Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves were virtual locks to play in October.
All baseball fans were hoping the Braves, Cardinals, Red Sox and Rays won so we would have two play-in games on Thursday to determine the two wild cards. But here we are at September 28 (or September 29 on the East Coast) with both the Red Sox and Braves drying off tears of disappointment and failure. Both teams have played their final game.
You can’t predict baseball. Who would have predicted that the Boston Red Sox would choke away a nine-game lead or the Braves an 8 ½-game lead in September?
The St. Louis Cardinals had ace Chris Carpenter on the mound in Houston against the 105-loss Astros, so it came as no surprise that they beat the Astros 8-0 behind Carpenter’s complete game shutout. But the Braves had their own choke session in front of the home crowd with a 3-1 lead against the Philadelphia Phillies. They couldn’t hold on, normally reliable rookie closer Craig Kimbrel blowing his eighth save of the season thanks to three walks he issued. Kris Medlen had to take care of the final out of the ninth inning to ensure the Phillies didn’t take the lead. And in the 13th inning Hunter Pence’s RBI single put the nails in the Braves’ coffin.
But all of that was an appetizer.
The Boston Red Sox have been awful in September. Their starters have an ERA over 7.00 in the month. Their bullpen wasn’t much better. They couldn’t beat bad teams. They couldn’t beat good teams. And here they were playing the 68-93 Baltimore Orioles in hopes to either play in October or extend their season by one game at worst.
Surprisingly Jon Lester came through for the Sox. In his last three starts, he had a 10.54 ERA in three losses. But in his career he was 14-0 with a 2.33 ERA against the Baltimore Orioles and it showed. He only gave up two runs in his six innings before the rain delay. And thanks to Dustin Pedroia’s RBI single in the third, a balk in the fourth inning on Orioles’ starter Alfredo Simon which scored Marco Scutaro and Pedroia’s solo shot in the fifth, the 3-2 lead looked good.
Especially with the Yankees leading the Rays 7-0. Rays’ starter David Price lasted only four innings having given up six runs. But as the rain came pouring down at Camden Yards, the sun started to shine inside the dome of Tropicana Field.
Thanks to walks and hit batters, the Rays had scored three runs in the eighth inning but they weren’t done yet. With two on and two out, Evan Longoria came to the plate against Luis Ayala. And with the Red Sox players in the visitor’s clubhouse in Baltimore, Longoria hit a three-run homer to cut the lead to 7-6. And then off of former Dodger reliever Cory Wade in the ninth inning, pinch hitter Dan Johnson lined a ball just over the right field wall to tie the game. It was the first time since 1953 the Yankees blew a seven-run lead in the eighth inning.
And with that the tarp came off the field in Baltimore. It seemed that even Mother Nature conspired to get into the psyche of the Red Sox players, forcing them to watch the Rays come back before allowing them back on the field.
The Red Sox had their chances to blow the game open, but base running gaffes doomed them. But still they had the lead going into the ninth inning, this from a team that was 77-0 when leading after eight innings. So it surely looked like there would be a Game 163 in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thursday.
But Jonathan Papelbon blew it. He blew his third save of the season after striking out Adam Jones and Mark Reynolds to lead off the inning. Then a double to Chris Davis, a double to Nolan Reimold that scored Davis to tie the game. And then Robert Andino’s dying line drive to left fielder Carl Crawford. Crawford could glove the ball, and a speeding Reimold outran the throw to the plate. The O’s win.
Three minutes later, Longoria at the plate again. This time former Dodger reliever Scott Proctor was in his third full inning of work. And as the crowd in the Trop started cheering once they saw the Red Sox loss on the scoreboard, Longoria collected himself and hit a straight line drive that just went over the left field wall a la Joe Carter in 1993.
And all the choke jobs were complete. Each moment elicited gasps of amazement from fans across the country. And by the end of night, it was sheer disbelief. Even fantasy writers can’t write something like this.
But there it is. It happened. The Cardinals and the Rays will be playing October baseball. And for yet another October we don’t have to listen to Boston fans pollute the world with their insufferable yammering.
It was the greatest night of regular season baseball ever.
LA Dodgers defeat Arizona Diamondbacks 7-5. So here’s the final tally. Matt Kemp hit 39 homers to lead the National League. He led the National League with 126 RBI. He finished third with a .324 batting average. Kemp became the first Dodger since Dolph Camilli in 1941 to lead the National League in home runs and RBI. You can spit out any stat, and most likely Kemp will be at or near the top. He’s the MVP of the National League. Period.
The season began with the Dodgers getting a 2-1 victory over the defending NL West Champion San Francisco Giants, and now they end the season with a victory against the new NL West Champions. They end the season at 82-79, a winning record. Sure it’s a consolation prize - at least they’re better than the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres.
But the best thing all season came tonight courtesy Prime Ticket and captured by Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness: an interesting pregame handshake between Dee Gordon and Rod Barajas that included cuddling.
Texas Rangers defeat LA Angels 3-1. Yeah.