I love baseball.
For those who know me, that statement probably isn’t shocking.
But for those of you who doubt just how amazing baseball is, you obviously didn’t watch the last night of the regular season last night. What a night for baseball. So many games that meant something. The Braves trying to beat the Phillies to stay in the National League wild-card race. The Cardinals looking to beat the Astros to also stay in the wild-card chase.
In the American League, you had the Red Sox looking to not have an epic collapse and playing the Orioles hoping for the wild card in the American League. And the Rays were playing the Yankees, also hoping to stay in the wild-card chase.
Even beyond the big four games, there was still excitement as the Brewers/Diamondbacks and Tigers/Rangers were playing in games that would decide the second seed in each league, thus claiming home-field advantage for one of those teams. There were four more games that meant something.
Further, the Red Sox and Braves were each looking to avoid epic collapses. Boston led the AL wild-card race by nine games on Sept. 1 and, on that same date, the Braves were up in the NL wild card by 8 1/2 games.
With the beauty of the MLB package on the computer, games all over on TV and everything else, I kept up the best I could. But what a night! Twitter. Facebook. Instant messaging. Everything.
I’ve never had that much fun bouncing around to games in any other sport. And outside of wanting the Phillies to win their 102nd game, I had nothing vested in the games going on.
Because, to be truthful, the Phillies had no chance to play the Braves in the first round of the playoffs, so if they got the Cardinals, Diamondbacks or Brewers — none of them were going to be easy!
Personally, I was hoping for play-in games today. Oh well.
Anyway, back to the games.
The Braves were swept away in this series and had a lead on the Phils. Alas, they couldn’t hold it as their vaunted bullpen got very shaky. The score was tied, 3-3, after nine and the Phils won in 13 innings.
The Braves knew they had to win. The Cardinals had thumped the Astros, 8-0, and had ended quite a bit earlier, despite starting an hour later.
It’s not as if Atlanta didn’t have chances. Michael Bourn, who led baseball in stolen bases, was thrown out trying to swipe third. He was safe at first, but the tag was held on him and he came off the bag and was out.
The Braves also had Dan Uggla get hosed at home when Hunter Pence through a pea to the plate to get him. (Good throw, let’s go eat!)
With all the changes and attempts to win, the Philles got into position to win in the 13th. With runners at the corners and two outs, the Braves chose to pitch to Pence. He nubbed one through the right side to score the go-ahead run. (Good hit, let’s go eat!)
Why pitch to Pence with Michael Martinez on deck? We’ll never know.
Then, David Herndon came on and somehow got the save, eliminating the Braves. The camera shots of Atlanta in the dugout were priceless. Crazy.
My favorite was a post-game interview with Uggla, who noted that “it wasn’t in the cards for them.” I’m sure he never meant it that way, but it’s funny he used that phrase.
Switch over to the American League (which I was trying to watch during the Phillies game with picture-in-picture on the TV). The Red Sox had opened a 3-2 lead and seemed to have settled into a good roll. They got into a rain delay that lasted more than an hour though.
The Rays looks dead on arrival as they got down, 7-0.
And then it happened.
The Rays scored six in the eighth, highlighted by a three-run home run by Evan Longoria.
That all came after the cameras showed many Rays fans leaving in the seventh. Reason 124,357 why you NEVER leave a baseball game.
Then, with two outs and two strikes on pinch-hitter Dan Johnson, he poked a home run down the right-field line, tying it up.
Meanwhile, in Baltimore, the Orioles and Red Sox slowly battled to an end. It ended with a blown save and loss to Jonathan Papelbon. He gave up two runs in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs, Nolan Reimold hit a double to score Kyle Hudson and tie it at 3.
After a coaching visit to the mound, Robert Andino singled to lead, scoring Reimold. The hit sunk fast and Carl Crawford slid to weakly attempt the grab. It bounced once and his throw home wasn’t on target. I wonder if he would have had a better chance if he let it drop and took a chance that way? The Orioles might have held Reimold. Who knows.
The Red Sox had some really bad running in the game as Marco Scutaro was thrown out at the plate and David Ortiz was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single to a double. Silly.
Three minutes later…
Longoria came up with one out in the bottom of the 12th and faced Scott Proctor.
On the sixth pitch, with a 2-2 count, Longoria hit a line-drive home run to left field, giving the Rays an 8-7 victory, a remarkable comeback (in the standings and in the game) and eliminated the Red Sox. Just like that.
It really was an incredible night in sports.
Better than any other sport.
One quick point — this is a good reason why baseball doesn’t need to add any more wild cards. If there were one or two more per league, these games wouldn’t have meant anything and, for the most part, most of September wouldn’t have meant anything. Leave things alone. One wild card is fine. It’s not worth messing things up. The game is fine, let it be.
Back to Wednesday night — if this is a preview of the playoffs, we’re in for a wild ride.
In the end, the Phillies won game No. 102, setting a franchise record. Charlie Manuel won his 646th game to become the winningest manager in team history. All that is nice. But the as Charlie said after the game — it’s nice, but there’s still work to do. The goal is a World Series championship.
Now it’s time for the Phils to shift it into gear. Eleven wins, boys, for a chance to have a parade down Broad Street again. It’s time for the aces to show why they are there. Get it done!
In the end, instead of trying to dig up my best Jack Buck, I’ll just allow you to hit play and hear his call when Kirk Gibson hit his memorable home run in the World Series. This pretty much sums up how I felt watching everything unfold tonight …
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