It’s hard to image that an 162-game season can end so dramatically… Yet it has! On one hand, the situation saw Tampa Bay fans cheering for Baltimore and Boston fans cheering for their arch-rivals, the Yankees. Whilst on the other hand, it saw Atlanta fans cheering for Houston and St. Louis fans cheering for Philadelphia. It’s odd and it’s confusing, but it’s as exciting as any day in the history of Major League Baseball. It was a day where it seemed the entire world, stopped to watch four incredibly important games of baseball.
This morning (AEST), the four games which were running concurrently, would decide the make up of the 2011 MLB Playoffs. In the American League, the Boston Red Sox (90 & 71) were facing the Baltimore Orioles (68 & 93) whilst Tampa Bay (90 & 71) were facing the New York Yankees (97 & 64). Based on each teams respective season records, common sense would suggest Boston would easily account for Baltimore whilst Tampa Bay wouldn’t have the power to overcome New York. Of course, common sense doesn’t always prevail in the world of sport.
In Tampa Bay, the Rays gave up early runs and found themselves 7-0 down after just five innings and by the time the eighth rolled around, they still hadn’t bridged the gap. Just as all hope seemed lost though, the Rays rallied and narrowed the margin to just one run after scoring six in the eighth. They kept the Yankees scoreless in the ninth and managed to score one of their own, ensuring the game was tied 7-7 and heading into extra innings. Some good pitching and defensive work kept both teams scoreless in the tenth and eleventh innings however a walk-off solo home run to Evan Longoria in the twelfth gave the Rays a much needed win and put the pressure back on Boston.
Whilst the drama was unfolding in Tampa Bay, the second part of the equation was being played-out in Baltimore where the Orioles, who in general have had a poor season, faced Boston with a air of confidence, having won four of their last five games against since September 19th. The Orioles scored two runs in the third innings to ensure they stuck with the Red Sox, who scored a run in each of the third, fourth and fifth innings and when a rain delay came during the top of the seventh, the Red Sox were ahead 3-2 with runners on third and first. However, the O’s dug deep after a lengthy 90-minute delay and kept the Sox scoreless before scoring two runs of their own in the ninth thanks to a dramatic walk-off single by Robert Andino. The final score, a 4-3 win to the O’s, ensured the Red Sox missed out on a playoff berth despite having held what seemed to be an unassailable 9 game lead over the Rays on September 4th.
Over in the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals (89 & 72) faced the Houston Astros (56 & 105) whilst the Atlanta Braves (89 & 72) faced the Philadelphia Phillies (101 & 60). Despite the Braves having led the Cardinals by 10 ½ games on August 25th, St. Louis have since had a 21-9 run whilst Atlanta have gone 10-18 during the same period. This trend continued today when the Cardinals easily accounted for the disappointing Astros, running out 8-0 winners, whilst the Braves lost 4-3 in a thrilling 13-innings epic against the Phillies. The result of these two matches has seen St Louis complete the unimaginable and secure the wildcard berth, whilst the Braves will be left pondering what could have been.
When the playoffs roll around in just two days time, Tampa Bay will open their series in Texas against the Rangers on Friday night (American), whilst St. Louis take on the Phillies in Philadelphia on Saturday (American). If today’s events are anything to go by, both series’, and the playoffs in general, will be absolutely sensational as eight teams via to become World Champions. I can’t wait!