If you are a baseball fan or sports fan in general last night was one of the greatest nights ever. You had 4 teams battling for the final Wild Card spot in their respective leagues with two of the teams (Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox) trying to avoid a historical collapse. Both the Braves and the Red Sox needed just one more out in the ninth with their closers on the mound to live another day and delay the epic collapse of each. Both miserably failed.
In Atlanta Tim Hudson pitched a stellar game and Dan Uggla hit a huge 2-run HR to give the Braves a lead in a game for the first time in about a week. The Braves entered September with a 8 1/2 game lead in the Wild Card but found themselves locked into a tie with the St. Louis Cardinals after going a miserable 7-20 in the last month. All seemed to be finally right at The Ted when leading 3-2 in the ninth when rookie Craig Kimbrel entered to close it out. Kimbrel who entered with a MLB rookie record for saves was clearly overthrowing from the first pitch. It had been 5 days since he last threw in a game and his adrenaline seemed to get the better of him. He walked 3 Phillies, gave up one hit, blew the save, and got taken out in the ninth for a guy in Kris Medlen who had pitched only once all season after coming off elbow surgery. The game would extend into extra innings but it didn't matter. You knew the Braves were going to lose. The Braves always choke when it comes to do or die games in late September/October. Trust me. I've been there. Seen that. Many of times. The Cardinals on the other hand behind the twice surgically repaired right elbow of Chris Carpenter did their job and shut out the Astros to complete an improbable Wild Card run.
It wasn't as much as the Cardinals getting hot but the Braves just completely shitting the bed in the last month. Trust me the Cardinals and their players deserve credit. They won when they had to in big situations. But the Braves finished off the season losing their last 5 games and their hitters all slumped down the stretch. New addition Bourn was terrible. Prado couldn't hit .200 in the last month or get the ball out of the infield. McCann was pressing and looked completely lost. Heyward was benched and quickly has become one of the biggest busts in baseball. Uggla was again swinging at anything within 3 feet of the plate. Yes the Braves lost starters Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson to injuries and Derek Lowe was the worst fucking pitcher you've ever seen take the mound in his last 5 starts but it was the hitting that let them down. If the Braves scored 3 runs in a game it seemed like they had erupted for 20. And as much as it pains me to say it if the Braves had Tony LaRussa as their skipper they would still be playing with a solid shot at a World Series. New manager Fredi Gonzalez didn't want to play small ball or try to squeeze out a few runs with steals, hit and runs, bunts, and sacrifice flies. Nope he wanted to go all Earl Weaver and hope for the 3-run homer would save the day. It never happened and his gross mismanagement of the pitching staff throughout the season killed the bullpen and the Braves chances of bringing home a 2nd World Series title to Atlanta. The Braves have a 25 man roster built to win 100 games. Gonzalez led them to 89.
In Baltimore the Red Sox needed just one more out from closer/douchebag Jonathan Papelbon to insure they could play the Rays in a one game playoff who had comeback to tie the Yankees 7-7 after being down 7-0 in the eighth. A long rain delay in Baltimore kept the Red Sox in the clubhouse where they could watch the Rays make the improbable comeback against their hated rival the New York Yankees. You may have heard the Yankees and Red Sox don't like each other. Papelbon got the first two batters with easy K's against sluggers Adam Jones and Mark Reynolds. He then had Chris Davis at the plate with Nolan Reimold to follow. Both roped doubles off 98 MPH fastballs to tie the game. Then light hitting utility man Robert Andino stepped to the plate. The winning run at 2nd base in Reimold. The crowd at Camden Yards rocking for what seemed like the first time in over a decade. The Orioles are dead last in the AL East but the fans and players were treating this game like it was game 7 of the World Series. Andino ropes a 1-1 pitch to left fielder Carl Crawford who can't make the catch. The throw home is too late. The Orioles walk off with the win and the Red Sox look dead. Awesome.
Three minutes later in the Tropicana the Rays crowd goes nuts as they flash the Red Sox score on the scoreboard. The cowbells are clanging. Evan Longoria is at the plate. Tied game in the 12th. And like the superstar he is Longo who hit a huge 3 run blast in the 8th came through with the walk off homerun. Pandemonium in Tampa. The Rays had come back from 9 games in early September, down by 7 runs in the 8th and won the AL Wild Card.
This was the greatest regular season day of baseball in Major League history. Two epic collapses by two storied franchises that will be passed on from generation to generation. It was great theater. Personally I went from the low of lows when the Braves lost and knowing the season was over to the mountaintops when my other favorite team in the Orioles came back to beat the Red Sox and then flipped to the Rays game to see Longoria clinch the Wild Card with a laser beam down the left field line to beat the Yankees. This was one of those moments that not even Bud Selig could fuck up. Now I can't wait to watch the playoffs. Game on!