On September 1st, the Boston Red Sox had a half game lead over the New York Yankees and a NINE game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Braves were EIGHT AND HALF games up on the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Wildcard race on that day. Tonight the world came crashing down on the Red Sox and Braves. The Red Sox lose, Rays win, Braves lose, Cardinals win. Red Sox and Braves going golfing, Rays and Cardinals play on. Unbelievable drama. Instead of recapping just the Phillies, Braves, as a baseball fan, I felt was necessary to talk about the other meaningful games as well.
The Yankees, Rays game, Red Sox, Orioles game, and Phillies, Braves game all started around 7 pm Eastern time. The Cardinals and Astros game started at 8 pm Eastern time. The Yankees got the scoring on this absolutely insane day of baseball started when Ben Zobrist booted a ground ball that scored Curtis Granderson to make it 1-0 in the first inning. The Phillies made the Braves’ fans hearts skip a beat when Ryan Howard gave his team a 1-0 lead on a RBI double in the first inning. The Braves quickly tied it up in the bottom of the inning on a Chipper Jones sac fly. In the second inning of the Rays and Yankees game, Rays starter David Price found himself in deep trouble. With the bases loaded and two out, he had to get out Mark Teixeria. Texieria, with nothing to play for, launched a grand slam into the left-center seats for a 5-0 lead. Rays fans and their cowbells were silenced. Not too long after that, Dustin Pedroia gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead in the third inning over the Orioles with a RBI single. The O’s didn’t go quietly. JJ Hardy (SS on Warren’s All-Hate Team) deposited a two run home run in the bottom of inning to make it 2-1 O’s. Phillies starter Joe Blanton was pulled after two innings and Cole Hamels made his first Major League relief appearance. (Phils brass wanted to get him 15 wins) Hamels was greeted rudely by Baby Gap when he hit a two run home run that re gave the Braves the lead. Back in Baltimore, Marco Scutaro tied the game when he scored on a balk to make it 2-2. Around this time, the Cardinals and Astros got underway. Former Phillie Brett Myers started for the Astros and was terrible. 7 of the first 8 Cardinals reached base in the first inning with 5 of them scoring. Former AL MVP Dustin Pedroia gave the Red Sox the lead once again in the fifth inning on a solo home run to make it 3-2. Back in Tampa, the Rays found themselves in a deeper hole after five innings. Texiera and Andruw Jones added solo home runs to make it 7-0. All look lost for the Rays, down seven and with Boston winning. In the bottom of the seventh inning in Baltimore, the game was delayed due to rain. In the same time frame, Atlanta shortstop, Jack Wilson booted a routine double play that allowed the Phillies to cut the deficit to one, 3-2. In Houston, a Skip Schumaker RBI ground out in the fifth inning and an Allen Craig solo home run wrapped up the scoring for St. Louis. Chris Carpenter threw a two hit shut out and dominated the Astros. This game was the first to end in a short and sweet two hours and 20 minutes. The Cards with their 8-0 win were guaranteed at least one more game, but in the mean time, just hung out in their locker room waiting the Braves results.
The Red Sox and Orioles resumed after an hour and half rain delay. The Orioles put two runners on after the rain delay, but couldn’t push across the tying run. Something crazy started to happen in the Tampa. Down seven, Johnny Damon led off the eighth inning with a single. Ben Zobrist followed with a double. Casey Kotchman was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no out. Yankees reliever Luis Ayla walked in a run and then hit Sean Rodriguez to give the Rays their second run. (No way they make it interesting…right?) Desmond Jennings struck out for the first out. (Okay, it was fun while it lasted…right?) BJ Upton followed Jennings’ strike out with a sac fly to make it 7-3. (You know a home run makes it interesting…just saying) With two out, Evan Longoria then did the unthinkable and hit a three run home run to cut the deficit to one. (HE REALLY DID DO IT!) While the Rays were putting a scare in Red Sox fans, the Braves had a chance to put themselves in the NL Wildcard tiebreaker. Craig Kimbrel came in for the save and immediately gave up a lead off single to Placido Polanco. Pete Orr pinch-ran for Polanco. After a Carlos Ruiz strike out, Kimbrel walked pinch-hitter Ben Francisco and Jimmy Rollins. Chase Utley stuck a dagger in the heart of Braves fans when he hit a sac fly to tie the game at 3. The Phils couldn’t tack on more runs, so there was free baseball in Atlanta. Further South, the Rays, knowing the Red Sox were winning, immediately had their first two batters of the ninth go down in order. (Uh oh, looks like the Red Sox got this) Pinch hitter Dan Johnson, down to his final strike, hit a line drive down the right field and hit the foul pole! Tie game! Unbelievable! Free baseball in Tampa.
Back up the East Coast in Baltimore, the Red Sox had a huge opportunity to tack on an insurance run. With first and third and no outs, David Ortiz hit a ground ball to short, but with the infield in, Jacoby Ellsbury was thrown out at the plate. The next batter, Adrian Gonzalez was intentionally walked to get to last night’s hero Ryan Lavarnway. Lavarnway had two home runs the night before, but this time, no such luck. He grounded into a double play to end the inning. As the Red Sox and Orioles were heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, the Phillies scratched across a run in the thirteen inning when Hunter Pence hit a bloop line drive which landed about a foot beyond the infield that scored Brian Schneider. Considering it was the 13th inning, the Phillies had to go to David Herndon for the save. After Chipper Jones struck out (Larrrrrrrrry.Larrrrrrry), Dan Uggla walked. Freddie Freeman walked up to plate and rolled over on a David Herndon sinker. John Mayberry, playing first base, threw it second for one out and Jimmy Rollins’ relay beat Freeman by a step. Just like that, the Braves’ season was over. 9.5 game lead gone in a month. Breathe easy Mets fans. While the Braves were left stunned, the Yankees had a rally going in the top of the 12th in Tampa. With first and third, no outs, Jorge Posada hit a ground ball to Longoria (That guy again?), Greg Golson, the runner on third, broke and stopped a few feet from the bag which allowed Longoria to tag him out. For the second night in a row, a Yankees’ base running blunder cost them dearly. Chris Dickerson would strike out and Brett Gardner grounded out to end the inning. Backtrack to the bottom of the ninth in Baltimore…Jonathan Papelbon, who had only blown two saves all year, tried to finish off the pesky O’s. Paplebon struck out the first O’s rather easily, but allowed a double to Chris Davis. Davis was pinch ran for with Kyle Hudson. Nolan Reimold, down to his final strike, hit a laser ground-rule double to right center to tie the game. Robert Andino was the next batter and on a 1-1 count, laced a line drive to left field. Carl Crawford, having a miserable year, slid and couldn’t come up with it. His throw home was useless, Hudson scored and just like that, the Red Sox season was over. Just wait though…There’s more! A mere three minutes after that, Evan Longoria stepped into the batters’ box with one out in the bottom of the 12th inning. Longoria ripped a line drive to right field and the ball just got over the wall. The Rays, down 7-0 and down to their final strike, had done the impossible. They were the AL Wild Card champion.
Not much you can really say. These last two nights are why you love baseball. This night, however, I can’t think of any other like it…ever.
I know I didn’t get all the details, but wow it was fun to watch and type about.