As the saying goes, “that’s the way baseball go.” But has there ever been a night like that of September 28th, 2011? My guess, from what I saw, is no.
What was witnessed was not one, but two of the most historic collapses in baseball history. This was cashed in by two other teams that got hot at the right time, and earned a trip to the playoffs.
At the beginning of the month, the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves looked like locks to clinch the wild card spots in the AL and NL, respectfully. Both had big leads with just weeks left in the season. Then it all fell apart.
Here we go.
The Braves were at home against the NL East champion Philadelphia Phillies, while the Cardinals were on the road against a terrible Houston Astros team. The Cards took care of the Astros with ease, winning the finale 8-0 behind a 2-hit shutout by Chris Carpenter. The Braves were up 3-1 on the Phillies, and it looked like there was going to be a one-game playoff between the Cards and Braves.
The Braves pitching, which had got them this far because they were a horrible hitting team, began to falter once again. The Phillies tied it up, sending the game into extra innings. Walks just killed the Braves during the entire game, and the Phillies took advantage in the 13th to win 4-3 off a broken bat single by Hunter Pence. Champagne bottles began popping in the Cardinals locker room in Houston, as they are your NL wild card winner.
Moving over to the AL, the Red Sox had their hands full with the Baltimore Orioles, and the Rays were at home against the AL East champion New York Yankees. The Red Sox took the lead against the Orioles, and was hanging on for dear life afterwards. Meanwhile, the Yanks jumped out to a 7-0 lead over the Rays and their ace, David Price. Again, we are looking at a one-game playoff, this time between the Sox and Rays.
The game in Baltimore went into a rain delay, with the Sox up 3-2. During this time, the Rays came back behind the bat of Evan Longoria. Longoria hit a 3-run homer to make it a 7-6 ballgame. The Rays would tie it up in the 9th and we head to extra innings.
Things were still looking good for Boston after their game resumed. They took a 3-2 lead into the 9th with their closer, Jonathan Papelbon, on the mound. Down to their last strike, the Orioles score two runs to win 4-3.
Just 3 minutes later, in the bottom of the 12th, Longoria hits a solo homer to beat the Yanks 8-7 and clinch the wild card spot for the Rays. Both historic comebacks, and historic collapses, were complete.
What I saw on this Wednesday night was nothing like I’ve ever seen before in my life. In the end, two teams are still living the dream, while two others are left with a long off-season of wondering what happened.
Oh, what a night.
Written by C. James
* Interesting note: Both collapses can be tied to Boston. Of course, you have the Red Sox. But the Atlanta Braves were once the Boston Braves. Both lost by the same score, 4-3.