For one night baseball took center stage as the 162 game season finale brought four games that had huge postseason implications. The Boston Red Sox, the Tampa Bay Rays, the St Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves all had a shot at their respective leagues wild card spot in the postseason and like a pair of prize fights, four teams entered the night with hope but only two ended the night holding the prize.
In the American League, it was the Red Sox vs the Rays. Well, maybe not in the literal sense but they were both in contention after an epic collapse by Boston that saw them blow a 9 game wild card lead. The night started out great for the Red Sox as they built a 3-2 lead through nine innings while the Rays were getting hammered by the Yankees 7-0 heading into the eighth.
That's right people, the Boston fans were put in a position where they had to cheer for the New York Yankees, their bitter rival, and the Yankees were delivering. That is, until the eighth inning when the Rays exploded for 6 runs. Tampa Bay then added another stunning ninth inning homer to send the game into extra innings. This one was by pinch-hitter Dan Johnson who was batting just .119 for the season.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox were down to one out when they gave up two runs to Baltimore and saw their season slip through their fingers in a familiar fashion. And to add insult to injury, just about the time they would have been heading into the locker room, the Rays Evan Longoria was hitting a walk off home run in the 12th to beat the Yankees and secure the wild card spot.
Over in the National league, things weren't quite so dramatic from both sides as the Cardinals took care of business fairly quickly with 5 runs in the first. They would add 3 more and blank the Houston Astros 8-0 in a laughter.
For the Braves, it was an eerily similar story to the Red Sox. They were up 3-2 in the ninth inning only to give up the tieing run and send the game into extra innings. Then, in the 13th inning, with two outs, they gave up the game winning single to end their season just short of their goals.
Baseball may not always hold the excitement of the other premier sports in America but when it gets the chance, it seldom fails to deliver the dramatic. And say all you will against the 162 game season, and I have fervently spoken against it, but when it all comes down to one game to justify the hard work put in all year, and you come just short, that has to be one of the worst feelings in the world.
But, when you get it right, man, must it be worth it.
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS