The 10 best games of 2011 (as viewed by me) – #3 – The Last Day of the MLB Season, September 28, 2011

The Red Sox were the best team in baseball all summer but it came crashing down in Baltimore

This might be a bitter pill to swallow for members of Red Sox Nation but the last day of the major league season was about as good as the MLB could hope for.  Both wild card spots were up for grabs between 4 teams (Red Sox, Rays, Braves, Cardinals), two who have given up large leads in the month of September.  As a matter of fact only one playoff series had been set at that point, the Diamondbacks vrs. the Brewers.  The Tigers and Rangers were still battling for the #1 seed.  The four games that would determine the last two wild card spots were all inter-divisional games.  The Red Sox played the Orioles, the Rays played the Yankees, the Braves played the Phillies, and the Cardinals played the Astros.

St. Louis was not waiting around as they jumped over the last place Astros with 5 runs in the top of the 1st.  In Atlanta the Phillies scored in the top of the 1st putting the pressure on the Braves but they responded by tying the game in the bottom of the 1st.  Down in Tampa the Yankees manufactured a run and got out to a 1-0 lead.  The Sox and Orioles went scoreless in the 1st.  The only scoring in the 2nd inning came down in Tampa when the Yankees got 4 runs on a Mark Teixeira grand slam to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead.  The Sox and Orioles got it going in the 3rd inning when Dustin Pedroia singled in a run in the top of the 3rd.  J.J. Hardy erased the lead in the bottom of the 3rd with a 2-run home run off of Jon Lester to give the O’s a 2-1 lead.  Down in Houston Chris Carpenter helped his own cause in the top of the 3rd with an RBI single to give the Cards a 6-0 lead.  Down in Atlanta Dan Uggla put the Braves on top 3-1 with a homer in the bottom of the 3rd.  The night was just getting started.

The Sox tied the game up at 2-2 in the 4th inning when Marco Scutaro scored on a balk.  Down in Tampa Mark Teixeira once again helped out the team he snubbed by hitting a solo shot and making the score 6-0 Yankees in the 4th.  St. Louis added another run in the 5th giving them a commanding 7-0 lead over Houston.  In Tampa Andruw Junes added a home run for the Yankees putting the Rays in a 7-0 hole.  Dustin Pedroia’s solo shot in the top of the 5th gave the Red Sox a 3-2 lead after 5.  Halfway through the games the Red Sox were in good shape to take the wild card spot with a lead against Baltimore and a big hole for the Rays down in Tampa.  Over in the National League the Cardinals were cruising and the Braves were locked in a battle with the Phillies.

The next scoring in any of the four games game in the top of the 7th in Atlanta when the Phillies pushed across a run to cut the Braves’ lead to 3-2.  The Red Sox and O’s were battling rain in Baltimore and the AL wild card race was about to take a turn.  Down in Tampa the Yankees led 7-0 going into the bottom of the 8th.  After Boone Logan let the first three guys on the Yankees brought in Luis Ayala, who promptly walked and hit the first two guys he faced to cut the lead to 7-2 with the bases still loaded with no outs.  Desmond Jennings struck out and B.J. Upton hit a sac fly to score a run and make it a 7-3 game but the Yankees were one out away from getting out of the inning.  Evan Longoria had different plans however as he laced a three run home run off of Ayala to suddenly make it a 1 run game at 7-6.

The Braves blew the elad, and their playoff chances, in the 9th inning

The 9th inning was about to make things interesting.  The Cardinals added an insurance run in the top of the 9th and finished the game and clinched at least a spot in a one game playoff against the Braves.  Over in Atlanta they were three outs away from earning a spot in that game themselves.  Craig Kimbrel loaded the bases with one out and Chase Utley coming up.  Utley hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 3-3.  The Sox and O’s were in a rain delay while the Yankees were 3 outs away from possibly eliminating the Rays.  With 2 outs and 2 strikes utility man Dan Johnson hit a game tying home run to send the game to extra innings.

Longoria and the Rays celebrated their playoff berth

The Red Sox and Orioles went into the 9th inning around the same time that the Yankees and Rays were entering the 12th.  Jonathan Papelbon came in and struck out the first two guys that he faced, putting the Sox one out away from a berth in a one-game playoff if the Rays won in extra innings.  Chris Davis hit a double.  Nolan Reimold came up and hit a ground rule double of his own, tying the score at 3-3.  Robert Andino was the next hitter.  He hit a line drive towards Carl Crawford and Crawford slide but could not make the catch and Reimold scored from 2nd and won the game 4-3.  Mere minutes later in Tampa Evan Longoria came up again.  This time he hit a game winning home run to knock the Red Sox out of the playoffs and put them back in.  Moments later down in Atlanta the Phillies put together a run in the top of the 13th.  The Phils ended the night’s drama by shutting the door on the Braves and their playoff hopes, making the Cardinals and Rays, both 10 games out at the end of August, into the playoffs.

Many people jumped on the Rays bandwagon at that point.  They could only manage an opening series win against the Rangers before dropping 3 straight and were eliminated.  The Cardinals were another story.  After the Phillies helped them get into the playoffs by beating the Braves on the last day of the season, they returned the favor by beating them in 5 games in the National League Divisional Series.  No matter who you are a fan of you can’t deny the excitement on the last day of the season.  If the MLB could repeat this every year they would.  Too bad they can’t write the scripts themselves.

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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