February 29
I've worked for a big multi-national, lived abroad for several years, travelled a lot, now in politics. Married once but separated; no kids. Generally utilitarian except for minority rights.


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SEPTEMBER 29, 2011 8:51AM

The Most Incredible Night in Baseball - Ever

Rate: 25 Flag

          OK.  A lot of folks aren’t baseball fans, or even sports fans.  But you do appreciate that many of your fellow citizenry are.  And whether the home team or the favorite team wins or lose means a lot.

          Now baseball, with a pedigree going back to the 19th century, has plenty of history and plenty of fans.  In the sports context there have been plenty of dramas, heroic wins, unbelievable losses, awesome stretch drives and devastating collapses.

          Last night featured just about everything.  I’ll focus on the American League as I know it better.

          Without going into a lot of details, Boston and New York are traditional powerful clubs with payrolls that dwarf most of their competitors and an impressive run of playoff appearances.  Despite missing the playoffs in 2010, Boston looked to be the team to beat in 2011.  They had a good team last year and augmented that by acquiring one of the league’s best players in Carl Crawford and one of baseball’s best hitters in Adrian Gonzalez.

          After a poor start in April, they started winning games in bunches from May through July.  August was pretty good too.  They were back and forth with New York for the league lead.  September was a disaster.  A good team wins around 6 of every ten games and an average team 5.  A bad team wins 4 and in September, Boston was winning only 3.  Still, they had enough of a cushion that they remained good bets to qualify for the playoffs.

          By the last game of the season, they had fallen into a tie with Tampa Bay for the final playoff position.  Tampa was playing the powerful New York Yankees who were already guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.   Boston was playing the last place Baltimore Orioles who had never won against Boston’s starting pitcher – John Lester.

          For most of the evening, things went Boston’s way.  They had a 3-2 lead over Baltimore going into the seventh inning.  Then it began to rain and the game was delayed.

          Meanwhile, New York had an imposing 7-0 lead over Tampa.  During Boston’s rain delay, Tampa scored an unlikely 6 runs in the eighth inning.  New York’s lead was now 7-6.  It went into the ninth and final inning just as the Boston-Baltimore game was getting ready to resume.  If both New York and Boston held their leads, both teams would advance to the playoffs.  If New York lost to Tampa Bay, or Boston were to lose to Baltimore, then Boston and Tampa would have to play one more game on Thursday with the winner advancing.  But around 11:00 Wednesday evening it looked like both Boston and New York would win.

          That is not what happened.  First, with two outs in the ninth inning, and only a single out remaining, Tampa made the curious choice of bringing in Dan Johnson to hit.  While years ago Johnson had shown a modest bit of power, in 2011 he had been probably the worst hitter in all of baseball.  He couldn’t even hold a steady job.  But, with a Hollywoodish twist, with two strikes on him, and Tampa only a single pitch from almost certain elimination, Johnson hit a home run, only his second of the year (his previous one was in April).  That tied the game and meant that the Yankees and Tampa would have to play extra innings until one of the teams broke the tie.

          Meanwhile, in Baltimore the game resumed.  By the ninth inning, Boston held to their 3-2 lead.  It looked like they might increase it in their half on the ninth when they had runners on first and third but it was not to be.  So in the bottom of the ninth, Boston brought in their closer, Jonathan Papelbon, to pitch to Baltimore.  It looked like it would be over quickly.  Papelbon induced two quick outs, both strikeouts.  One more and Boston would win the game and be guaranteed the one game playoff against Tampa, if not an outright advancement into the playoffs should New York win.

          Over in Tampa Bay, the game had proceeded into three extra innings.  It was now in the 12th.

          A speed bump in Baltimore.  Chris Davis of Baltimore doubled.  The next batter, Nolan Reimold, had two strikes on him.  Just one more and Boston would win.  But no.  He doubled to tie the game.  And the next batter singled to drive in Reimold and win the game for Baltimore.

          THREE MINUTES later, Evan Longoria hit his second homerun of the game to win the game for Tampa.

          So around 11:00 it looked like Boston would qualify for the playoffs.  By midnight it was 50-50 whether they would qualify or have to play a one game playoff with Tampa.  A few minutes later Boston was out and Tampa Bay was in.

                    Keep in mind that not only did Boston lose after being within ONE pitch from victory; they had one of the all-time worst Septembers for any probable playoff qualifiers.  And Tampa Bay was also just a single pitch from elimination.  Yet at the crucial time they got a homerun from a guy who hadn’t hit one in more than five months. 

          I mentioned that I’d focus on the American League.  In the National League, Atlanta, who had a comfortable lead for the playoffs until recently, lost their chance in extra innings. Like Boston, they too blew a lead in the ninth inning.  And like Boston, they too had a lead of around nine games in early September.

          For baseball fans, this is truly a historic evening.  A movie written with this scenario and this timing wouldn’t be believed.

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red sox, yankees, tampa bay

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I tried to post this last night but OS was in one of its work to misrule modes.

To further punish the Red Sox fans, Baltimore’s winning single bounced off the glove of their high-priced off-season acquisition, Carl Crawford. My sympathies to them.
What? after 102 win season you don't even mention the Phillies? What is wrong with this picture? Atlanta didn't put on the gas till it was way too late. I was surprised they made such a big deal last night when they lost.
Good story.

I'm still a Milwaukee Brewers fan.
Hi Rita. I don't mean to take anything away from the Phillies who had an excellent season. But Atlanta looked to be sure bets for the Wild Card earlier in September and then to be eliminated by blowing a lead in the bottom of the 9th in the season's last game? And that turning out to be only the third most dramatic finish of the evening?

Mary - good luck to Milwaukee. It's been quite a while since they've been in the World Series.
Oh I am going to say a very bad comment. This self-centered non-sports fan Bostonian is only semi-disappointed at the loss. My ninety minute commute turns into two and a half hours plus during play off series at Fenway. So....great year Sox! See you in 2012!
P.S. I hope Pilgrim doesn't come round and read that I said that.
Oh my god! What a night for the SABR history books! I slumped on my couch like an unsuccessful exorcist. And I'm a 50 year member of Red Sox Nation!
PS: I scored the entire game in pencil on a Peterson Scoremaster! I also scored the entire 1975 world series on the same brand scorebook and have it in my safe deposit box at PNC.
green - Getting caught out by AtHome is one thing. But aren't there also lurking dangers at your place of work? Happy motoring.
Yeah, I was following all of this online and my mind was completely boggled.

The one thing that bothered me: With a one-run lead in the 9th, the Yankees did NOT bring in Mariano Rivera to close it out. I realize they were resting people for the playoffs, but that seemed a little dishonorable to me. Might have been an entirely different outcome if they had. That said, I admire Tampa's guts. (I'd also mention that they saved Tuesday's victory by completing an unlikely triple play.)

By contrast, the Phillies, who could also have been resting key players for the playoffs, played hard and kept their best players in the game even in the 13th inning.
Cranky. I guess I'd agree with you about Rivera. It wasn't as though he'd be pitching again the next day. From the ESPN sports chatter, some Redsox fans feel that the Yanks kind of threw the game. The benching of Rivera was cited as one example. Also A-Roid's "injury" prior to the game.
Thanks CC, at least there was some mention of an incredible effort and year by a team other then NY or Boston, not only do their payrolls dwarf other teams their press certainly. does also.
The Bosting pitching collapse over the past month was of historic proportions. r. Great reporting here.
(Go Phils!)
Like green heron I don't really follow baseball (or other ball related sports) so this is all Greek to me but this must be why I couldn't get a decent conversation going with Mr. Pine while he was glued to the TV last night ...
I'm a huge Yankees fan (despite being a populist and a liberal and all that jazz), but I must admit it was a pretty amazing and inspiring comeback. (Both last night and Tampa's performance throughout the last month or so of the season catching up to the Sox).
Rita – I’ve been a fan of Tampa Bay for several years. They`ve done a remarkable job in identifying and drafting brilliant young players. They even knew when it was time to let carl Crawford walk.

JW – as the owner of both Lester and Bard in my fantasy league, I know too well just how true that is. But I think I`ll cheer for Detroit this year. It`s been a long time since they won something and those folks could use a boost.

Neilpaul – Hats off to putting sportsmanship and appreciation of the sport above home team boosterism. I really feel sorry for the Redsox fans. But you`re right that the unfolding of the simultaneous comebacks and blown leads was remarkable.

Scarlett – if Mr. Pine is a baseball fan, he deserves a free pass on last night`s action. This is one that people will be talking about decades from now.
If Bud Selig got his wish to expand the playoffs by adding another wild card team in each league, last night's games would have meant next to nothing. Instead we had one of the greatest days of baseball.

Go Cards.
I'm with you Stim, except for the Cards. I don't like the ever-expanding playoffs, though with money on the table I expect we're on the losing end.
Last night I watched Steve going absolutely nuts. I am a hockey fan but baseball is his number one love.. yes, even over me..:)
He later regretted he had not watched it all online so he could have had all games going at the same time.

I just sat there working.. just happy watching him.
Hi Linda. As I said to Scarlett, Steve deserves a pass for last night. It seemed like some far-fetched movie plot as it unfolded. If I were a devout Boston fan I'd be more in a state of shock than anything else. It would have me questioning whether there weren't really some supernatural force at work.
Cranky and Abrawang,

You're kidding about Mariano, right?

The game meant NOTHING to the Yankees.

Yes, they have today off, but what if Mariano got hurt in a meaningless game right before the playoffs start?
Leeds, that's a fair counterpoint but how much risk was there? It's one inning and Rivera has done that hundreds of times. There's some expectation of fair sportsmanship where you not only don't throw a game, you don't give the appearance of doing so.

Just to be clear, I am not accusing the Yankees of doing that. Their 7-0 lead is proof enough.

toritto - I really like the Rays but it was disappointing that so few fans were there to witness the HRs by Johnson and Longoria. Those who were must have known that Boston had just been eliminated. Longoria said that when he came to the plate he already knew that the Orioles had tied it up. Good luck to them.
I tend not to be much of a sports watcher, but will sometimes watch some of the key hockey and baseball games, and you've done an excellent job of 'splainin' the drama of this one, Abra.

And congrats on the EP.
Thanks Various. I've cut my sports down to baseball, World Cup soccer and the Olympics. I don't watch that many baseball games and was actually following last night's events of the internet. All the sportscasts I heard today remarked on the unprecedented turn of events.
Congrats on the EP! if I sounded sour grapes, sorry, I was looking at the title and looking forward to something about my team for a change, it was an incredible come back now that I have had a chance to look at some dailies, and what is better than a comeback story?
Thanks and no prob Rita. Phillie looks like the team to beat but upsets abound in those short series. I'm hoping for Detroit versus Milwaukee. Neither team has won for a long time and Detroit especially could use some cheering up.
I'm not a sports fan, period, but I like this post. ~r
I will never forget our ability to choke at the worst times, I taken nothing for granted in baseball. It is nice to see the Brewers having a good year, that's a great baseball town.
Thanks Joan. I never thought I'd be blogging about a baseball game (or two) but I couldn't believe what I was seeing last night. I've heard sports commenters today saying that to their knowledge no sport has ever had a season's final day with last minute twists as yesterday's.

Rita, I guess that old cliché of "The joy of victory, the heartbreak of defeat" has something to it.
Nice recap - I turned the game off after watching Johnson's homer tie the game in the ninth and didn't see the results of either game until this morning. The fact that Papelbon blew the save for Boston in his walk year made it even better.

Boston's collapse has been described in more than one article as being epic, which makes this Yankees' fan smile.
Andy, I couldn't believe that they brought Dan Johnson to the plate. How could you justify closing out the season with the league's worst hitter at the plate, as a pinch-hitter no less? Shows what I know.

And I guess last night will take its place alongside the Bucky Dent homer game. Though the double comeback should put this one in a class of its own.
Last night was unreal. Coming back from a 7-0 deficit to win while Boston was a strike away was incredible. How did Atlanta blow such a big lead? No day like yesterday in the history of the game.
**terrific** post. and what spud said, right above me here. last night was flat-out amazing, and your last sentence is, of course, correct. paraphrased, you can't make this shit up.

i'm a yankees fan and was certainly not sorry to see the red sox lose, but watching the rays come back like that, even if they beat my guys, well, it was a wonder to watch, just a wonder.
Dr. Spud, I was driving home, heard the scores when it was 7-0 and Boston was rain-delayed at 3-2. I figured that was that and only checked the scores on the ESPN website about half an hour later. I had one window opened to the Boston game "conversation" and it was one of those schadenfreude hoots to read how the Boston fans were going batty as the 6 runs came in. When Johnson homered a couple of fans at first thought it was disinformation. Then the messages of "one more" when Papelbon got Reimold to two strikes.

candace, I heard it said that last night was perhaps the first time ever that Boston fans were fervently pulling for the Yankees. There were more than a few "Where's Rivera?" cries from the faithful. As for the Yanks, they certainly deserved their first place finish. But that pitching looks iffy for going all the way.
abra, my daughter (a small, feminine woman and a jeter groupie), who is always telling her husband (another yankees fan) to stop yelling at the TV during sports stuff, *woke up* their sleeping daughter when she hollered, "in your face, papelbon."
Yeow candace. That Yankees-Red Sox rivalry sure inflames the passions. I grew up a Yankees fan but got turned off in the Steinbrenner era. I also liked the Sox but now I tend to go with whatever team seems most "deserving".

It wouldn't surprise me if Papelbon were traded in the off-season. The fans may be unforgiving come 2012.
Did I understand a word of this? No! Do I have any business commenting on a post about any sport when the first thing I do with my morning paper is remove the sports section and empty yesterday's coffee grounds on it? No again! Does "Jonathan Papelbon" sound like the name of a high-end hair salon and day spa instead of a baseball player? Yes it does! And was this still well-written and exciting to read despite my severe comprehension deficit? Yes it was!!! (Psssst: I did notice one tiny error; Evan Longoria is an actress not a baseball player although she used to be married to a basketball player and the two sports are almost identical so I can see in your excitement how you got mixed up.)
It ain't over til it's over. Great piece. Unfortunately, I missed the whole thing last night. Your account was my sports wrap. Lucky me! R.
Hi Margaret. isn't it Eva Longoria, the desperate housewife? We lamost got them mixed up in our baseball pool in Evan's first year. This will likely be my only baseball blog so I'm complimented it held your attention.

Jeff, you were in the same position as the thousands of Tampa Bay fans who headed home when their team was down 7-0. My bro, who is a much more avid sports fan than I, turned off his TV around the same time and didn't hear about it till this morning.
Wow, you must be doing something right because I don't like baseball at all and I found this interesting! You do a really nice job of relaying sports in clean, concise way with just the right amount of drama.
Hey Beth, I'm pleased it held your interest. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime confluence of unlikely twists and I thought it merited some mention.
Congrats on the EP! Putting away my foam tomahawk for another year.
Thanks Lucy. And my sympathies to you or any Atlanta fans you know about this most disappointing end the the season.

I hope this doesn't come across as being too argumentative, but your response to me included a question, so I am answering.

How much risk was there? I don't know how to quantify it, but there was SOME. Mariano is 40 years old. He was unavailable for games this season because of muscle strains. There is also always the dangers of being hit by a line drive, or having his ankle stepped on covering first base, etc.

In balancing that risk, no matter how small, what was the potential reward? NOTHING.

The Yankees played that game with players on their roster who competed to the best of their ability. It is the manager's job to put his team in the best possible position to win the World Series. That is honorable to the game of baseball and completely fair sportsmanship.
Leeds, it's never too argumentative if you put forward your case civilly, which you do. I was looking at the comparison to Philadelphia who apparently fielded a full roster for their final game. I understand the point about wanting to protect Rivera and I don't see the issue as being clear-cut. But that decision coupled with A-Rod's pre-game injury (and I note he's starting tonight) made it look like the Yanks didn't mind too much if they lost.
That was a crazy evening alright. Now if the Royals could just break their quarter century long sucking streak...
nana - first off, my sympathies if you're a Royals fan. But they now have a few good young arms in their pen, and a couple of them could turn out to be decent starters. Hard to say where they'll get their hitting but Gordon's much delayed breakthrough must be encouraging.
Sounds like one of those rare history making baseball moments which may be written about and made into a movie. Or not. I'm not an aficionado so I couldn't tell, but I'm basing my comment on the enthusiasm of your post, Abrawang.
Fusun, it's a life misspent if being part of a sports audience is its central focus. But sports well deserves its place amongst the idle pastimes we all enjoy. And the events of this season's end games were, within the sports context, epic and legendary. Thanks very much for reading about a subject that, healthily, isn't central to your life.
Ha! You did this one real well; yes it is a rare moment in baseball. Enjoyed it much. R
Good to see you Thoth. It was quite the night for drama alright.
baseball is religion to me, and that night of games was like High Holiday services...rated
Mr. C, it certainly tested the faith of some of the devotees.
I hadn't watched a game in years and can't tell you how I started watching this one. But I was glad I did. It was unreal. Your recap is excellent.
A well-deserved EP.