A Night For the Ages in Major League Baseball
Every cliche, platitude, or superlative one could conjure up is applicable to what happened over a three hour period on the final evening of the 2011 Major League Baseball season. The Braves and Red Sox decided to take September off, and the Cardinals and Rays took full advantage.
Bud Selig rarely receives much praise from fans or the media, but we can thank him for what happened on night 162. Selig would never be confused for a progressive commissioner, but the addition of the Wild Card in 1995 expanded the postseason to eight teams. If not for the Wild Card New York, Texas, Philadelphia, and Arizona would have had things locked down last week.
The night started innocently and predictably enough. The big, bad Yankees took a 7-0 lead over the over achieving Rays after five innings. The tense and tight Red Sox were in a fight with the spoiler minded Orioles. The equally tense, tight, and fatigued Braves were clawing for their lives against the Phillies. In Houston, the Cardinals hung five on the Astros in the top of the first and never looked back.
It looked like were headed for game 163 in both leagues until the greatest two hours in baseball history unfolded before our eyes.
In Atlanta, Chase Utley tied the game at three in the top of the ninth with a sacrifice fly off great young closer Craig Kimbrel. Those over achieving Rays somehow plated six runs in the bottom of the eighth to draw within one of the big, bad Yankees. In Baltimore the poor Red Sox were in a rain delay. Just what a tight team needs, more time to sit and think about the worst September collapse in MLB history.
Back in Atlanta, the Phillies and Braves traded outs in the 10th and 11th. The first sign of things to come went down at the Trop. Down to their last strike, Rays pinch hitter Dan Johnson banged a Cory Wade offering to right field to tie the game at seven. Surely the scoreboard watching Red Sox were aware what was happening in Tampa as the tarp was being rolled back at Camden Yards.
As miserable as September had been for the Red Sox, the great Papelbon looked like he would get the Red Sox to 163 at the very least. Adam Jones and Mark Reynolds went down swinging for the first two outs of the ninths. Down to his last strike, Chris Davis doubled to right. Nolan Reinhold then hit a ground rule double to score Davis and tie the game. Robert ‘bleeping’ Andino then singled in Reinhold to complete the rally and turn Boston into Yankee fans.
Tampa Bay star Evan Longoria was in the on deck circle when the Red Sox score was posted at the Trop. The few fans that remained after the 7th erupted in cheer. Right out of a Ron Shelton movie the strapping Longoria lined a Scott Proctor offering to the sting ray tank in left to complete the improbable comback and officially bury Boston.
Earlier in the Atl. Hunter Pence singled in a run in the top of the 13th to give the Phillies a 4-3 lead over Atlanta. The Braves had the heart of their order in the bottom of the inning, but couldn’t muster a rally. Freddie Freeman threw his helmet in disgust as he grounded into a game ending double play.
As long as I live I will probably never see another night as spectacular, surreal, and dramatic as night 162 of 2011. As great as night 162 was, the reality is football will take over come the weekend. How could Rays/Rangers or Diamondbacks/Brewers possibly compete with Alabama/Florida or Detroit/Dallas.