OK, so it wasn’t technically playoff baseball that took the stage on Sept. 28, but it was four game 162s that acted like a one-night playoff series that could grant entry into an actual one-game playoff to get into Major League Baseball regular postseason. It was a night of playoffs to get to a playoff to get to the playoffs. On any other night of the week (except Tuesday) I would have been watching football and missed the baseball drama. For some reason, I decided I’d seen enough It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia reruns to last a lifetime so I checked the baseball scores to see if there were any games worth watching. As it turned out, they were all worth watching and all were worth watching at the same time. I didn’t have enough TVs to catch everything that was going on.
In the National League, the evening started off with the Braves and the Cardinals tied for a wildcard playoff spot. The Braves were set to take on the tough, already-playoff-bound Phillies that evening while the Cardinals took on the dismal Houston Astros. If both the Braves and Cardinals won, they would have met the very next night in a playoff game to make the post season. The same would have happened if they both lost.
The least amount of excitement that evening was the Cardinals easy win over Houston 8-0 and putting the pressure on the Braves to win as well. In 13 innings of baseball, the Phillies ended the Braves’ season by winning 4-3. The Braves loss was the final blow of a monumental late season downslide where they lost 13 of their last 18 games. Since Labor Day, the Braves’ slump allowed the Cardinals to come from eight-and-a-half games behind to take the wildcard slot. A depressing scene in Atlanta, Champagne showers in St. Louis.
Over in the American League, a tremendous late-season Red Sox slump allowed the Tampa Rays to tie them for the wildcard slot as well. The Red Sox were set to take on the Baltimore Orioles, who had been out of the playoff race since the beginning, while the Rays were set to take on the Yankees, who were already in the playoffs. The same scenario applied on Wednesday evening for the Rays and Red Sox; if they both won or lost they’d go to a playoff against each other the next night.
For the Rays, it seemed like it was going to be a long night after the Yankees hit a grand slam and scored several runs putting them ahead by a score of 7-0. The Rays came back by scoring six runs in the eighth inning.
Meanwhile, with a 3-2 lead over the Orioles, the Red Sox were in the midst of a rain delay in Baltimore and were in the clubhouse watching the Rays claw themselves back into their game against the Yankees on TV. In the bottom of the ninth inning, with two outs and down to their last strike, Tampa’s pinch hitter Dan Johnson hit a clutch of all clutch homeruns and tied the game at 7-7. Unbelievable.
It was at that point I knew we were in for something special and that was just the beginning.
Just ten minutes after the Rays tied the game down in Tampa, the rain let up enough in Baltimore for the Sox to take the field again. They knew they had to hold onto their 3-2 lead over the Orioles. Since Baltimore is one of the worst teams in baseball this year it shouldn’t be a problem, right? Wrong. For whatever reason, it seemed Baltimore was the team playing for a playoff spot instead of the Red Sox. Just before midnight on the east coast, (according to ESPN.com’s timeline) Baltimore’s Nolan Reimold tied the game with a double hit in the bottom of the ninth in another clutch-city hit. Three minutes later Baltimore’s Rober Andino hit a game-winning single to beat the Red Sox 4-3.
The Orioles pileup on the diamond after the game winning hit made it look like Baltimore was going to the playoffs while the diminished Red Sox went to the clubhouse in hopes of good news that the Rays were also losing.
Just three minutes later down in Tampa, the Rays’ Evan Longoria smacked a game-winning homerun just inside the left field foul pole giving the Rays an 8-7 win in 12 innings. This minute-by-minute baseball action was something that we may never see again in our lifetime.
Like the Braves, the Red Sox loss capped an end to a massive late-season slump where they failed to make the playoffs despite a nine-game lead for the wildcard at the beginning of September. A depressing scene across the entire Red Sox nation and Champagne in Tampa.
For everyone other than Boston or Atlanta fans, last Wednesday's evening of sports was as good as it gets – full of exciting, clutch moments of action. It was real reality TV at its best.