Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Greatest Day of Baseball... Ever?

Yesterday was one of the most exciting days in baseball history.  As far as the regular season goes, I can't think of a better set of games, but I'm young and that may be why.  On the other hand, Tim Kurkjian is much older and a much  more respected baseball analyst, and he echoed my sentiments, saying: "This was the greatest day of regular season baseball in the game's glorious history."  Regardless of where exactly it ranks on your list, it was without a doubt an amazing day.  Here's what happened, in timeline form.

12:00 PM: I am informed by Twin #2 that Adam Dunn is not in the lineup for the White Sox.  Alas, that means that his quest for infamy has ceased.  More on that in another post, as there were exciting moments galore to come.

9:56 PM: Skipping way ahead.  In Atlanta, Craig Kimbrel is on the mound against Chase Utley in the top of the ninth inning.  With one out and the bases loaded, the Braves led by the score of 3-2.  At the same time, the Cardinals were up 7-0 on the Astros, meaning a loss would likely send Atlanta home for the season.  Utley came through with a deep sacrifice fly to left field that brought in the tying run from third.

10:02 PM: Kimbrel walked the next batter, his third free pass of the inning, to load the bases, forcing Fredi Gonzalez to go to his bullpen.  Out trots Kris Medlen, a pitcher who had thrown exactly one inning in the Major Leagues in 2011.  He does his job, though, getting Michael Martinez to pop out, keeping the game knotted at three.

10:23 PM: While Boston, up 3-2 on Baltimore in the seventh inning, continues to sit through a lengthy rain delay, the Rays start to rally against the Yankees.  Down 7-0 in the eighth, Tampa Bay has just scored 3 runs to trim the lead to 4.  But, though they have runners on first and second, they potentially have only four outs left in their season.  Evan Longoria rises to the occasion with a 3-run homer that brings the Rays within one run.

10:26 PM: As the Braves-Phillies matchup pushes into extra innings, the Cardinals seal up their victory, an 8-0 win over Houston.  Chris Carpenter dominated from starting to finish, pitching a complete game shutout in which he allowed just two hits and one walk, and struck out 11 batters.  It's official now: Atlanta has to keep their postseason hopes alive.

10:31 PM: Although it has no bearing on the postseason matchups, Trevor Plouffe hits a single to drive in Denard Span to break a scoreless tie, giving Minnesota a walk-off win to end its season and avoid 100 losses.  Carl Pavano was the true hero, however, as he went toe-to-toe with Bruce Chen (seriously?), putting up a complete game shutout with only 95 pitches.

10:47 PM: With two outs and nobody on in the ninth, and the Rays still down by a run, Joe Maddon sends Dan Johnson to the plate to pinch hit for Sam Fuld.  It's a strange decision, if only because Johnson has not had a Major League hit since April 27.  Sure, he was in Triple-A for a while, but he was also hitless in his last 20 at bats and had a .108 average on the season.  Of course, down to his last strike, Johnson ropes a line drive just inside the right field foul pole for a game-tying home run.

10:58 PM: Play finally resumes in Baltimore, with the Red Sox emerging from their clubhouse having just watched the epic comeback the Rays had completed.

11:40 PM: In the 14th inning, it all finally comes to a close for Atlanta.  Following a broken bat, blooping infield single by Hunter Pence that put Philadelphia in front by a run, the Braves' Freddie Freeman grounds into a double play to end the game and complete a collapse that saw an 8 1/2 game lead in early September go by the wayside.  St. Louis is officially headed to the playoffs.

11:51 PM: An hour after the Red Sox learned they might not have the luxury of a play-in game even if they lose, Ryan Lavarnway grounds into a double play with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the ninth inning.  Boston enters the bottom half of the frame still clinging to a 3-2 lead.

11:54 PM: Brandon Gomes and Jake McGee have combined to put Yankee runners on the corners with nobody out in the top of the twelfth inning.  McGee then induces a grounder from Jorge Posada.  After Evan Longoria scoops up the ball, he catches Greg Golson straying too far from third base and tags him out.

11:59 PM: Jonathan Papelbon gets the first two outs of the ninth inning before Chris Davis strokes a ball into right field for a double.  Immediately afterward, McGee gets the final out of twelfth inning to squelch the Yankees' scoring opportunity.

12:00 AM: Only 30 seconds later, Papelbon gives up a game-tying ground-rule double to Nolan Reimold.  Baltimore now has the winning run at second base.

12:02 AM: The next batter, Robert Andino, loops a soft liner into left field.  Carl Crawford attempts to make a sliding catch and gets his glove on it, but can't come up with it.  He still has a chance to throw out Reimold at home, but his throw is off-line, allowing Baltimore to end their season with a walk-off victory.  And, of course, to potentially end Boston's season.  It's the first time all year that Boston has lost a game they led after the eighth inning.  Previously they had been 77-0.

B.J. Upton takes a healthy cut and misses as the T.V. announcers for the Yankees-Rays game inform their audiences that Boston has lost.

12:04 AM: The remaining fans at Tropicana Field go crazy as the scoreboard operator puts up the result of the Red Sox game.  B.J. Upton has struck out and Evan Longoria is strolling to the plate.

12:05 AM: Longoria knocks a line drive down the left field line, almost a mirror image of Dan Johnson's homer earlier in the game.  Again it sneaks inside the foul pole for a home run, giving the Rays a walk-off victory and pushing them into the playoffs.  They overcame a 9-game deficit in early September and a 7-run deficit with just 6 outs to go in their final game.  It was the first time the Yankees had lost a game they led by 7 or more runs in the eighth inning or later since 1953.

2:08 AM: So you tell me: was this the most exciting day in baseball history?

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