Stayed up to watch all of the baseball games that mattered last night--which were several.
May we be allowed to understate for once?
Greatest finish to a regular season in the history of the game.
At home, the Arizona Diamondbacks needed to win and the Milwaukee Brewers needed to lose to give our guys the home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, which start this weekend.
That wasn't to happen, and became a kind of afterthought in light of what did.
Other games of interest: Tampa Bay vs the Yankees, Boston vs Baltimore, St. Louis vs Houston, and Atlanta against Philadelphia.
First one to finish was a blowout--the Cards shutting out the lowly Astros to keep their late-blooming wild-card hopes alive.
Then came the fading (now faded) Braves at home against the Phillies, the best team in baseball on paper.
Atlanta completed its monumental El Foldo by losing in extra innings to Philly, which allowed St. Louis to sneak in to one of MLB's eight playoff berths after trailing by 8 1/2 games at the start of September.
The Braves were up 3-2 going into the ninth, but lost the lead and eventually the game, a precursor of what was to happen in other big league yards around the nation in the wild hours that followed.
Like their brethren from Georgia, the Red Sox also were on the cusp of one of the most unprecedented meltdowns in the history of the game.
As the last game of the 2011 regular season began last night Boston needed to win to (at the least) force a one-game playoff against the Rays. If Tampa Bay lost to the AL East champion New York Yankees at home, a Red Sox win would ensure Boston a spot in the playoffs.
Briefly, here's what happened:
The Rays fell behind 7-0 to the Yanks at home at the same time that the Sox took a one-run lead at Baltimore.
Looked for all the world that Boston would win a coveted playoff spot.
That would have seemed all but a given considering the Red Sox' payroll--3rd highest (behind New York and Philly) in MLB at $161 million, compared with a "mere" $53 million for the D-Backs.
But the impossible happened yet again, proving that baseball still is among the greatest and unpredictable sports in the world.
First, the goings-on in Baltimore at Camden Yards. What a flippin' game!
The Orioles were one pitch from defeat in the bottom of the 9th, down 3-2 in what was a tautly fought battle.
It all happened quickly, a fateful bottom of the ninth that Boston fans will need therapy to get past.
Jonathan Papelbon struck out the first two Baltimore batters before Chris Davis hit a double to keep things alive.
Someone named Nolan Reimold then hit another double to tie the game, and another no-name (Robert Andino) lined a single to right that Carl Crawford almost (operative word) caught to end the game.
That's where Boston's improbably lost season ended, just like that.
The Red Sox became the first team in baseball history to miss the playoffs after leading by as many as nine games at the start of September.
Down in Tampa, the Rays somehow had crept back into the game against New York, trailing by just one run going into the bottom of the ninth.
(FYI, Tampa Bay's payroll is but $43 million, making it the second-lowest in MLB--the Kansas City Royals are last).
Two outs, no one on for the Rays, same situation as in Baltimore.
Tampa manager Joe Madden called on dismally underachieving Dan Johnson to pinch-hit. Johnson has power, but had hit but one homer all season.
Two strikes on Johnson.
One pitch from the end of the season for a gutty little team that happens to be in a monster division with both Boston and New York.
Home run by the native of Coon Rapids, Minnesota, just inside the right-field pole.
He's still smiling as we write.
Nail-biting time continues to bottom of the 12th.
The Rays' best player, Evan Longoria, hit one out just over the left-field fence to lead off the inning, giving Tampa the win and a spot against the Texas Rangers in the first-round of the playoffs.
Who would have thunk any of this? Certainly not us.
By the way, the D-Backs came from 7-0 down in the bottom of the ninth to draw within two runs of the Dodgers before losing at Chase Field.
Another crazy comeback was too much to ask for.
But no matter.
Our little local team is going to the playoffs this weekend: Boston and Atlanta, two of MLB's more storied and successful franchises--are going home.
`Nuff said, for now.
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