September 29, 2011

An Epic Finish to Baseball's Regular Season

By - Kris Fletcher

Four games with playoff implications, three of which went down to the wire. Two went into extra innings, and one featured a rally for the ages.

That was the backdrop for the final day of baseball's regular season.

And what a final day it was.

Photo by: Getty Images
Heading into September, it was nothing short of crazy to think that the Braves or Red Sox would miss the playoffs. Yet somehow, both teams managed to blow gigantic leads in their respective races, and by the time the dust had settled last night, the season was over for both clubs.

Atlanta's ended first.

Leading the Phillies 3-2 in the 9th, closer Craig Kimbrel allowed a hit and two walks to load the bases before Chase Utley tied the game at 3 with a sacrifice fly. In the 13th inning, Hunter Pence's bloop to right scored Brian Schneider to give Philadelphia the lead. Dan Uggla walked with one out in the bottom half of the inning, but when Freddie Freeman hit into a double play, the Braves' collapse was complete.

St. Louis had done their part earlier by blowing out the Astros.

But the madness was just getting started.

In Baltimore, the Red Sox appeared to be in control of their game. Dustin Pedroia's homer in the 6th gave Boston a 3-2 lead. Then the rain took hold for an 85-minute delay. When play resumed, the Red Sox nursed their lead into the 9th inning. After getting the first two outs and being one strike away from extending the season, closer Jonathan Papelbon gave up a double to Chris Davis. Papelbon then got to 2-2 on Nolan Reimold, before Reimold ripped a fastball to right center for a ground-rule double that scored pinch runner Kyle Hudson to even the score. That brought up Robert Andino, who hit a sinking liner to left that Carl Crawford couldn't catch cleanly. Reimold scored, setting off a wild celebration at the plate.

Literally minutes after the Orioles' rally, Tampa Bay, who trailed 7-0 going into the 8th inning, completed an improbable comeback.

In the 13th, Evan Longoria hit a screaming liner that just cleared the left-field wall for a walk-off, postseason-clinching victory against the Yankees. However, Longoria would have never even gotten a chance to be the hero had it not been for Dan Johnson, who in the 9th inning, with two outs, and the Rays' season down to its last strike, belted a bomb to right off Cory Wade to tie the game.

It was Johnson's first hit since April 27th.

To put these historic collapses in perspective, one only has to look at the huge leads both Atlanta and Boston managed to squander away over the final month of the season. The Braves led the Cardinals by 10 1/2 games on August 25th. On the other side, the Red Sox were up 9 on the Rays as of September 3rd. For not one, but two teams to rally from such an enormous hole gives new meaning to the phrase, "it ain't over, till it's over."

For those of us that were fortunate enough to witness it, last night was one of those very rare occasions where we'll always remember where we were and what we were doing when the events of the evening unfolded. It was the greatest final day regular season drama in the history of the sport, bar-none.

Bravo, baseball. Bravo.


  1. Its going to be hard for the actual postseason to top those games last night. Awesome way to wrap up the regular season.

  2. Unreal night of baseball. I loved every second of it! Nice post.

  3. Even though the Yankees were pretty much playing with reserves by the time it was over, that New York-Tampa Bay game was one of the best games I've ever seen. Amazing.

  4. What made it all so cool was how all the games were playing out at basically the same time. Boston blew their game, then minutes later Tampa Bay won theirs. Great stuff.

  5. Nothing beats late September and playoff baseball. Nothing!

  6. Nice post. I agree with Phil. That Yanks-Rays game was totally insane.

  7. Atleast Atlanta has an excuse for coughing up their lead. The bullpen was over worked. Boston just choked the postseason away. Terry Francona should be fired.

  8. Unreal finish to the season. I don't think you fire Francona choke job or not. The guys brought two titles to Boston.