Thursday, September 29, 2011

Best Finish To An MLB Season Ever?

In spite of it shifting to a Wednesday this year, the close of the 2011 Major League Baseball season last night had to be one of (if not) the best finales of all time! Here's why I say that:
  • While all 6 division winners were known going into play yesterday, two pairs of teams were vying for the Wildcard slots - Boston and Tampa Bay in the American League, and Atlanta and St. Louis in the National
  • Both Boston and Atlanta had held huge leads in those races earlier in the month, prior to historic collapses that allowed each of them to be caught by the end of play on the second last day
  • Boston was playing in Baltimore, where the cellar-dwelling Orioles hoped to spoil the Eastern Division rival Red Sox's plans for the postseason; Tampa Bay was hosting the division-winning Yankees, the latter of whom had to be at least a little conflicted since their arch-nemeses (Boston) were actually rooting for them to win!
  • In the National League, it was a very similar situation: Atlanta was hosting their division winners, the Phillies, while St. Louis was in Houston, playing the major-league-worst team from their Central Division - the Astros; so in both cases, one team was hosting a powerhouse while the other was visiting a theoretically weak team.
  • The Cardinals/Astros game was the only one that was over quickly: they jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and went on to win 8-0 before any of the other games were finished (despite being the last one to start, on account of being in Texas!); the Cards now knew they would either get a 1-game playoff today against the Braves, or pass directly into the postseason that starts tomorrow; they had to sit back and watch the other game to see how it would play out (it was either 3-1 Atl or 3-2 around that point)
  • The Yankees got up 7-0 on the Rays, and took that lead to the bottom of the 8th... at which point Tampa scored 6 runs, making for an exciting 9th inning!
  • Meanwhile, Boston was up 3-2 in Baltimore in the 7th, but in a rain delay that lasted quite awhile, and Atlanta blew their lead, allowing the Phillies to tie it 3-3 in the 9th and send it to extra innings
  • By that point, Tampa scored the tying run in the 9th inning, and that game also headed to extra innings!
  • Somewhere along the line, Boston and Baltimore resumed play after the rain delay, and it got to the 9th inning, still 3-2 Bos
  • In fairly quick succession (over the course of only a few minutes), the following happened: the Phillies went ahead 4-3 in the top of the 13th and then shut down the Braves in the bottom of that inning, punching the Cards' ticket into the postseason; Baltimore got down to its last out and last strike, and then tied the game and quickly won the game on back-to-back plays, meaning that the Red Sox could only hope for a Rays loss to force a one-game playoff with them; and Tampa scored the winning run in the bottom of the 12th, setting the scene for the 2011 MLB Postseason at long last!
I was absolutely glued to the set, flipping between the various games - major kudos to Sportsnet for dedicating their different channels to the important matches last night!! - and trying not to miss any key plays! It was an incredible evening for this baseball fan, and I can only hope the playoffs won't be a letdown by comparison!!

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