I know reality TV is all the craze. And I am the old fart who can’t stand it (except for Survivor.) But last night, between 11pm and 12am, as the 28th of September became the 29th, I watched the greatest reality TV there ever was between three channels last night. What is this amazing show that is causing the woman who hates reality TV to lead off with a post about the greatest reality TV she’s ever seen? I’ll give you a hint. The channels watched were ESPN, CSN Philly, and MLB Network. Still royally confused? I’m talking about the Wild Card race in the NL and AL last night. Phillies vs. Braves, Cardinals vs. Astros, Rays vs. Yankees, and Red Sox vs. Orioles.
(Is she seriously going to post about baseball in a TV blog?) YES I AM!!!!!
There are two things I love….TV and Sports. Instead of doing a sports blog, I decided to go with TV. But if you are a sports fan and want a great sports blog to read, click here for Bruce’s blog called Sportsattitudes. It’s awesome! But as I was watching these games unfold last night, I knew I had to post about it the next day. It was incredible. If you are a baseball fan. Wait, I take that back. If you are a SPORTS fan, you couldn’t watch those games last night and not explode with excitement. If you aren’t a sports fan and have no idea what I am talking about, let me set this up for you…
It’s Labor Day weekend. It’s the end of summer, people are spending their last weekend down the shore or having barbeques with friends, and getting ready to send the kids back to school and go back to regular working hours vs. summer hours. Labor Day weekend also kicks off the final month of the baseball season. On Sept 2nd, the Boston Red Sox had a 9 game lead in the Wild Card race over the Tampa Bay Rays with 28 to go and the Atlanta Braves had an 8 1/2 game lead on the St. Louis Cardinals with 28 to go. For those of you who aren’t baseball fans, to put this in perspective, barring a monumental collapse, the Red Sox and Braves were heading to the post season with those leads in the Wild Card races. Especially with how they were playing. No one was going to catch them. People were already starting to complain how the last week of the baseball season was going to be so boring because the races are already determined. But you know what they say…..that’s why you play the game because at any given moment, anything can happen.
Fast forward to Monday September 26th. The Red Sox and the Rays are now TIED for the AL Wild Card with 3 games to play…..Rays vs. Yankees (who are playing for nothing because they are already in the playoffs) and the Red Sox vs. the Orioles (who are also playing for nothing because they stink.) The Braves had a 1 game lead on the Cardinals for the NL Wild Card with 3 games to play…..Braves vs. Phillies (who are playing for nothing since they are already in but since they are the Phillies and are awesome, they will not back down) and Cardinals vs. Astros (who are also playing for nothing because they also stink.) Both the Rays and the Braves have home stands and the Sox and Cardinals are on the road. This. Is. Incredible. A 9 game lead for the Sox is gone and the Braves are teetering on the verge of their own collapse with an 8 1/2 game lead now down to 1 game. What will happen?
It’s now Wednesday September 28th. It’s the last day of the season. After playing 161 games since April, the season now comes down to 1 day for the Braves, Cardinals, Rays, and Red Sox. All the traveling, the double headers, playing through the heat, playing through injuries, scratching and clawing and climbing to get back in, and scratching and clawing and climbing to stay on top, comes down to 1 game for these 4 teams. No one thought the season would come down to this. Like I mentioned, these Wild Cards were all but locked up by Labor Day barring a huge collapse. Guess what? That huge collapse happened to not just one team, but TWO TEAMS!!! But who are we kidding, the collapses don’t mean anything if you don’t have a surging team. Again, you had not one but TWO TEAMS surging!!!! Unbelievable!!!!! Going into the games last night, the Braves and Cardinals were tied and the Red Sox and Rays were also tied. If both teams win or both teams lose, there would be a 1 game playoff. However, if one wins and one loses, winners goes to the playoff, losers go to the first tee at Pinehurst No.2. Being a Phillies fan, it was a tough choice for me last night. I always want my Phillies to win. Especially since they were going for an all time franchise record of 102 wins, Charlie Manuel would become the winningest manager in Phillies history, and the Phillies would have the most road wins (50) in franchise history. But honestly, while it’s great for the team, the franchise, and Charlie, I care more about winning the World Series. It would be better for the Braves to win because it would force a one game playoff with the Cardinals and therefore it would have messed with their rotation and bullpen and given all players one less day of rest.
At 10:30pm last night, the excitement was at a minimum. The Cardinals has already done their job and beaten the Astros 8-0. They were now in their clubhouse watching the Phillies/Braves and rooting for the team they would most likely play should they win…..the Phillies. The Phillies were losing 3-2 to the Braves in the 8th inning setting up the playoff game I was (kind of) rooting for. The Red Sox were beating the Orioles 3-2 in the 8th inning. And in the bottom of 7th, the Rays were getting killed by the Yankees 7-0. So it looked like Braves/Cardinals playoff and the Red Sox heading to the playoffs. Then the 8th inning began in St. Petersburg.
The Rays began the bottom of 8th down 7 runs. The Rays load the bases with no outs. The Yankees then walk Sam Fuld and it’s now 7-1. The next batter, Sean Rodriguez gets hit by a pitch and it’s now 7-2 (still no outs.) BJ Upton then hits a sac fly, 7-3, one out, man on 1st and 2nd. Then Evan Longoria steps to the plate with two outs. The first pitch comes over the plate and…..BOOM. 3 run HR and the game is now 7-6 Yankees going into the 9th inning.
Back to Phillies/Braves. We are now in the bottom of the 9th inning and the Braves closer, Craig Kimbrel is on the mound to close the game (Braves are winning 3-2.) The bases are loaded when Chase Utley hits a sac fly to score Placido Polanco to tie the game 3-3 and Kimbrel blows another save! Wow!!! Phillies and Braves are going to extra innings.
It’s now the bottom of the 9th in St. Pete and the Rays are coming to the plate. Very quickly, the Rays have two outs on the board. (Meanwhile the Red Sox are heading into the bottom of the 7th in Baltimore with a 3-2 lead…they had a bit of a rain delay so that’s why they are behind.) The Dan Johnson steps to the plate for the Rays. THe next thing you know, Johnson bangs one to right field and the Rays have tied the game!!! THE RAYS TIED THE GAME!!! They were losing 7-0 in the 8th and now they tied the game in the 9th. Incredible!!!! Rays and Yankees are heading to extra innings.
Fast forward to right around 11:45pm. The Phillies are in the top of the 13th, the Rays are in the top of the 12th, and the Red Sox are in the bottom of the 9th. The Phillies come to the plate. Brian Schneider walks. Utley singles and you have a man on 1st and 3rd. One out. Hunter Pence comes to the plate. This is where the Braves make a crucial mistake. They pitch to Hunter Pence….with Mike Martinez on deck. Decisions like that are why the Braves are cleaning out their lockers today instead of heading to the playoffs. How do you pitch to Pence in that position? Well it crushed them because Pence blooped a ball in between the 1st and 2nd baseman and rolls into RF and Schneider scores. Phillies take the lead 4-3 and they never look back. Phillies win the game and the Cardinals are spraying champagne and Budweiser in the locker room. So the NL is set. Cardinals travel to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia to lose, I mean play, the Phillies in the NLCS starting on Saturday and the Arizona Diamondbacks travel to Milwaukee to play the Brewers, also on Saturday. So who are the AL representatives? Let’s head back to Baltimore.
It’s the bottom of the 9th, the Sox are up 3-2, and Jonathan Papelbon is coming to the mound. Done deal for Boston, right? Not so fast. Papelbon got 2 quick outs so it was only a matter of time. Then Chris Davis comes to plate and hits a double off Papelbon. Man on 2nd with 2 outs. Next up, Nolan Reimhold. Don’t worry, I’ve never heard of these guys either. Reimhold blasts a gapper that bounces into the stands for a ground rule double. A pinch runner scores and Baltimore has just tied this game. What???? I know, it’s insane! So Reimhold is on second and there is still 2 outs and the Sox aren’t dead….yet. Robert Andino comes to plate. He hits a walk off single and scores Reimhold and the Orioles win the game 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th. I’m sorry, did that just happen? Yes it did! So now the Red Sox have to head into the locker room to watch the outcome of the Rays and Yankees. And they wouldn’t have to watch long.
Back to St Pete’s. Yankees have 2 men on with no one out in the top of the 12th and it’s looking grim for the Rays, but the Rays get out of the jam and head to the bottom of the 12th. You seriously can’t write this better than it played out last night. At one point, I think it was BJ Upton was at bat, and the crowd started to explode with cheers with Upton wondering why they are cheering since he just struck out. Turns out the scoreboard showed the Red Sox/Orioles score and everyone in Florida now knew that the Orioles beat the Red Sox. Even the players in the dugout were giddy with excitement jumping up and down. It was great! After everything settles down, Evan Longoria steps to the plate again. He can’t do it again….can he? YES HE CAN!!!! Longoria dug in and on a 2-2 pitch, lines it to LF. It was very low but it was drilled so it was moving quickly. Somehow, Longoria found the shortest part of the outfield fence, that the ball barely cleared the outfield wall for a walk off, 12th inning, HR. 8-7 in the 12th, Rays beat the Yankees. And the Rays win the AL Wild Card and are headed to the playoffs.
Are you kidding me? Did that really just happen? It certainly did. It was the most incredible hour-hour and half of TV I’ve watched so far this season. This is why I love baseball so much. You can’t script this. I also love seeing grown men jump around and hug and kiss one another like they are little girls who just got tickets to a Taylor Swift concert. It’s fantastic. Even if your team wasn’t involved, you can’t help but love how that all played out…except if you are a Braves or Red Sox fan.
But after all that excitement and joy and exhilaration, their jobs aren’t over yet. In fact, they’re really just beginning. For one team, they need 11 more wins for the ultimate prize in their game….a World Series Championship! And for this Phillies fan, I hope it happens for my Phighten’s and I get to go to a parade on Broad Street at the end of October. But for all the teams that have gotten this far, congratulations. You have busted your asses for 162 games and now the fruits of your labor have paid off and you are in the playoffs! Go get ‘em guys….except when you are playing the Phillies, because they are going to crush you. :)