MLB’s multi-implosion of the ages

Coming into September people were worried that there would be no real pennant races this year, prompting more discussion that the MLB should add two more playoff teams. Had the new two Wild Card series been in place, none of the thrilling conclusions last night would have mattered.

On September 2nd, the Red Sox had a nine game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the AL Wild Card; the Braves had an 8.5 game lead over St. Louis in the NL.

Now both are on the outside looking in as we head into October, completing the greatest tandem collapse in sports history.

As if a September from hell wasn’t enough for both teams, they each lead with three outs to go before choking away any chance of extending their seasons.

In the National League, the Braves started off well enough against the Phillies. With ace Tim Hudson on the mound they jumped out to an early 3-1 behind a homerun from Dan Uggla (his career-best 37th) and led 2-1 when their dominant bullpen trio O’Ventbrel came into the game.

While the Braves were battling for their lives, the Cardinals easily took care of the last place Houston Astros, jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning and never letting the game get close.

After a rocky eighth inning with Jonny Venters walking the bases loaded, the Braves had a one-run lead to turn over to closer and Rookie of the Year candidate Craig Kimbrel.

Kimbrel, like Venters, struggled with his control and allowed a single and three walks to knot the game up at three. Kris Medlen had to be called on to get the final out of the inning.

While the Braves had a chance to win it multiple times (the closest came when Chipper Jones nearly doubled with Michael Bourn on first base) the momentum was sucked out of Atlanta and Scott Linebrink eventually allowed a run on an infield single to Hunter Pence.

After failing to score, the Braves completed their collapse in 13 innings and lost out on the NL Wild Card.

In the American League, the Rays and Red Sox were continuing to battle even after Atlanta’s marathon game ended. The Red Sox sat through a rain delay and looked poised to win the Wild Card without a playoff as they led 3-2 going into the ninth and Tampa Bay trailed 7-0 in the eighth.

But Boston’s closer, Jonathan Papelbon allowed three hits, all with two outs, to blow the game while the Rays staged a dramatic rally.

Down 7-0, the Rays put six men across the plate in the eighth inning, three on an Evan Longoria homerun, to cut the Yankees lead to one. After Corey Wade recorded the first two outs, pinch hitter Dan Johnson hit a blast to right field to time the game and send it into extra innings.

After a scoreless ninth and tenth, Evan Longoria came up facing Scott Proctor (a name Braves fans will remember well) and sent a walk-off solo homerun down the line in left just a few minutes after the Red Sox lost to clinch the Wild Card for Tampa Bay.

The wild night capped improbable collapses for two teams that spent most of the season with two of the top four records in baseball.

The Rays run to the playoffs seems to be shaping up as a storybook ending (where have we seen a movie about a small market team making an improbably playoff run recently) especially since they overcame the high spending Red Sox on the last day of the season in dramatic fashion.

All in all, Wednesday night created a buzz and was one of the most exciting in baseball history, with two dramatic comeback stories wrapping up around the same time.

Just think, if the MLB had already instituted its new playoff formula (where two Wild Card teams play a one game playoff), the Braves and Red Sox would be playing the Cardinals and Rays tonight and nothing that happened yesterday would matter. Perhaps someone should remind Bud Selig, “If it aint broke…”

Used with permission of the author.

Brett is the editor and a contributor for www.BravesFTW.com. He has covered MLB and the Braves for numerous websites and is a regular contributor to Sports Climax. Follow Brett on Twitter.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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