Wait for the commentary at the end.
Because why not?
Time Site Event
7:10 ATL First pitch
7:10 BAL First pitch
7:11 TB First pitch
7:19 ATL Ryan Howard double gives Phillies lead
7:21 TB Curtis Granderson scores on Ben Zobrist error
7:27 ATL Sac fly by Chipper Jones ties game at 1
7:49 BAL Red Sox take lead on Dustin Pedroia single
7:54 TB Mark Teixeira grand slam gives Yankees 5-0 lead
8:03 ATL Dan Uggla homer puts Braves up 3-1
8:06 BAL Red Sox trail on J.J. Hardy homer
8:06 HOU First pitch
8:20 BAL Alfredo Simon balks home Marco Scutaro to tie game
8:24 HOU Nick Punto singles home fifth run of first inning
8:35 TB Second homer for Teixeira gives Yankees 6-0 lead
8:36 BAL Pedroia homer gives Red Sox 3-2 lead
8:52 TB Andruw Jones homers to give Yankees 7-0 lead
9:07 ATL Jack Wilson error cuts Braves’ lead to 3-2
9:34 BAL Rain delays game
9:56 ATL Chase Utley sacrifice fly scores Pete Orr to tie game
10:11 ATL Wilson strikes out to send game to extra innings
10:17 TB Bases-loaded walk gets Rays on the scoreboard
10:18 HOU Allen Craig homer gives Cardinals final margain of victory
10:23 TB Evan Longoria homer pulls Rays within one of Yankees
10:26 HOU Cardinals win 8-0
10:27 TB Johnny Damon popout ends six-run Rays rally
10:33 ATL Michael Martinez snags deep fly to send game to 11th
10:47 TB Pinch-hitter Dan Johnson ties game at 7 with home run
10:58 BAL Game resumes
11:13 ATL Martin Prado grounds out to end Phillies’ threat in 12th
11:18 BAL Scutaro thrown out at home to preserve one-run game
11:28 ATL Hunter Pence blooper gives Phillies lead in 13th
11:40 ATL Phillies win 4-3
11:59 BAL Nolan Reimold double ties game in bottom of ninth
12:02 BAL Robert Andino game-winning single: Orioles win 4-3
12:05 TB Longoria game-winning homer: Rays win 8-7 in 12
Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. What a night for baseball fans last evening. You’ve probably by now heard that the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves both completed their own individual submissions for worst September chokes in baseball history. They gave the Tampa Bay Rays and the St Louis Cardinals shocking Wild Card berths in the MLB playoffs. And it incredibly exceeded any and all expectations in how it played out. As Scott Van Pelt said on the SportsCenter that immediately followed the Rays game, “I’ll say it until I’m dead: sports are better than anything else. Always.”
In the immortal words of Hulk Hogan: Amen, brother.
Where to start? I guess the only way to do it is to share how I experienced it. For the better part of eight innings, I was stuck in night class yesterday sneaking views on my iPhone (God bless the Watch ESPN app) and checking updates on the gamecast. I became a bit depressed when, a little before 9:30 central, I got out of class to see the Rays down 7-0 going into the bottom of the eighth, the Braves looking like they were going to force a one game playoff, and the Red Sox still in the middle of a rain delay leading 3-2. I drove home, took my dog out, and immediately turned on ESPN and ESPN2.
In the short amount of time it took me to do that, the Rays had somehow miraculously forced extra innings on a Dan Johnson two-out home run in the bottom of the ninth, the Braves sensational rookie closer Craig Kimbrel had blown a save, and the Red Sox game was just starting the bottom half of the ninth inning, an inning that will live in infamy for the region of New England (at least until next year when they spend another $50 million).
I first watched the sad, depressing ending to the Phillies, Braves game on ESPN2. I’m not a St Louis Cardinals fan so this one was really hard to stomach as I didn’t have a dog in the fight. It was awful to watch. The Braves knew they were going to lose and watching the dugout after it became complete was one of the less enjoyable things I’ve ever witnessed as a sports fan. I hope I never have to visit the places that team and that fan base went last night in their sports psychology. It looked devastating. This was the first of the three games that mattered to end. I immediately switched over to the Red Sox game on ESPN to see what was going on, hoping that ESPN2 would change over to the Rays game (programming note: in an ultimate #fail for the ages, the deuce instead chose to show the CrossFit World Championships, or something).
Jonathon Papelbon got two quick outs, looking like the force of nature who’s closed down a World Series in the past. There was no way he was blowing it. And then up came Chris Davis, the same Chris Davis who I’ve mocked for years on this site for his unrivaled ability to strike out at the major league level. He’s a former Texas Ranger who became notorious for perfectly suiting the definition of a AAAA player (a guy who destroys Triple A, but sucks once he gets to the show). I’m thinking game over, time to go to bed when, all of a sudden he roped one down the right field line for an easy double.
Okay. I’m listening.
Next up was some guy named Nolan Reimold who is best known for the fact that is sounds like the announcer is mispronouncing Nolan Ryan when they say his name. The scouting report clearly indicated that Reimold could not hit the outside pitch. Papelbon pounded it to the outer half the entire at bat and Reimold never came close to touching any of the fast balls before going down two strikes. And then, well, then Papelbon had one of those brain farts that can haunt a player the rest of his career.
I don’t know if it was meant to be a slider, it was even quite possibly a two-seam fastball. Regardless, Papelbon absolutely hung a pitch over middle of the plate and Reimold smashed a ground rule double to right-center. Tie ball game. There was no chance after that. The Sox were clearly shaken and it took only the next batter to line a ball just out of the reach of the disappointing Carl Crawford to win the ball game and put Boston out of its misery.
It may have been only a coincidence. In fact, that is all it was: a coincidence. But you couldn’t help but see Crawford coming up short as a metaphor for what the night had in store.
And then, as luck would have it, ESPN switched immediately over to the Rays game. It took only thee minutes for Evan Longoria to put the ultimate exclamation point on one of the single greatest baseball nights ever and one of the single greatest September comebacks ever. I don’t know who decided that left field at Tropicana Field should be a paltry 315 feet, but God bless that man/woman because that ball would fall for a double in any other ballpark. It went 316 feet, tops, but just enough to give Longoria a walk off homerun for the ages.
Just enough. That’s what the Rays did all year.
The next few minutes were some of the most enjoyable moments as a sports fan I’ve had in some time. I only remember feeling something like that twice before, once when the Rockies beat the Padres in a one game playoff to make it to the postseason, and during the Nuggets run to the Western Conference finals a couple years ago. I’m not saying it came anywhere near approaching the levels of those other two times, but I did feel something. It was made all the better by the fact that ESPN, because it was breaking into the coverage, didn’t have an announcer and we were simply allowed to silently watch the Rays celebrate knowing full well what they had just done. I’ve long heard of Dodgers legendary broadcaster Vin Scully say he likes to let the stadium and the game do the talking for him, rather than tarnish it with his voice. I finally know what that’s like now. I sat up in bed with a huge smile and just got to appreciate the background noise of those Rays fans lucky enough to have stayed and witnessed the comeback.
And oh my god was it better than anything I’ve ever pictured in my head.
Think about what was at stake here. The payrolls, first of all. The clear favoritism showed to the Red Sox by ESPN over the past decade. The fact that ESPN the Mag just ran an issue last week that literally tried to explain why Boston was a better sports city than your hometown. Think of all that arrogance and how this same network then had to sit in silence as the Rays knocked their beloved franchise out of the postseason. It was incredible. It made all those insufferable four and a half hour games worth it somehow.
There is no game like baseball. Football clearly dethroned it as the most popular sport, but there is something about baseball that no sport will ever touch. I’ve long argued that a World Series is the most difficult championship to win and that it would mean more to me than any other sport. Last night reinforced that belief times a billion.
What a night. What a sport. Wow.
Generation Y, where Theo Epstein to the Cubs sounds like an excellent idea.
Two quick thoughts to start the morning:
-The University of Texas, ESPN, and the Big 12 are teaming up to prove exactly what is wrong with college football this season. In case you didn’t know yet, ESPN agreed to a mega-deal with UT to create a “Longhorn Network” that will exclusively show Texas sports teams. The idea is completely ridiculous and this week at the Big 12 media days, other schools in the conference were not afraid to voice their reluctance. Many coaches chose to snub the Longhorn Network reporters while some, like Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel, actually were brave enough to speak out against it.
No word on whether Big 12 commissioner Dan Bebe has suspended him yet.
The notion of a school getting its own network is equal parts laughable and absurd. Texas is going to spend a lot of time and money over the next couple of months trying to prove that this somehow doesn’t give them an edge over their fellow NCAA schools and that this isn’t about money and exposure, and the sad thing is that they’re going to win that battle. It’s all about the student athlete! No way is UT interested in being able to brag to recruits that they’ll have their own nationally-broadcasted TV station! Why would they want to do that?!
The most hilarious aspect in all of this is that UT is single-handedly holding the Big 12 conference hostage and abusing its status as the best school in the conference. They realize that the conference crumbles without their participation and they’re going to milk that status for all its worth in the coming years. It’s sickening for the other schools involved and it’s exactly why Nebraska and Colorado bailed this past offseason while Oklahoma and A&M are likely to leave for the SEC as soon as next year. But conference commissioner Dan Bebe could care less! Suck it up and take the money you lesser schools who dare challenge the almighty UT! This is better for all of us! We promise!
That a conference commissioner could get paid millions of dollars to represent ten member schools while clearly favoring only the interests of one school is exactly what’s wrong with the NCAA model. This was never about the athletes, or the schools, or the fans. This system exists to make millionaires out of idiots like Bebe.
-MLB again finds itself in a controversy this morning, completely erasing any goodwill it had hoped to build up during the NFL lockout this summer. If you hadn’t heard yet, last night the home plate umpire in an epic 19-inning Pirates/Braves game made a historic “I want this game to end right now, I am in charge, I could care less about honesty and fairness” call that cost the Pirates the game and will be the talk of baseball in the coming weeks. At a time when we should be debating trades and penant races, the discussion in baseball again shifts to calls for instant replay and whether we actually need umpires (hint: we don’t).
I wrote on this very site last week that I’m actually going to start rooting for more screw ups from the Bud Selig’s of the sports world, so I’m not all that worked up about this. It’s high comedy if you ask me. Most especially when later today Bud inevitably comes out and issues a statement that says something to the effect of, “durr MLB takes this very seriously, durrr, but there’s nothing we can do about it durrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.”
It sucks though if your a Pirates fan because the loss dropped them from first to third in the ultra-tight NL Central race and by the end of the year could prove to be the difference between making the playoffs and going home. I relate to that frustration as a fan.
You don’t want to sit here and make this an issue about the umpires union and baseball not having enough influence, but at some point you’d hope the umpires could see that their extreme defiance and complete abuse of power could ultimately lead to the loss of their existence in the sport. Jim Joyce’s call on the perfect game last year immediately comes to mind this morning, but at least he was willing to publicly admit he blew it right after the game. This turd from last night went so far as to say he still thought he made the right call and was only willing to concede that he “may” have made the wrong call. Just maybe.
I love me some baseball, but this is the kind of petty crap that drives away the casual fan. The NFL may be a soulless, money-making juggernaut, but another reason it is the king of American sports is that it doesn’t let the little things like stubborn pride and the human element get in the way of the game.
At some point, you’d hope Selig would realize the error in his ways.
Generation Y, where the NFL should pay-per-view the upcoming meeting between Plaxico Burress and Tom Coughlin.