The Fallout: Boston and Atlanta
Game 162 became the biggest game of the entire season for four teams Wednesday night, and as a result, Wednesday night turned into one of the most amazing nights of regular season baseball in history.
The last game of the regular season came down to wild card ties in both the American and National Leagues between St. Louis and Atlanta, and Tampa and Boston. The Cardinals decisively beat the Houston Astros 8-0, while the Braves lost to the Phillies in 13 innings, propelling St. Louis into the NL Wild Card spot. Meanwhile, in the American League, Baltimore’s Robert Andino singled to left field in the bottom of the ninth to drive home a run, win the game 4-3, and knock the Red Sox out of the wild card race. The Rays overcame a seven-run deficit, and Longoria’s walk-off homer in the 12th allowed the team to walk into the playoffs.
The significance of Atlanta’s and Boston’s fallouts is tremendous. Starting with the Braves, Atlanta came into September up 8.5-games for the NL Wild Card, and blew it all. In their final 27 games, the Braves went 9 and 18, allowing the St. Louis Cardinals to tie Atlanta and bring the wild card race down to the final game of the regular season.
But the collapse that seems to be on everyone’s mind is that of the Red Sox. For a team that had such high expectations coming into the season, after acquiring Adrien Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and spending $300 million in the offseason, Boston’s end to the 2011 season goes down in the record books as one of the worst fallouts ever. The Red Sox suffered the most losses in September since 1952. They blew a 9-game lead in September. They endured the greatest September collapse in baseball history by a team that entered the month in first place.
Whose fallout was more surprising? The answer is Boston’s.
For four months, the Red Sox were the best team in the American League, and looked like clear favorites to do well and go far in the postseason. But then September hit, and the team simply collapsed. Bats were not swinging, and pitchers time and time again gave up runs and failed to find the strike zone. Manager Terry Francona was forced to dig into their bullpen and exhaust most of the reserves. The numbers tell all: they were 7-20 in the final month of baseball. Like Bill Simmons said, Boston fans must have felt like this guy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmW-ScmGRMA
Change is coming to both Atlanta and Boston. Fredi Gonzalez’s position remains uncertain; meanwhile, the latest news has been that after eight seasons and two World Series, Terry Francona and the Red Sox have parted ways. Executive VP and general manager of the Red Sox, Theo Epstein, may be next.
Regardless of what will happen in the future, no baseball fan can deny the excitement and historical magnitude of Wednesday night. Never have we seen a team (a) down seven runs in the 8th inning in the final regular season game, (b) come back and win it, and (c) qualify for the playoffs. Never have we seen a team be so good, become so bad, and lose in the final game to not make the playoffs. Never have we seen all this in one night.
It truly was the most amazing night of regular season baseball in history.
»A Monday Night Mess
(September 29, 2011)