Last night was simply the best night of baseball anyone has seen in years. And it was just awesome to actually see all of it unfold thanks to the MLB Network instead of having ESPN’s SportsCenter talking heads overhype the drama and make it about themselves.
First off, the Phillies went to the 13th inning in a game that was essentially meaningless to their season but meant everything to the Braves. Atlanta had to win to force a playoff with the St. Louis Cardinals, who had already won their game before end of the Phils and Braves. Yet, the Phillies, pitching Joe Blanton, who missed most of the season, and Cole Hamels and Vance Worley in relief just to get them some innings, finished off a sweep of the Braves.
Phillies fans have to be relieved that the September swoon that came after the team had clinched the National League’s best record appears to have been nothing but the result of boredom and resting players. As promised, they played their regulars since Saturday, and all they did was win 4 out of 5 games, including 4 straight and knocked off a team who needed just one win to see October.
The game did have plenty of significance in terms of franchise history for the Phillies. The win set the franchise mark for wins in a season with 102, and made Charlie Manuel the winningest manager in franchise history.
Oh, and they did all of this because they came back to tie the game in the 9th inning.
Then there was the American League. Thanks to a rain delay in Baltimore and extra innings in Tampa Bay, Phillies fans got to watch the AL Wild Card be decided.
Of course, MLB and ESPN network executives were likely struggling to contain their exceptional because the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees were involved in the two games that would decide Boston’s playoff fate. ESPN was actually airing the Yankees game against the Rays, who needed a win to ensure at least a tie with Boston. (I’m guessing ESPN staff actually failed to contain themselves. Clean up in Bristol!)
Despite being down 7-0 in the 8th inning, the Rays stormed back with a 6-run 8th and tied it in the 9th. Evan Longoria capped off the comeback with a 12th inning line drive home run to the only spot in the park that it would have gone out. That was literally minutes after Jonathan Papelbon blew a save and the game to complete a real September swoon for Boston.
The loss finished off a 7-19 September for “the Sox” as they choked away a nine game lead in the Wild Card race to the Rays.
Boston manager Terry Francona need not worry. Oh, he might get fired. But he’ll always be “Tito” to the national media.
It was an unforgettable night in baseball, the type of night fans will literally tell their kids about.