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Rays and Cardinals Make Playoffs, Red Sox and Braves Go Home During Wild Card Wednesday

by Photo of Andrew Lontos

The Red Sox and Braves suffer historic collapses as the Rays and Cardinals head to the playoffs.

Rays and Cardinals Make Playoffs, Red Sox and Braves Go Home During Wild Card Wednesday

Last night provided the best examples as to why the Wild Card is a good thing for Major League Baseball. Going into yesterday, the last day of the regular season, all the divisional races were set. Without the wild card, there wouldn't have been any drama. Instead, we witnessed one of the greatest nights in baseball history. The Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves completed the two worst September collapses in history . They not only happened in the same year, not only in the same day, but the same hour. As a Mets fan, the sting of 2007 doesn't go away, but misery loves company. Especially when it comes from Boston and Atlanta.

The way the games unfolded on this wild Wednesday was just incredible. The Braves and Cardinals, and the Rays and Red Sox were both tied for the Wild Card lead and all four were playing simultaneously. 30 minutes before the Cardinals would wrap up an 8-0 blowout win over the Astros, Atlanta's rookie sensation Craig Kimbrel blew the save when Chase Utley tied the game with a sacrifice fly. In the American League, Tampa Bay was losing 7-0 in the eighth inning while the Red Sox were up 3-2 late during a rain delay. At this point, the Rays had a .58% chance of winning the game. But Evan Longoria capped off an improbable six-run rally with a two-out, three-run home run. Still, they were down a run with one at bat remaining, while the Red Sox were winning late during the delay. 11 minutes before Boston's game would resume, Rays' pinch hitter Dan Johnson hit a two-out, two-strike home run in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game and keep Tampa Bay's hopes alive. Now, the Braves were tied in extra innings and needed to win to force a one-game playoff with the victorious Cardinals. The Rays were also tied in extra innings, and the Red Sox had the lead going into the ninth with closer Jonathon Papelbon on the mound. You can see the full timeline here, but here's how the final moments played out:

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

When Longoria hit the walk-off home run, his second home run in three at bats, it came an astonishing three minutes after Boston lost and sent the Red Sox home for good. Twitter promptly blew up. Even baseball-hater Jason Whitlock was into it

Jeezuz f--king christ! Baseball!!

Let's take a look at the three biggest September collapses in recent years.

1. 2011 Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox had a nine-game lead with 22 days left in the season. They went a brutal 7-20 in September, including 3-7 in their last ten games. It's statistically the worst collapse in history, but the numbers don't even do it justice. The Red Sox came into the 2011 season with more hype and expectations than any other team. The addition of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to an already talented team had many believing Boston was the favorite to win it all. Although they won the division in 2010, expectations were low for the Rays because they lost Crawford, Carlos Pena, Matt Garza, and others. The Red Sox entered 2011 with the third-highest payroll in baseball, while the Rays had the second-lowest. Major League Baseball is often criticized for the lack of competitive balance. The playing field is definitely not level, but in this case it enhanced the already-amazing moment that occurred last night. The ultimate underdog battled back from a historic deficit to overtake the ultimate favorite. The way games 162 played out for the Red Sox and Rays was the cherry on top. A walk-off loss and walk-off win minutes apart seals the deal for the greatest collapse ever.

2. 2011 Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves had an 8.5 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals on September 6th. Atlanta compiled a 9-18 record to end the season; they went 2-8 in their last ten games. The Cardinals played well in September, going 18-8. But they lost some tough games too, including a devastating loss to the lowly Mets on September 22, when they allowed six runs in the ninth inning. But Atlanta couldn't stop the slide, as their bats disappeared and young, stud pitchers finally showed some weakness. Closer Craig Krimbel was unhittable all year, setting the rookie saves record. In his last ten games, however, he blew three saves and raised his earned run average from 1.57 to 2.10. Kimbrel's performance was a microcosm of the Braves' season; he was outstandingly consistent throughout the year, but couldn't stop the bleeding when he was at the finish line. To make matters worse, they lost to the division-rival Phillies, who had nothing to play for other than humiliating their foes from down South. Atlanta's September losses didn't get the publicity that Boston's did, but it was devastatingly bad nonetheless. 

3. 2007 New York Mets

The performances by the Red Sox and Braves were worse than the Mets collapse in 2007. But that doesn't mean it wasn't brutal. After being a hit away from the World Series in 2006, the Mets were in first place for the majority of the season and looked poised to make another playoff run. Up seven games with 17 to play, the collapse began. New York went 14-14 in September and finished the last ten games with a 4-6 record. The Phillies, meanwhile, swept the Mets in a three-game series and finished the season 13-4. On the last day of the regular season, a win for the Mets would keep their season alive. Future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine started, but was unable to get out of the first inning and New York was down 7-0 before they even came to bat. They would lose 8-1. It's debatable what's worse: being eliminated from the playoffs via the blowout, or a nail-biting thriller. Personally, I'd take the heartbreaking close game. But maybe that's because the image of Glavine walking off the mound in the top of the first inning is still too fresh in my mind.

If last night's action doesn't get you excited for the playoffs, nothing will. Get your tickets at Charged.fm!


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