Thursday, September 29, 2011

Agony in Atlanta, Bummer in Beantown as Cardinals, Rays Win Wild Cards

Players of the Day for Wednesday, September 28, 2011

American League

It was only fitting that Boston's September swoon get all the way to two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth inning before finally slipping away. The Red Sox bullpen had been in a sorry state of affairs month-long, and the season ended with closer Jonathan Papelbon hunched on the mound, watching helplessly as Nolan Reimold slid into home plate with the winning run for Baltimore, sending the Red Sox to their ninth loss in its last 11 games.

Moments later, Evan Longoria snuck a line drive over the short wall just inside the left field foul pole to complete a miraculous comeback from a 7-0 deficit to defeat the New York Yankees and capture the AL Wild Card. Boston would head home to witness the playoffs as spectators after going 7-20 in September, blowing a nine-game lead in the wild card card race.

The Rays and Red Sox entered the final day of the regular season tied for the final playoff spot, and, for a while, it appeared as though the Red Sox would hang on t a 3-2 lead in Baltimore as the Yankees were putting a hurting on Tampa, leading the Rays, 7-0 through eight innings.

It was not to be. While the Rays were scoring six runs in the eighth and one in the ninth to tie the Yankees at 7-7, the Red Sox and Orioles sat through a long rain delay in Baltimore, stopping their game in the middle of the seventh inning.

Longoria: 2 HRs send
Rays into playoffs
Boston's relievers clung to the 3-2 lead until the ninth when Papelbon came on for the save. After getting two outs in order, Papelbon surrendered a two-strike double to Chris Davis, followed by a ground rule double to center by Reimold that tied the game. When Robert Andino stroked a single to left that eluded a sliding Carl Craford, Reimold circled third and headed for the plate.

It wasn't close. The collapse was complete, the drama ended, as the Orioles won, 4-3.

The crowd at Tropicana Field erupted into a loud cheer when they saw the final score go up on the scoreboard. Evan Longoria stepped to the plate with the bases empty and one out in the bottom of the 12th inning. Earlier, Longoria socked an 8th inning three-run homer to get the Rays to within a run of the Yankees, as they scored six times in the frame. Dan Johnson hooked a drive just inside the right field foul pole with two outs in the bottom of the 9th to tie the game and send it into extra innings.

Longoria connected off the 11th Yankee pitcher of the night, Scott Proctor. His screaming line drive cleared the short wall in left field and his teammates greetd him at home plate as he rounded the bases with the walk-off, 8-7 winner, and a trip to Texas for the Rays, to face the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs.

Tampa Bay will travel to Texas to face the Rangers in the first of their five game series beginning Friday afternoon at 5:07 pm EDT. The Yankees will host Detroit on Friday to begin their five game series with the Tigers. Game time is 8:37 pm EDT.

National League

Carpenter's 2-hit
shutout wins wild card
The National League offered just a little less drama. The Cardinals and Braves entered the day tied for the wild card spot, but St. Louis jumped all over Houston early, scoring five runs in the first inning to back the two-hit shutout thrown by Chris Carpenter in their 8-0 victory, securing at least a one-game playoff with the Braves.

Carpenter (11-9) was brilliant, throwing 76 of 105 pitches for strikes, walking one and striking out 11.

For most of their game, it looked as though the Braves would survive against the Phillies and face the Cards on Thursday, but the Phillies chipped into their 3-1 lead with a run in the 7th and tied it on Chase Utley's sac fly in the 9th.

The game wore on into the 13th inning, the Phillies having used nine pitchers. The Braves' eighth pitcher, Scott Linebrink, took the mound to start the 13th, but, after getting one out, walked B. Schneider and then got Jimmy Rollins to fly out to center for the second out. Chase Utley singled, sending Schneider to third and Hunter Pence delivered a single to right, plating Schneider with the go-ahead run.

Atlanta went meekly in the bottom of the inning. Chipper Jones struck out swinging for the first out, but Dan Uggla walked to give the Braves hope. The next batter, Freddie Freeman, grounded into a game-ending 3-6-3 double play, ending the Braves' season with a 4-3 loss, sending the Cardinals into the playoffs.

Atlanta's September was nearly as ugly as that of the Red Sox. The Braves won nine games but lost 18 during the month, surrendering a September 6th, 8 1/2 game lead to the Cardinals, who closed out the season with a 16-5 run.

St. Louis will play at Philadelphia on Saturday to open their five game series. Milwaukee hosts West division champion Arizona in the other five game series, also beginning on Saturday. Game times have yet to be announced.

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