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Baseball never disappoints. It came down to game 162, the final regular season game, to see who would be the last two wildcard teams in each of the American and National League. The Atlanta Braves were tied with the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League while the Boston Red Sox were tied with the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League.
In the event of a tie the teams would play game 163, a one game playoff, with the right to go to the postseason. The Braves lead the Cardinals by 8 ½ games with three weeks to play. The Cardinals played the Astros in Houston and the Braves would play the NL East Champion Phillies.
The Cardinals got it done early as they scored five runs in the top of the first inning. That was more than enough for their starting pitcher Chris Carpenter. After an up and down season for Carpenter, he was at his best when his team needed him most. He threw a complete game shut-out as the Cardinals won an easy 8-0.
The Braves had their best pitcher on the mound in Tim Hudson to start the game. He fought hard and came out of the game with his team leading with the score 3-2. Rookie closer Craig Kimbrel loaded the bases with Phillies in the top of the 9th. With one out, Chase Utley hit a sac fly to drive in the tying run.
They would go to the 13th inning where the Phillies Hunter Pence had a broken-bat RBI single to give them the lead. The weakness of the Braves showed as they could not buy a run. Rookie Freddie Freeman grounded into a double-play to end both the game and the Braves’ season.
Cardinals go on to play the Phillies in Philadelphia. The other two NL playoff teams, the Diamondbacks and Brewers, kick-off their postseason matchup in Milwaukee. The Boston Red Sox (who were favored by many to make it to the World Series!) lead the Tampa Bay Rays by 9 games at the start of September.
The Rays would play the AL East Champs, the New York Yankees. Boston would play the lowly but gritty Orioles to extend their season. The Red Sox and Orioles played a close game throughout. Boston was one out away from putting the Orioles away. Manager Buck Showalter’s team showed heart and played as if it was their World Series.
With two out and nobody on they rallied with back-to-back doubles off closer Jonathan Papelbon to tie the game 3-3. The next batter Robert Andino would drop a single in front of Carl Crawford for a walk-off to win the game. The Rays put themselves in an early hole by going down 7-0 with David Price on the mound.
Tampa would put together one of the most improbable comebacks. With only six out left in their season and still down 7-0 they would load the bases with nobody out. After a walk, hit batter, an out, and a sac fly out the Rays cut the lead to 7-3. Two outs and two on the Rays Evan Longoria bombs a homerun and cuts the deficit to one.
In the bottom of the ninth the Rays were down to their final strike and pinch-hitter Dan Johnson at the plate. He hit a game-tying homerun to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Rays were one out into the 12th inning and Evan Longoria again at the plate. Just three minutes after it was declared that the Red Sox had lost, Longoria hit his second homer of the game to send Tampa to the postseason to play the defending AL Champion Rangers.
The Detroit Tigers visit the Yankees for their postseason matchup. Wednesday, September 28th saw two of the greatest collapses in baseball history. The Braves were 9-18 in September while the Cardinals finished 23-8 in their final 31 games. Boston went 7-20 and the Rays were 17-10 in September.