Even in this wonderful country many of your own neighbors and colleagues see America’s pastime as a boring game with unbearably long seasons. On Wednesday night, the baseball gods decided to shut up all of those jaded doubters and turn them into believers.
What looked to be a good night of baseball, sure to set up one or two wild card tiebreaker games on Thursday, ended up as a block of hours that most fans won’t soon forget. Four teams in two leagues vied for only two spots into the postseason, and the stories looked very similar on both sides. The Red Sox and the Braves had looked good for most of the season and seemed to have a grip on the Wild Card slot in their respective leagues.
At the end of August, the Rays had seemingly gone with the youth movement and started playing for next season while the Cardinals’ trade of Colby Rasmus and bullpen changes seemed ill-fated more times than not. Somehow both front-runners managed to squander huge leads with a month left as their co-contenders found a way to win down the stretch. Those declines and surges came to fruition on Wednesday night in the following order: Cardinals win big, Braves blow the lead and lose in extra innings, the Carl Crawford mistake comes full circle as he fails to catch the winning line drive, and Evan Longoria hits a sneaky ball over the shortest fence in the majors.
Now we have the postseason upon us tonight, so let’s look at both leagues in quest of that trophy with all of the pennants on it.
- Obvious Favorite: New York Yankees
- The Yankees are in this position because they expect to be there, and so do their fans and the media. They are a seasoned bunch and their starting rotation has been a surprise to many who felt it would be their downfall against suitors like Boston. You can make a strong case for the Texas Rangers here
- Hottest Team: Detroit Tigers
- The Tigers went 20-6 in September, and they seem to have a lot of good energy on their side. It also doesn’t hurt to have the best pitcher in baseball going in game one either, as Justin Verlander looks to win his 25th game of the season against the Yankees.
- Player To Watch: Jose Valverde
- He is 49 for 49 in save attempts this year, and now faces the most feared and decorated closer of all time in Mariano Rivera.
- Regular Season Records
- Texas beat the Rays five games to four
- Detroit beat the Yankees four games to three
- Obvious Favorite: Philadelphia Phillies
- The Phillies were anointed the champions before the season even began, and their play backed up that hype in every way. They won 102 games, and their rotation became even stronger than expected with the rookie phenom Vance Worley.
- Hottest Team: St. Louis Cardinals
- The Cardinals finished September with an 18-8 record, overtaking the Braves on the last day of the season. This team has benefited greatly from veteran acquisitions like Lance Berkman, Nick Punto and Octavio Dotel. Their clubhouse is very cohesive at the moment and they seem to have that energy and fire that can only be forged by being the underdog. While that may seem the case against the league’s best team, three of those September wins came at the expense of the Phillies in a four game series in Philadelphia.
- Player To Watch: Prince Fielder
- Money, money, money. He has plenty of it, but Prince is looking to cash in big during the off-season and what better a stage to do so than the playoffs. His team is primed for a playoff run, and his play and attitude will determine their success and the deal that he signs in the winter.
- Regular Season Records
- Diamondbacks beat the Brewers four games to three
- Cardinals beat the Phillies six games to three