Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Talk about a WILD Card Race

I don't care who your team is, what's transpiring in both the American and National League Wild Card races right now is EXCITING. Barring a ridiculous comeback by the Astros right now (it's 9-6 St. Louis in the bottom of the 8th as I type this), we're going to head into the final day of the regular season with both races tied up. Today was just another wild ride too. Let's recap.
Photo Credit: zimbio.com

You've got Tampa Bay taking on the Yankees and jumping out to an early 2-0 lead on Ben Zobrist's 20th home run of the season. Tampa's gotta be feeling great, but the Yankees aren't exactly rolling over in this series and before you know it, the Yankees are ahead 3-2, and they have the bases loaded and nobody out with Russell Martin, who already homered in the game, at the plate. (not to change the subject, but Allen Craig just hit a 3-run home run for St. Louis, 12-6 Cardinals)

So yeah, bases loaded, nobody out. Best case scenario, you're thinking one run scores, right? If you ever thought that the deck was stacked against the Red Sox, this play epitomizes that thought. Russell Martin's groundball goes right to Evan Longoria who is standing on third base and starts your run-of-the-mill 5-4-3 triple play. A TRIPLE PLAY! Seriously??? So Tampa Bay gets out of the jam still down just 3-2. Fast forward to the bottom of the 7th. Enter Tampa's closer from the 2010 season, Rafael Soriano. Soriano saved 45 games for the Rays last season with a 1.73 ERA allowing just 36 hits in 62 1/3 innings. He left for more money in the offseason though taking a deal worth $35M over 3 years with New York. 2011 hasn't been great for him though, but that's a story for another blog. So here you the have ex-Ray Soriano facing the heart of the Tampa lineup. B.J. Upton leads off the inning with a walk. Evan Longoria falls behind 0 and 2 before working himself a walk, and that set the stage for unlikely hero, Matt Joyce. The 27 year old deposited Soriano's 1-0 delivery into the right field bleachers to put the Rays ahead 5-3, and the bullpen took over from there. And for a brief moment the Rays actually had the LEAD in the wildcard race.
Photo Credit: baynews9.com

Meanwhile, in Baltimore, the Red Sox had to endure yet another subpar performance from one of their starting pitchers. Erik Bedard, the former Oriole, lasted just 3 1/3 innings forcing the Sox to lean heavily on their bullpen once more. But the Sox were picked up by a pair of unlikely heroes tonight. Alfredo Aceves, the 28 year old middle reliever, shut down the O's offense between the 4th and 7th innings and rookie 3rd string catcher Ryan Lavernway hit not one, but two home runs, the first two home runs of his career, and the Sox held on for an 8-7 win. Daniel Bard got touched up for 2 more runs as he's seen his ERA jump from 2.03 on August 31st to 3.38 after tonight, and Jonathan Papelbon put the tying run in scoring position in the 9th, but a win is a win is a win. Let's face it though, things just don't feel right for Boston. The Rays are getting all of these breaks, and Boston is dealing with guys on last place teams making plays like this one when the Sox load the bases!
Photo Credit: zimbio.com

So now it all comes down to the last day of the regular season. Boston will start Jon Lester on short rest and the Rays will turn to David Price. No pressure.

Now in the National League, the Braves are doing their best Boston impression dropping yet another game to the Phillies, and this time it wasn't even close. Derek Lowe was knocked out of the game in the 5th and lost for the 17th time this year. Has there ever been a pitcher to lose more games on a team with this many wins in the modern era? Even ex-Red Sox are cursed right now it seems. Unless you count Johnny Damon. He seems to be doing all right. Anyway... the Braves got hammered by Roy Oswalt and Philadelphia. Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Hunter Pence all homered and the Braves were done from the start. At least the Braves can turn the ball over to Tim Hudson tomorrow. The team leader in wins (16) and ERA (3.23) will take the hill against the Phillies in what has now become a must-win game for the Braves thanks to the DisASTROS.
Photo Credit: blogs.ajc.com

There's a reason Houston set a franchise record in losses this season. Tonight they took an early 5-0 lead against the Cardinals and still managed to lose. And not just lose, lose by a LOT. St. Louis outscored the Astros 13-1 over the final six innings as St. Louis hammered out 17 hits and evened things up in the National League. The Astros kill me sometimes. Figures they'd go and do this after I talked them up all day today. Come on, guys! And now St. Louis will send their ace to the mound tomorrow in their must-win game. Well, Chris Carpenter might not be the ACE anymore, but he's still the guy you think of when you think Cardinals pitching (apologies to the injured Adam Wainwright, but Carpenter's been doing it longer). Carpenter will be opposed by Brett Myers as the Astros will try and get their 57th win...
Photo Credit: blog.chron.com

So here we go. One day left, and the 4 contending teams are going with Jon Lester (2-time all star), David Price (2 time all star), Chris Carpenter (3-time all star, 1 Cy Young) and Tim Hudson (3-time all star). As Terrell Owens would say, get your popcorn ready.

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