September 28th should be a national holiday all across the country, except maybe Boston. It's been 10 years since that awesome night of baseball that concluded the regular season. It was madness all around the league. You had a few playoff spots still up for grabs so there was plenty to play for.
The Red Sox needed a win vs Baltimore AND a Rays loss to the Yankees to get in. And over in the NL, the Braves and Cardinals were tied for the one and only NL Wild Card spot so they were both scoreboard watching and trying to avoid a one game playoff. The Rays and Sox also had a chance to play a one game playoff, but with Jon Lester on the mound there's no way the Sox would lose to the Orioles, right? You had aces on the mounds trying to will their teams into the playoffs after 161 grueling games, very fitting that these all came down to game 162. Best night of baseball ever. A+ move starting all these games right around the same time, made for an unreal finish.
There is so much that happened in those final games, it was incredible. The Yankees jumping out to a 6-0 lead in Tampa, the Sox going up early, the Cardinals boatracing the Astros, the Braves and Phillies battling in extras, Chris Carpenter throwing a complete game shutout for the Cards, the rain coming in Baltimore, the Rays storming back and tying it in the 9th with 2 outs. It was like a movie with all these games ending like they did but the Orioles - Red Sox and Yankees - Rays were easily the best endings of them all.
Sox were leading 3-2 with the tarp on the field in the 7th as the Rays were clawing back. The O's got the Sox out of a jam in the 9th and went into the final frame of the season down 1, Sox win and the Rays lose and the Sox were in. True story, Jared Carrabis was in Camden Yards with a bottle of champagne ready to celebrate. Meanwhile the Braves were going into the 13th trying to win that game. Just madness all around the league, you couldn't script this.
Jonathan Papelbon got 2 quick Ks to start the 9th and it looked like Boston was on its away to the playoffs. Chris Davis doubled down the right field, Nolan Reimold smoked a ball to center for a ground rule double to tie the game in the 9th. And then we all know what happened next.
The Curse Of The Andino was born. Robert Andino, the most average, middle of the road utility guy you could find was at the plate vs Papelbon and lines a ball into left field. Carl Crawford tries to make a sliding play on it and can't. Botches the catch, picks it up and throws home but it's too late. Orioles walk off the Red Sox and the Birds go NUTS. This sent the Sox walking into the clubhouse with their tails between their legs and having to suck it up and watch the Yankees - Rays game to see if the Yanks could pull this one out. There couldn't have been more than 5 real minutes between the end of the Orioles - Sox game and Evan Longoria stepping up to the plate in Tampa.
Scott Proctor strikes out BJ Upton to bring up Longo in the 12th and it would end pretty quickly from there. Longoria stings this one down the left field line, the shortest part of the ballpark with the shortest fence EVER. Ball flies over for a solo shot over the 3 foot high wall, ballgame. Rays are into the playoffs, Sox are eliminated, chaos ensues. 327 foot homer for Longo, 327 feet! Insane how these games all ended, this was such a great night of baseball. It gave us everything we wanted. Chaos, walk offs, eliminations, come from behind wins, closers blowing saves, rain delays, it was awesome. We will never see anything like it again.
This ended up being Terry Francona's last game as manager for the Sox. We all know what came out with the chicken and beer stories so that didn't end great. This was an epic collapse by Boston, they had a 9 game lead for the Wild Card and went 7-20 in September. Choke, what a god awful choke. Meanwhile, the Orioles would use this as a launching pad to make the Wild Card Playoff game in 2012 and go on to have a really good next 5 seasons. The rest of the playoffs weren't too exciting, we got a few good series but this game 162 was really the cherry on top of the 2011 season. Watching it live was unbelievable, you couldn't make this stuff up or script it any better.
PS. All time video here with Dan Shaughnessy getting every one of his predictions wrong during the rain delay in Baltimore. Good calls, Dan.