Baseball closes with an incredible night

matt-kemp-crop.jpgIf you don't follow baseball, here are the highlights you need to know to appreciate how your friends, spouse, squeeze or co-workers are feeling after "the most shocking, unbelievable, thrilling night in baseball history," as ESPN columnist David Schoenfield wrote.

The Boston Red Sox, a great team in recent years, were safely in the playoffs as of Sept. 3. For the rest of the month, the Sox played worse than the worst team in history. Still, they had one last chance — if they won tonight. The Sox led with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Baltimore Orioles were down to their last strike. Boston lost.

"The most colossal September collapse the sport has ever seen," Schoenfield wrote.

The Tampa Bay Rays were so-so most of the season. But still: if they beat the first-place Yankees tonight, and the Red Sox lost, Tampa would make the playoffs. When the Rays fell behind 7-0 to the Yankees, it didn't look good. But with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Tampa Bay's weakest hitter came off the bench to slug a home run and tie the game. "Maybe the most dramatic, clutch pinch-hit home run in history," Schoenfield wrote.

Minutes after the Red Sox lost in Baltimore, Tampa Bay's best hitter belted a walk-off home run to win the game and put his team in the playoffs.

Also tonight, the Atlanta Braves became "the first team in major league history to squander a lead of at least eight games for a playoff spot in September." And the St. Louis Cardinals completed a milestone comeback to get in the playoffs.

"We spent the past three weeks sweating and cheering every home run, wild pitch, bad call, bullpen blow-up, broken bat, diving catch, clutch hit, rally-killing groundout, triple play and rookie from Yale. Then this night happened, a gift from the baseball gods," Schoenfield wrote.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers finished with two great stories to wash the taste of the McCourts out of fans' mouths. Matt Kemp tonight became the first Dodger in 70 years to lead the league in home runs and RBIs, and he also led in runs scored. Clayton Kershaw finished with the best record of any pitcher in the league, leading in ERA and strikeouts and tied for the most wins.

Photo of Matt Kemp by Jill Weisleder / Dodgers


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