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Ben's Babbles: Last day of baseball playoff races simply awesome

October 1, 2011

That...was...Awe…some.

After watching the final day of the major league baseball season in which the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays erased huge gaps to make the playoff, those were the only words I could come up with.

Switching between four games on my satellite radio, iPhone and laptop, I had no rooting interest, but was absolutely captivated by the drama unfolding.

The Tampa Bay Rays entered the final week of the season pretty much needing a miracle to make the playoffs. They as many as they needed with a triple play against the New York Yankees in the penultimate game, then rallied from a 7-0 deficit to tie the final game with the Yankees in the ninth.

Meanwhile the Boston Red Sox, which at the beginning of September had a 99.6 percent chance of making the playoffs, just needed one out to ensure at the very least they would play an extra game to make it in. I'm not making that 99.6 percent up either; it's the actual figure from coolstandings.com, which calculates sports playoff chances.

I actually switched the Tampa Bay game off with them trailing 7-0 after a marketing executive visited the radio booth to promote tickets for a play-in game the next day.

Now that was starry-eyed optimism, I thought. Little did I know what was about to happen.

At 12:01 a.m. EST Robert Andino of the Baltimore Orioles blooped a single to left field and the Orioles rallied to beat the Red Sox with two runs with two out in the bottom of the ninth.

Four minutes later those 99.6 percent odds finished their nosedive to zero as Evan Longoria capped the Rays' rally with a line drive extra innings home run to send them to the playoffs.

Call it the return of the Goat, the revenge of Bill Buckner or just God playing favorites; the collapse was epic right through its gut-rending conclusion.

Finally, after seven long years all the Red Sox "fans" who had no idea their team existed before 2004 and think Sweet Caroline is the epitome of all musical thought, know the pain of the diehards who suffered heartbreak after heartbreak for nearly a hundred years.

A few hundred miles to the south, nearly ignored in the tidal wave of angst over the Boston collapse, the Atlanta Braves completed a nearly as impressive swoon, blowing a 9½-game lead at the start of September with a loss to Philadelphia.

St. Louis, the team which ran them down in September despite injuries to several key players, was the only team to actually let its fans not have a heart attack with a 7-0 two-hit shutout of the pitiful Houston Astros.

I don't feel sorry for the Red Sox or their fans; the Braves, on the other hand, I can't help but feel bad for.

"Even in epic collapses we finish last," one fan wrote on a sports blog Thursday morning.

It may have been a bad day to be a fan of the Red Sox and Braves, but not a bad day to be a sports fan.

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