Friday, September 30, 2011
Posted: 30 Sep 2011 01:47 AM PDT
Whether or not the wild card should be extended, as is reportedly being considered for 2013, there's no doubt that it's here to stay.
And what better proof of the excitement it generates could there be than the Tampa Bay Rays' amazing comeback to seal the Wild Card spot in the American League?
Going into the 162nd and final game of the regular season, the Rays were left hoping that the sad-sack Orioles could pull off an improbable victory over their rivals, the Red Sox.
But when Tampa found themselves seven runs down to the Yankees at Tropicana Field, what was happening elsewhere seemed completely academic. People who bet on baseball would have expected a simple result.
Somehow, though, this team that refuses to accept defeat finally found a way to make it into the playoffs.
The Rays were nine games out as recently as September 4, facing the challenge of being the first team ever to come from so far back in the final month of the regular season.
But having given themselves a chance going into the final game with the Yankees, they were not about to roll over, regardless of the scoreline.
They were 5-0 down after two innings, and went into the eighth trailing by seven runs. Cue the comeback of all comebacks.
Luis Ayala loaded the bases with no outs, then saw Sam Fuld draw a walk to drive home their first run.
Sean Rodriguez got hit by a pitch to score the second, and B.J. Upton's sacrifice fly made it 7-3.
The man of the moment, though, was Evan Longoria, whose 30th home run of the season drove in three runs. Suddenly, there was a chance, and Dan Johnson's solo homer tied the game. Anyone following the baseball betting will have been amazed.
With one out in the 12th, the Tropicana Park scoreboard revealed Baltimore had beaten the Red Sox, meaning if the Rays could score one run they were in the post-season.
Longoria, again, was the key. He laced a 2-2 pitch from Scott Proctor over the short porch in left to give the Rays a walk-off win and a play-off spot. It's hard to imagine anything topping that.
Posted: 30 Sep 2011 01:38 AM PDT
When the San Francisco Giants beat the Texas Rangers to win the World Series in 2010, some people were left unconvinced.
Though they had won it all, the Giants had done so without any of the superstars of the game. They had confounded the experts by even making the playoffs, so to beat the Braves – with a sweep at Turner Field – in the Division Series was unexpected.
Beating the Phillies in the NLCS meant they got the chance for their first championship since 1954, when they were in New York.
And it was some of their largely-unheralded players, like rookie left-handed starter Madison Bumgarner and Freddy Sanchez, who were the heroes as they won the series 4-1. Those following the baseball betting will have been impressed.
But, not least when World Series MVP Edgar Renteria departed in the off-season, there were plenty of pundits who predicted that the Giants would be a one-season wonder.
The argument went that manager Bruce Bochy had put together a team where everything just clicked into place, and their individual talents were simply not up to repeating. People who bet on baseball agreed.
So the fact that the Giants did not make post-season in 2011 was not altogether unexpected.
The reasons for their failure lay with injuries and hitting.
When catcher Buster Posey suffered a season-ending injury on May 25, the Giants' chances of continuing their 2010 success began to slip away. Losing the reigning NL Rookie of the Year was bad enough, then 16 days later Sanchez hurt his shoulder and was likewise done for the year.
Hitting was a big problem with the Giants all year. Andres Torres' form dipped, Aubrey Huff stopped hitting home runs and Pat Burrell and Cody Ross were all below the standards they had set the previous year.
Two of the players with hot bats, Carlos Beltran and Pablo Sandoval, missed several weeks through injuries and their absences were felt badly.
There was little wrong with the Giants pitching, but the starters never got anything like enough run support. The team was 55-9 when scoring at least four runs, but with all the injuries they began to fall apart.
The crucial period was a 12-game homestand starting on August 23, nine against losing teams. But the light-hitting continued, with just 30 runs in that period, and they went 5-7 to lose six games in the standings to eventual champions Arizona.
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