When history looks back on the baseball games of last Wednesday night, the Red Sox/Orioles game in Baltimore and the Yankees/Rays game in Tampa will receive the lion’s share of the attention. The endings of the games were weirdly synchronized with each other, in a way that Hollywood would never be able to script.
But it does go beyond that, too. The sports establishment–and by that I mean ESPN–seems to have a vested interest in keeping the focus on the Red Sox and the Yankees as much as they can. Fans of those teams will deny it, of course, or perhaps they’ll just tell you they’re the two best teams, anyway.
The baseball media world was praying for the Yankees and Red Sox to meet in the playoffs, so they could bandy the word “epic” around a few hundred more times than they already have over the years. But fate intervened, between Papelbon’s meltdown, Longoria’s bat, and an inexplicable quirk in the left field wall at the Trop. So no heaping dish of Yankees/Red Sox epicness this year. Sorry.
Then, as an afterthought, the Braves’ loss to the Phillies may get some discussion, especially since the game went into extra innings. They’ll mention the Braves collapse (but quickly point out that Boston’s was bigger), and probably leave it at that.
The game that will be largely ignored, though, is the one that was played in Houston that same night. And as much drama as the other three games, the fourth one was devoid of any drama at all, thanks to a five-run first by the Cardinals and the pitching brilliance of Chris Carpenter. And the Astros being the worst team in baseball, of course.
I’m not sure why Carpenter even took the mound to begin with. A big lead over an inferior opponent, what could go wrong? Injuries, that’s what. Why not just give him the night off, or let him throw five token innings to pad his 2011 win total? Saving him for the one-game playoff against the Braves–if necessary–also made a lot of sense. But it was Carpenter’s turn to pitch, and he went out and threw a two-hit complete game shutout. Unbelievable.
It was great for my fantasy team, which features Carpenter as one of the starters (Jon Lester, Johnny Cueto, and an ever-changing cast of characters are the others). A complete game shutout was the next best thing to a no-hitter in my league, and that’s probably why I paid any attention to it at all.
But Carpenter’s gem put the pressure squarely on the Braves. They already had the collapse on their minds, and seeing that the Cardinals were cruising to an easy win only made it worse. The Braves took it down to the wire, and beyond, even, but one great collapse deserves another, doesn’t it?