Plenty of wild card upsets in final night of MLB's regular season
Tampa Bay vs. NY Yankees
ST. PETERSBURG — This wasn't just a special September for the Tampa Bay Rays. It was magical.
The Rays not only rallied from a huge deficit in the wild card standings, but on the final night of the regular season, came back from a seven-run deficit to make the postseason — thanks to the power of Evan Longoria and Dan Johnson
Tampa Bay's 8-7 win in 12 innings over the AL East-champion New York Yankees, coupled with Boston's final-inning collapse at Baltimore, boosted the Rays into the playoffs as the wild card team.
Longoria's three-run homer highlighted a six-run eighth inning and Johnson's pinch-hit homer tight to the line in right field on a 2-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth tied the game.
After the Rays escaped a big jam in the top of the 12th, Longoria took a one-out, 2-2 pitch from Scott Proctor (0-3) on a line barely over the short wall in left, near the foul pole, to send the Rays to the postseason.
The crowd went crazy a few minutes earlier after learning the O's scored twice in the ninth off usually-solid closer Jonathan Papelbon to beat the Red Sox, 4-3.
With Tampa Bay (91-71) and the Red Sox entering the final night even in the standings, the scenario was set for the Rays to make history on Wednesday, and they did. They wiped out a nine-game deficit in the wild card race, starting September 4. No team had ever overcome that many games in September to get to the postseason.
"I love what the Rays do and create a first within the organization, but now we've done something as a first for Major League Baseball," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It's all on the guys, it's all on the coaches. If you're with us on a daily basis, the work routine, the camaraderie, the coaches preparation is outstanding. That's how we're able to overcome a nine-game deficit going into September."
The Rays begin their best-of-five Division Series against the Texas Rangers in Arlington at 5:07 p.m. (et) on Friday. It'll be a rematch from the ALDS from 2010 when the Rangers won in five games.
The Yankees (97-65) will head to the playoffs hosting the AL Central-champion Detroit Tigers on Friday at 8:37 p.m. (et) in that best-of-five Division Series.
Meanwhile, the Rays are trying to follow in the footsteps of an incredible story from 2010. On the final day of that season, the Giants beat the Padres to win the NL West. San Francisco went on to win the World Series.
The Rays looked dead in the water facing a seven-run deficit thanks to a pair of Mark Teixeira home runs, including a grand slam.
"Fans should be excited this was one of the best days in baseball's history," Teixeira said. "Every game tonight all across baseball seemed like it mattered. There were some great finishes."
However, the team made a huge rally in the eighth. Luis Ayala walked pinch- hitter Sam Fuld with the bases full and then hit Sean Rodriguez with a pitch. B.J. Upton's sacrifice fly scored Casey Kotchman, but that was the second out. Longoria then homered on a first offering to left-center field, his 30th of the season.
"The runs in the eighth were the big ones. That really lifted us up," Longoria said.
Then in the ninth, Cory Wade, New York's 10th pitcher, got Johnson in a 2-2 count, but he hit just his second homer of the year as the ball sneaked inside the right field foul pole.
The Yankees wasted a chance with two men on in the 10th and 12th, while the Rays stranded a pair in the 10th. In fact, New York had men at first and third with nobody out in the 12th, but with Jake McGee (5-2) on the mound, Jorge Posada grounded to Longoria, who tagged out Greg Golson before he could get back to the third base bag. McGee retired the next two batters, setting up the incredible finish.
David Price gave up six hits and six runs — five earned — over four innings in the start for the Rays, while Dellin Betances allowed a hit over the first two innings in his first big league start for New York.
The Rays were in trouble immediately. Curtis Granderson singled with one out in the first and stole second with two down. The Rays should have been out of the inning when Robinson Cano grounded a ball to second baseman Ben Zobrist, but it never corralled it and Granderson scored standing up.
Tampa Bay stranded two men in the bottom of the frame, and the Yankees widened the margin thanks to Teixeira's seventh career grand slam in the second. Eduardo Nunez doubled, Brandon Laird singled and Derek Jeter walked, all with one out. Grandson popped out, but Teixeira's 38th homer of the year, a shot to left-center on a 1-0 pitch made it 5-0.
Both teams stranded a runner at third in the following frame and Teixeira homered to left in the fourth. Andruw Jones went deep tight to the line in left with one out in the fifth against Juan Cruz.
Detroit vs. Cleveland
DETROIT — Jhonny Peralta launched a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning to propel the Detroit Tigers over the Cleveland Indians, 5-4, to close out the regular season for both teams.
Although the Tigers got the win, the Rangers defeated the Angels 3-1 on Wednesday night to secure the No. 2 seed in the American League playoffs.
Detroit opens postseason play Friday night at 8:37 p.m. (et) at New York. The two teams last met in the playoffs in the 2006 ALDS, when the Tigers defeated the Yankees in four games.
Ryan Perry (2-0) came on in the top of the eighth with a 4-3 lead and allowed the game-tying run to score, but still picked up the win for the Tigers, who finished the season 95-67. They won their last four contests and five of six to close the year.
Jose Valverde finished the regular season 49-for-49 in saves as he closed the door in the ninth.
Vinnie Pestano (1-2) gave up the go-ahead homer to Peralta to absorb the loss for the Indians, who concluded the year with a 80-82 mark. They finished the season with four straight losses.
The Indians struck first in the third when Ezequiel Carrera tripled to left to score Matt LaPorta, who reached with a one-out walk.
Jack Hannahan slapped an RBI single to left to plate Asdrubal Cabrera in the top of the fourth. Wilson Betemit then committed a throwing error on Laporta's grounder, allowing Travis Hafner to score, as the Indians grabbed a 3-0 advantage.
Delmon Young led off the home fourth with a single to center and advanced to third on a fielding error by Carrera. Victor Martinez brought him home with an RBI single to right.
Miguel Cabrera, Martinez and Alex Avila started off the sixth with three consecutive singles to make it a 3-2 game, before Peralta hit a game-tying sacrifice fly to left.
After Betemit laced a leadoff triple off the right field wall to start the home seventh, pinch-runner Danny Worth scored on a wild pitch to give the Tigers a 4-3 lead.
Hafner poked a one-out double to left in the eighth, while Carlos Santana and Shelly Duncan walked to load the bases. Hannahan lifted a sacrifice fly to right to even the score once again.
LA Angels vs. Texas
ANAHEIM — Mike Napoli burned his former team for a second straight night on Wednesday, helping the Rangers get home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The catcher blasted two home runs, including the go-ahead two-run shot in the top of the ninth in the final game of the regular season in a 3-1 win over the Angels.
The AL West-champion Rangers (96-66) finished a game ahead of the AL Central- champion Detroit Tigers for the second-best mark. Texas will face the American League wild card winners, the Tampa Bay Rays, on Friday.
"It's a great feeling. We parted ways, of course I wanted to do well against them," Napoli said of his success against the Angels. "I was excited that I was dealt here. I couldn't have ended up in a better place. We're playing good baseball. We get to go home and start the playoffs."
The Rangers also established a new franchise record for most wins in a season.
Mike Adams (2-3) worked a scoreless eighth and Neftali Feliz worked around a double in the ninth to nail down his 32nd save to close out the season.
Adrian Beltre and Michael Young added hits for the Rangers, who won six straight to finish off the season.
Jordan Walden (5-5) was tagged with the loss after yielding Napoli's homer, while rookie Mike Trout had two hits for the Angels (86-76), who lost their final four games of the season.
Young began the rally in the ninth with a one-out single and after a pop out by Beltre, Napoli followed with his homer, a monster shot that just hugged the inside of the left field foul pole and landed three rows deep in the bleachers.
"Napoli's swinging the bat well," Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said. "His home run power doesn't shock us. He's one of my friends and I love playing against him."
Texas opened the scoring in the second inning when Napoli blasted his first homer of the game, a two-out solo shot off Angels starter Garrett Richards to dead center field for his 29th home run of the season.
The Angels got the tying run into scoring position in the home half of the frame when Vernon Wells singled and moved to second on a groundout by Alberto Callaspo. LA was unable to score however, as Rangers starter Matt Harrison caught Jeremy Moore looking at strike three and got Bobby Wilson to pop out to end the inning.
Wilson led off the home fifth with a double to center, moved to third on a groundout by Efren Navarro and trotted home on a sacrifice fly by Gil Velazquez to tie the game.
Texas got the go-ahead run into scoring position in the eighth when Nelson Cruz walked and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by David Murphy. Ian Kinsler was intentionally walked to put two men on, but Texas was unable to cash in, as Elvis Andrus grounded out to second to end the threat.
San Diego vs. Chicago Cubs
SAN DIEGO — Wade LeBlanc threw seven strong innings and the Padres ended a woeful 2011 season on a high note with a 9-2 rout of the Chicago Cubs.
Will Venable clubbed a grand slam and Nick Hundley added a three-run homer, both off Ryan Dempster. This season was a near reversal of last year for the Padres (71-91), who actually won eight of their last 12 games, but still finished in last place in the NL West.
In 2010, San Diego was 90-72, but this year produced a fifth straight season without making the playoffs.
LeBlanc (5-6) allowed five hits and a pair of runs.
The 2011 season for the Cubs (71-91) was a breakout one for Starlin Castro. The 21-year-old shortstop became the youngest player in NL history to top the league in hits with 207.
Dempster (10-14), who was charged with eight hits and a season-high nine runs over 5 2/3 innings, lost his last six decisions.
LeBlanc doubled in the third and scored on Cameron Maybin's double to left field. Maybin stole third, and two batters later Hundley homered to left field.
Tony Campana singled in Jeff Baker in the fourth, but the Padres got a run back in the bottom half thanks to a Castro fielding error when he bobbled the ball on a grounder by Andy Parrino.
Castro had a sacrifice fly in the fifth, but the Padres made it a rout in the sixth. Parrino and LeBlanc singled before Maybin walked, leading to Venable's first career grand slam, a shot to left-center.
Castro reached base safely in his final 40 games...Maybin stole his 40th base of the season in the third inning. He is the ninth Padre to steal 40-or-more bases in a season, the 13th time it's happened for San Diego and first since first base coach Dave Roberts stole 49 in 2006...Chicago's Steve Clevenger pinch-hit in the fifth inning and came up with a single, his first major league hit.
St Louis vs. Houston
HOUSTON — It came down to the final day of the regular season, but the Cardinals finally overcame the Braves and are headed to the playoffs.
Behind Chris Carpenter's second shutout of the season, St. Louis blanked the Houston Astros, 8-0, at Minute Maid Park. The Cardinals then waited in the visitor's clubhouse and watched on television as the Philadelphia Phillies topped Atlanta, 4-3, in 13 innings.
That loss by the Braves gave the Cardinals the National League wild card spot and a trip to Philadelphia to face the NL East-champion Phillies on Saturday in Game 1 of their Division Series.
St. Louis (90-72) had erased a 10 1/2-game deficit for the NL wild card and came into Wednesday's contest was even with the Braves.
Carpenter (11-9) gave up just two hits and a walk with a season-high 11 strikeouts.
"You just concern yourself with playing and next thing you know you turn around and you're right up there," said Carpenter about St. Louis' post-season push. "We have guys in this clubhouse that know what needs to be done and we've all done it here."
Skip Schumaker drove in two runs while David Freese went 2-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored for the Cardinals, who won four of their final five games of the regular season.
Brett Myers (7-14) was pounded for seven runs — six earned — on 10 hits with a walk and three strikeouts over five innings for the Astros (56-106), who completed their worst season ever.
The Cardinals did most of their damage in the first inning as the first five batters had hits with singles from Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman each scoring a run while Freese doubled home Pujols. After a groundout, Schumaker brought home Berkman with an infield hit and Nick Punto followed with a single to left for a 5-0 lead.
Carpenter helped his cause in the third with an RBI single for a 6-0 lead.
Schumaker brought home Freese with a groundout in the fifth.
Carpenter set down the first 10 batters he faced before a single from Jose Altuve with one out in the fourth.
Houston's only threat in the game came in the sixth with a single from J.B. Shuck and a walk from Altuve with two outs. J.D. Martinez then grounded out to end the frame.
Allen Craig homered in the ninth off Lance Pendleton.
Milwaukee vs. Pittsburgh
MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers wrapped up the best regular season in franchise history and secured home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 7-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The NL Central-champion Brewers finished 96-66 to set a club record while edging the Diamondbacks for the No. 2 seed in the National League.
Zack Greinke (16-6) threw six quality innings to go undefeated at home in his first season in Milwaukee. He allowed two runs on five hits.
Carlos Gomez hit a three-run homer while Corey Hart and Jonathan Lucroy added solo blasts for the Brewers, who will start Yovani Gallardo in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against either the Braves or Diamondbacks.
Jeff Locke (0-3) allowed three homers and five runs in a four-inning start for Pittsburgh, which was in first place in the Central in mid-July but tripped to a disappointing 72-90 record.
Minnesota vs. Kansas City
MINNEAPOLIS — Trevor Plouffe's RBI single in the bottom of the ninth sent Minnesota past Kansas City, 1-0, in the season finale for both clubs.
Carl Pavano (9-13) tossed a five-hit shutout for the Twins (63-99), who took the final two games in the series and avoided their first 100-loss season since 1982.
"I'm disappointed right now, but happy that we only lost 99 games," said Pavano. "It's a lot better than dropping 100. We went through a lot of transition, injuries throughout the lineup. We need to work hard this offseason and get ready for next year."
Blake Wood (5-3) surrendered the deciding run in the ninth.
Bruce Chen tossed eight scoreless frames, allowing eight hits and two walks with four strikeouts for the Royals (71-91), who concluded the year having split their last 10 contests.
"We made progress defensively, offensively, on the bases . . . and pretty much in the month of September we made progress on the pitching side, too," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "We're coming to spring training in as good a shape as we've been in a long time."
In the Twins' final at-bat, Denard Span connected for a one-out pinch-hit double, moved to third on a Ben Revere groundout and came home when Plouffe followed with a base hit.
Minnesota left two on in the third when Michael Cuddyer grounded out, then did the same in the sixth with one down after Rene Tosoni popped out and Luke Hughes lined out.
Pavano stranded a man on third in the eighth after getting Alcides Escobar on a grounder to third. Chen left runners on the corners in the bottom of the eighth by inducing a fly to center from Hughes.
NY Mets vs. Cincinnati
FLUSHING, NY — Miguel Batista tossed his first shutout since 2006, a two-hitter, and the New York Mets closed out the regular season with a 3-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Citi Field.
The 40-year-old Batista (5-2) walked two and struck out five for the Mets, who snapped a three-game losing streak and finished 2011 with a 77-85 record.
"I do think there is a lot of reason for optimism," said New York third baseman David Wright.
Edinson Volquez (5-7) gave up three runs on six hits over seven innings for Cincinnati, which posted a 79-83 mark one year after capturing the NL Central title.
"Volquez threw the ball well enough to win," said Reds manager Dusty Baker.
Looking to become the first batting champion in Mets history, Jose Reyes was taken out after a bunt single in the first. The hit raised Reyes' average to .337. His closest competition, Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, went 0-for-4 Wednesday night and wound up with a .332 average.
Nick Evans put New York on the board with an RBI single in the fourth. Mike Baxter extended the lead with his first major league home run, a two-out, two- run blast to right-center in the sixth.
Colorado vs. Los Angeles
DENVER — Anze Kopitar netted a hat trick, leading the Los Angeles Kings to a 6-0 thrashing of the Colorado Avalanche in preseason action from the Pepsi Center.
Jack Johnson had three helpers, while Trent Hunter had two assists. Justin Williams and Slava Voynov each chipped in with a goal and an assist for Los Angeles. Jonathan Quick stopped all 27 shots he faced to record the shutout.
The Kings also converted three of their five power play opportunities, while Colorado went 0-for-6 with the man advantage.
Semyon Varlamov made 26 saves on 32 shots for the Avs.
Florida vs. Washington
MIAMI — Stephen Strasburg tossed six scoreless frames as the Washington Nationals closed the regular season with a 3-1 victory over the Florida Marlins.
Strasburg (1-1) allowed just one hit while fanning 10 and walking two.
"I was pretty impressed," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. "He just pitched. He didn't overthrow, he just stayed within himself and made pitches."
Ian Desmond had two RBI for the Nationals (80-81), who went 15-5 to close the season.
Drew Storen tossed a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his 43rd save of the year.
The Marlins played their final game at Sun Life Stadium, the only home they have known during their 19 seasons as a franchise.
Next season, the Marlins will relocate to a 37,000 seat, retractable roof stadium in the Little Havana section of Miami. In addition, on Nov. 11 the club will officially change its name to the Miami Marlins.
They will assume their new identity with a new skipper at the helm, as former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen signed a four-year deal with the club on Wednesday.
Chris Volstad (5-13) allowed two runs on three hits over six innings to suffer the loss. He walked two and struck out five.
Gaby Sanchez hit an RBI double for the Marlins (72-90), who dropped five of their last six games to finish dead last in the NL East
Washington took a 2-0 lead in the fifth. Ivan Rodriguez and Steve Lombardozzi began the inning with singles. Strasburg's sac bunt advanced the runners and Desmond's base hit brought them home.
Ryan Mattheus relieved Strasburg to begin the home seventh and the Marlins took advantage. Logan Morrison drew a two-out walk and Sanchez followed with a double to make it a 2-1 game. Bryan Petersen then singled off of Sean Burnett to place runners on the corners, but Brett Hayes grounded out to end the inning.
Pinch-hitter Alex Cora led off the eighth with a triple and scored two batters later on Roger Bernadina's single to give the Nationals a 3-1 lead.
Tyler Clippard tossed a scoreless home half before handing the ball to Storen in the ninth with Morrison striking out to end the game and the season for both teams.
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