September 28, 2011. Sometimes when particular dates seem to have a certain significance to them I say the date aloud just so you I can remember it better.
I toyed with the idea of going to the final Orioles game of 2011 as far back as a week ago. As as 3pm on Wednesday a scheduled afternoon appointment I had mysteriously cleared itself. The game would take place at Camden Yards where getting tickets to good seats haven’t exactly been hard to come by lately. There was a lingering threat of thunderstorms, but I’ve weathered those before, even once earlier this same season. As if by further grand design, the kids were even off school the next day so a late night at a midweek game would pose no problems there.
Yet I didn’t go. Ultimately I was probably opposed to going to see yet another joyous celebration of Red Sox fans at our stadium. I had endured that first-hand back on April 28th, and if there was a celebration this time it would likely be an epic one. Being a seasoned Orioles fan I often prepare myself mentally for losses to lessen the toll of the heartbreak. Despite the month-long poor play of the Beantowners, seldom do full and absolute collapses like this ever happen.
As is reading a script Bud Selig himself passed out, the Orioles came back in bullish fashion. Down to their last two outs, down a run, down to facing a team that was 76-0 when leading after 8 innings this year. A fastball pitcher threw a fastball to an obscure fastball hitter and history was left to wait for a 12th inning homer in Tampa not five minutes later. That quickly one team was in the playoffs, the other was out.
Lost temporarily was how the Rays had mounted a comeback to overcome a 7-0 8th inning deficit against a relaxed Yankee squad just tuning up for the playoffs. Lost was the fact that a two-out pinch-hit homer was required just to get the Rays to extra innings in the first place. Forgotten in Baltimore was how Jon Lester had pitched on 3 days rest but was leading when removed from the game. Sitting in the dugout he was at one point one out away from improving upon his 14-0 lifetime record against the Orioles.
But 15-0 didn’t happen Wednesday night. A Chris Davis double into the right field corner put the tying run at 2nd. Moments later, a long automatic double by Nolan Reimold bounced over the fence in right center field. Just a minute or two after that, Robert Andino poked a sinking liner towards a sliding Carl Crawford in left. The same Andino that had looked overmatched against Lester’s breaking stuff earlier in the game, had no problems with a Papelbon 96-97 mph fastball. The same Andino that had helped win a game two days earlier against Josh Beckett, another fastball pitcher, with an inside-the-park homerun.
Thirty to forty minutes earlier a similar sequence played out in Houston and Atlanta. The Cards methodically dismantled 2011’s only 100-game loser in expected fashion, while the Braves found a way to turn a 3-1 lead into a debilitating extra-inning loss.
Yesterday was the single greatest day I’ve ever witnessed in MLB regular season history. I thought about going to the game last night in Baltimore, but ultimately ended up watching all four games unfold on MLB Network and MASN instead. I made the right choice.