Well, they say that if you're playing in a game that matters on the final game of the season, that's all you can hope for. The Astros were playing in a game that mattered last night; unfortunately, it mattered only for the opposition.
For the Astros, last night's two-hit shutout was the final kick in the nuts in the 56-106 Kobra Kai beatdown that was the 2011 season. For the Cardinals, it was the final rung of an 8-1/2 game ladder that started in early September and ended with a National League wild card berth.
Last night was chock full of "games that mattered," (GTMs, for short) and symbolically enough, the only one that didn't end in dramatic, if not historic, fashion was the Astros daddy-making of the Cards.
The other GTMs were downright sublime.
I actually went to the Astros game last night, for most of the usual reasons I went four other times this season:
- Kiss Cam: People either love this or they hate it. There's no in-between. I am pro-Kiss Cam. Wedding proposals are the icing on the cake, and I'm pretty sure that I'd rather see the streak of wedding proposal "Yes's" broken before I want to see the Astros streak of seasons without a title broken. A "NO" on the jumbotron would be one of my top five live attendance sports moments ever.
- Taco Bell packet races: I'm very impressed with the jump that Mild has made in Year 2. After winning only once all of last season, Mild has put themselves firmly in the mix with Hot and Fire. Maybe we can hire Mild's coach to manage Round Rock or Corpus Christi.
- The Carlos Lee drinking game: Anytime Carlos Lee's gait becomes anything faster than a deliberate walk, you drink. It's actually a very responsible drinking game to play at the park, a virtual guarantee you won't get kicked out for intoxication or pulled over for a DWI.
Once the Astros went down 7-0, the goal was then to make it home before the end of the remaining GTMs: at the time we left, Boston leading Baltimore 3-2 in the 7th, the Yankees clubbing the Rays 7-0, and the Braves and Phillies tied at 3.
We got home and I was greeted by a wave of tweets on the Twitter feed that "things were happening in Tampa." What was once a 7-0 lead for the Yankees had dwindled to a 7-6 lead, courtesy of (among other things) a three-run homer by Evan Longoria of the Rays. The night was getting interesting!
What ended up transpiring within the next 30 minutes included the most amazing five minutes of baseball that I've ever witnessed. There were moments that unto themselves would have been the fodder of sports talk radio for the next two days, but the fact that each of these events happened in such rapid sequence with such directly adjoined consequences made for "Hollywood would reject this for being too cheesy" type script.
- The Rays tied up the Yankees on their final strike thanks to a home run from something called a Dan Johnson, who had about as many hits all year as Jacoby Ellsbury gets in a week. He didn't just get a hit, he hit a game-tying home run against the Yankees. Trust me, within 30 minutes this felt normal. Continuing...
(Cue Swamp People narrator voice) .. "...meanwhile...back in Baltimore...Jonathan Papelbon was about to drive the suicide rate in New England through the roof..."
- After striking out the first two batters of the ninth inning, Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon was one strike away from at least clinching a one-game playoff between the Sox and Rays. Instead, Papelbon decided to slip on his Calvin Schiraldi mask, giving up back to back doubles to Chris Davis and Nolan Reimold to tie the game before giving up the game-winning base hit to Robert Andino, a tailing liner that glanced off the mitt of a sliding Carl Crawford, a metaphor for roughly a thousand different things.
This was Bill Buckner wrapped up in Aaron Boone sprinkled in Bucky Dent. The old Red Sox were back. Technically, their season was still alive because the Rays-Yankees game wasn't over, but Boston fans had seen this movie before. It wasn't about survival, that wasn't going to be an option. It was a matter of how quick the execution would be...
"....meanwhile....back in Tampa....Evan Longoria strode to the plate..."
In perhaps the cruelest method of capital punishment possible, the Red Sox and their whiff of faint playoff hope walked into their clubhouse in Baltimore in time to see this (fast-forward to 3:23):
Absolutely incredible. Game over. Wild card race over. Season over. Thanks for coming.
The perpetual game of losing blackjack that the Red Sox had been playing for the month of September dealt them the ultimate kick in the junk. They were playing two hands (one in Baltimore, one in Tampa) and the dealer (the baseball gods) went all "dealer has 13, dealer has 16, dealer has...21" on them.
So what went wrong? On the field, there is plenty of blame to go around, but your All-Star closer coughing up an empty bases, two out, two strike lead combined with the team you're tied with coming back from seven runs down is beyond empirical explanation. Something else went wrong.
And then this video surfaced:
The Ronald McDonald-looking guy? That's Dan Shaughnessy. He's a fairly famous Boston sports writer. The blond? That's Heidi Watney. She's hot.
There you have it. The guy who wrote a book called The Curse of the Bambino jinxed the Red Sox into holy baseball hell:
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"I think the Rays are not going to win tonight. I think that the one thing that we've eliminated tonight is that the Red Sox season is not going to end tonight. They live to play another day."
"The worst thing that could happen is you have to play that game in Tampa tomorrow. You've got to hold onto this 3-2 lead tonight, but the Rays aren't going to come back from 7-nothing with an inning and a half to go."
Famous last words.
For once, living in a city with a 56-106 baseball team didn't feel like the worst thing in the world.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on Yahoo! Sports Radio and 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.