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Blog Entry

Remembering the best races of the past 5 years

Posted on: September 5, 2011 4:33 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2011 7:31 pm
 


By Matt Snyder

This coming Wednesday will mark three weeks until the final day of Major League Baseball's regular season for 2011. While it's possible we'll have something go down to the wire -- Rangers-Angels, perhaps? -- many of the races seem to be turning into a yawnfest. With that in mind let's re-live the best race in each of the past five seasons.

2006 - NL Central
The Cardinals won the World Series that year, but almost blew a chance at the playoffs. With an injury-depleted roster, the Cards lost nine of 11 games from September 18-28, seeing a seven-game lead dwindle down to just a half-game over the Astros. A four-game sweep in Houston didn't help. The funny thing was, the Reds were actually tied for first with the Cardinals after winning on August 24 but went through a similar swoon to fall back. After pulling into that tie with the Cardinals, the Reds lost nine of 10 games. The Astros had simply been a mediocre team all season, but the futility of the teams above them made this a three-team race. The result was the Cardinals winning the division after buckling down and winning three of four to clinch with one day left in the season. They finished an uninspiring 83-78, with Astros finishing 1 1/2 games back and the Reds 3 1/2 back. Still, they won it all and proved all you have to do is get there to have a shot.

2007 - The entire NL
The Rockies get most of the ink here, and rightfully so, but every single race in the National League was a good one in '07 while the AL races weren't overly exciting at all. The Central division was actually the least exciting of the races in the NL, and the Cubs only won it by two games. The Brewers were tied with the Cubs on September 18, but the Cubs won four straight and built a 3 1/2 game lead. Like I said, that was the least exciting race in the NL. The Phillies trailed the Mets in the NL East -- and sometimes the Braves -- for the overwhelming majority of the season. In fact, the Phillies never saw first place until September 27, and even then it was a tie with the Mets. The Mets had a seven-game lead on September 12, but proceeded to lose six of seven games and see their lead shrink to 1 1/2 games. The Mets then won three straight and looked like they would hold on, but five consecutive losses then handed the lead to the Phillies. The Mets did win a game and pull to within a tie prior to the last game of the season, but lost that while the Phillies won and took the East. And now we get to the West/Wild Card race(s). It looked like the Padres and Diamondbacks were going to have a two-team race with the loser getting the Wild Card, but then the Rockies historical run happened. They won 14 of their last 15 games, including that extra-inning victory over the Padres in the one-game playoff -- in which Matt Holliday may or may not have touched home plate when scoring the winning run. The game was an absolute classic, with the Padres scoring two runs in the 13th, followed by the Rockies getting three off future Hall-of-Fame closer Trevor Hoffman in the bottom half of the inning. This game was for the Wild Card, as the D-Backs were able to finish the regular season with a one-game lead over both the Padres and Rockies. The Padres actually held a two-game lead over the Rockies with two games to play, and lost both of them -- only to lose in the one-game playoff as well. It should be noted that the Mets were only one game behind the Padres heading into the last day of the season, so a win would have made for a three-way tie in the Wild Card. Basically, what looked like a Mets, Diamondbacks, Padres and Cubs/Brewers playoffs became totally different after the Phillies and Rockies got different degrees of hot in the last few weeks. Maybe that season provides hope for an interesting September in 2011?

2008 - AL Central
The White Sox led by as many as six games in June, but a 10-game winning streak by the Twins knotted the two and they'd stay neck and neck for the rest of the season. The two teams were tied on three different days in September and weren't separated by more than 2 1/2 games all month. What was interesting here is the White Sox finished the season a half-game behind the Twins. There was a lingering rainout against the Tigers that the White Sox had to play the Monday following the conclusion of the actual season. If they won that, it would be a tie for first in the Central and the White Sox would host a one-game playoff. They beat the Tigers 8-2 and then took down the Twins 1-0 behind a masterful performance from John Danks (eight shutout innings, only two hits allowed). The only run the White Sox scored was a solo home run from Jim Thome in the bottom of the seventh.

2009 - AL Central
The Tigers had a seven-game lead after winning September 6, but went 11-15 the rest of the way. The Twins went 18-8 and ran them down, ending the season in a tie for the AL Central crown and forcing what would become an epic one-game playoff. Interestingly enough, the Tigers had a two-game lead heading into the penultimate series of the year, which was a four-game set against, yes, the Twins. It was in Detroit and the Tigers came away with a split. That should have been good enough, as the Tigers now had a two-game lead with three to play. Instead, the Tigers dropped two of three to the White Sox while the Twins swept the Royals. Thus, the one-game playoff would be played in the Metrodome. It would be one of the more exciting baseball games in recent memory. Nine innings weren't enough, as the game headed to extras knotted at four. The Tigers scored in the top of the 10th, but the Twins answered in the bottom half, spurred on by a leadoff triple from Michael Cuddyer. The Twins nearly won the game that very inning, but Alexi Casilla was hosed at home plate by left fielder Ryan Raburn on a potential sacrifice fly. Casilla came away the hero in the 12th, however, as he plated Carlos Gomez (pictured left with Joe Mauer) in the 12th with a walk-off single.

2010 - NL West/Wild Card
Like the Cardinals in 2006, the Giants ended up being the World Series champs after nearly missing out on the postseason. The Giants trailed the Padres by 6 1/2 games on August 25, but from September 4 until September 30, no more than two games separated the two teams. The pivotal series ended up being the Padres losing three of four at home to the lowly Cubs. This put them down three games with three to play. Wouldn't you know it, though, that the final three games were against the Giants. So the Padres could sweep the Giants and force a one-game playoff. Essentially, they controlled their own destiny, but would have to beat the Giants four times in a row. They did win the first two, but Jonathan Sanchez and five other pitchers would shut the Padres out on the final game of the regular season, and the Giants won the West by two games. In the Wild Card race, the Padres had the lead until that fateful Cubs' series, during which the Braves swept the Marlins and passed the Padres. Still, the Braves lost two games as the Padres took the first two from the Giants in the final weekend, meaning the Braves and Padres were tied with one game left. The Padres lost while the Braves survived two late rallies by the Phillies, winning 8-7.

So, will any of the present races provide the kind of excitement we've seen in the past few years? Considering the runner-up of the AL East is going to be the Wild Card, it appears our only chance is the AL West. Then again, would we have predicted the '07 Rockies or '09 Twins to make up the ground they did? That should at least provide some hope for fans of teams like the Giants and Indians this year.

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Comments
hotmeuly
Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 20, 2011 8:55 pm
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peulouy
Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 18, 2011 2:02 pm
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Since: Jun 3, 2010
Posted on: September 5, 2011 7:31 pm
 

Remembering the best races of the past 5 years

My bad on that. Obviously with a one-game lead they won, so it bumps up to two. Thanks for not being rude about this.

- Matt



Since: Jun 21, 2009
Posted on: September 5, 2011 7:21 pm
 

Remembering the best races of the past 5 years

They did win the first two, but and five other pitchers would shut the Padres out on the final game of the regular season, and the Giants won the West by a game.
The Giants won the West by 2 games, not one.


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