Last Week's Best: The Top-Five Games (July 14-July 20)
The All-Star break meant a relatively slow week in the world of sports, due mainly to a lack of sporting events—Wednesday being the only day all year in which none of the four major sports featured a single event.
But on the bright side, the All-Star Game provided fans with one of the best games of the year. Throw in an Open Championship filled with storylines, and suddenly it’s not such a bad week after all.
5. MLB: Dodgers 8, Diamondbacks 7 (July 18)
The Dodgers returned from the All-Star break in style, overcoming an early 6-3 deficit to defeat Arizona in 11 innings and tie the Diamondbacks for the NL West lead. The two teams are still tied for the lead now.
The Dodgers relied on the long ball, getting two home runs from Nomar Garciaparra and four overall. James Loney’s solo shot in the top of the 11th provided the one-run margin of victory.
The game was also important for the Dodgers because it was new closer Jonathan Broxton’s first save chance. He was well up to the task, striking out two D-Backs while pitching a perfect bottom of the 11th. His performance will be a key factor in determining the outcome of the NL West race.
4. MLB: Cardinals 9, Padres 5 (July 20)
While this game did not have quite as much significance as the other baseball games on the list, it certainly was not lacking in drama. The Cardinals scored eight runs in the game’s final three innings to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 9-5 victory.
The Padres did not go down without a fight, either—after Troy Glaus’ home run completed the initial St. Louis comeback and put the Redbirds ahead, 5-3, it might have appeared as if the game were over. But former Cardinal closer Jason Isringhausen, filling in for the tired Ryan Franklin, once again could not seal the game, giving up two runs on three hits while recording only one out.
After the Cardinals loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth—on a walk, an error, and then two more intentional walks—an unlikely hero emerged.
Light-hitting infielder Aaron Miles turned a pretty good day (he was 2-4 with two runs scored at the time) into a memorable one by launching a pitch over the right field wall to give his team the victory. It was his first ever walk-off hit.
For the Padres, the loss was just another game that got away. San Diego is now 25 games under .500 on the season. For the Cardinals, it was another critical victory as they continue to fight with the Cubs and Brewers for what might only be one playoff spot out of the NL Central.
3. Golf: Padraig Harrington wins the Open Championship (July 17-20)
Who needs Tiger? That was the general sentiment echoing from the golf community, fearful that one of the game’s most precious events would be tarnished by the absence of the world’s best player. After all, they said, many major championships had been contested before Tiger became a superstar, and nobody had questioned the validity of those tournaments.
53-year old Greg Norman played a big role in many of the major championships that preceded Tiger’s emergence. Little did anybody know he would become the main player in this one as well.
The virtual retiree—Norman hardly plays or practices anymore and publicly stated that he was using this event as a tune-up for the British Senior Open—wowed spectators for three days, playing the steadiest golf of anyone on the course en route to a two-shot lead heading into the final round.
But in the end, it was not to be. Norman handled himself well and never gave everyone the monumental collapse they were expecting. But he couldn’t hole enough puts Sunday, and ended up finishing tied for third.
The other star of this tournament, the course/conditions, also could not last all 72 holes. For the first 66, Royal Birkdale baffled all comers. The bogeys multiplied and scores ballooned—so much so that Ernie Els, who shot himself out of contention with an 80 on the first day and was essentially never heard from since, ended up finishing tied for seventh place at 12 over par.
But then Padraig Harrington decided that enough was enough. Tied at seven over par with Ian Poulter, Harrington birdied the 13th, then birdied the par-five 15th to give himself a little bit of breathing room. But that was only a prelude to what was to come.
At the par-five 17th, Harrington hit the shot of the tournament, landing a five-wood on the front edge of the green and watching it release all the way to within four feet of the hole. He would make the putt for his eagle.
After nearly making a birdie on the 18th, too, Harrington had locked up his second Open Championship in a row. He had defeated the old guard, the hometown favorite, and everyone else in the field. He had also managed to do something that, until he did it, had appeared absolutely impossible: He had made it look easy.
2. MLB: Mets 10, Reds 8 (July 17)
A month ago, it looked like the Mets had little to no chance of making the playoffs.
That’s why they play the games.
With more than 60 games to play, the Mets are already in first place in the NL East, thanks in large part to a 10-game winning streak that culminated in Thursday night’s victory over the Reds.
This one wasn’t easy, as ace Johan Santana was roughed up early, exiting after allowing five runs in four innings. The Mets trailed 8-6 heading into the eighth inning.
That’s when the offense took over yet again. David Wright led the charge, hitting a two-run homer to tie the game. Carlos Delgado continued his resurgence (he also hit his 18th home run earlier in the game) by singling in the go-ahead run.
Credit Jerry Manuel if you’d like. But the Mets suddenly look like a contender in the National League again.
1. MLB All-Star Game: American League 4, National League 3 (July 15)
This time, it was actually entertaining.
What was an incredibly memorable All-Star weekend began at Monday’s Home Run Derby, as Josh Hamilton wowed the crowd by hitting a record-breaking 28 homers in the first round. At one point, Hamilton actually hit 13—yes, 13—home runs without making a single out.
That Justin Morneau ended up winning the Derby meant nothing; this was Hamilton’s night.
And the excitement level only rose Tuesday, as the two leagues played an epic 15-inning affair. When Morneau scored on a Michael Young sac fly, a game that should have ended a long time before was finally completed—and it’s a good thing, too, as all 31 available pitchers had toed the rubber. The next two in line? David Wright and J.D. Drew.
How many chances did each league have?
The American League loaded the bases with nobody out in the 10th, only for Aaron Cook to induce two straight forceouts at the plate. The game should have ended anyway, but Miguel Tejada made an incredible play in the hole to rob Morneau of a game-winning single.
There was the AL threatening again in the 11th, only for Nate McLouth to throw a perfect strike at the plate to nail Dioner Navarro.
There was the NL loading the bases with one out in the top of the 12th. From there, Joakim Soria and George Sherrill struck out Dan Uggla and Adrian Gonzalez, respectively, to keep the game level.
There was Carlos Guillen getting to third with one out in the bottom of the 12th. But, for the third straight inning, Aaron Cook would get out of a huge jam, striking out Evan Longoria before inducing Kinsler to ground out.
After a couple slow innings, Kinsler finally sent the fans home in the 15th. It’s safe to say they got a lot more than their money’s worth.
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