Last Week's Best: The Top-Five Games (July 28-Aug. 3)

Andrew Kaufman@akaufman23Senior Analyst IAugust 4, 2008

Another eventful week in baseball was highlighted by an unusually fast-paced trade deadline. But trades aren’t games, so you won’t see anything about them here—aside, of course, from one particularly impressive debut.

Despite being the only major sport to be playing right now, baseball doesn’t quite sweep this week’s list of the top-five games. A changing of the guard in tennis finds its way on to this list, along with a changing of the guard in the NL Central that never happened, and a changing of the guard in left field in Boston that did.


5. MLB: Rangers 11, Mariners 10 (July 29)

Two teams that won’t be going to the playoffs put on a heck of a show Monday night, as the Texas Rangers emerged from a back-and-forth game with a narrow victory.

A dramatic outcome didn’t look probable early on, as the Rangers raced out to a 9-3 lead after five innings. But the Mariners worked their way back into the game, scoring three runs in the sixth inning and two in the seventh to cut the deficit to one.

In the top of the ninth, Rangers’ third baseman Ramon Vasquez continued his eventful game—Vasquez had four hits and four RBI, but also made three errors—and almost gave Seattle the victory in the process. Vasquez’ throwing error on Jamie Burke’s infield single allowed, of all people, pinch-runner Jarrod Washburn to score the go-ahead run for the Mariners.

Luckily for the Rangers, Vasquez wasn’t done. He hit a walk-off, two-run double in the bottom of the ninth, atoning for his mistakes and sending Texas fans home happy as the Rangers continued their resurgent season.


4. MLB: Tigers 14, Indians 12 (July 30)

While this game was not quite as dramatic, it made up for this with pure offense—the two teams combined for 41 hits.

Not that there wasn’t some drama. The Tigers did score four runs in the top of the eighth to tie the game at 11, then add another to take a one-run lead going into the bottom of the ninth. And Cleveland catcher Kelly Shoppach did extend the game with a solo home run with one out in his team’s last half-inning.

Shoppach’s heroics were for naught though, as it was the Tigers who would take the lead in the 13th on a Placido Polanco RBI groundout—yes, in a game with 41 hits, the winning run scored on a groundout—and would not look back.

A lot of credit for this win has to go to the Detroit bullpen, which allowed only four runs in 10 innings, after starter Nate Robertson got torched early, and gave up only one run in the game’s final six innings as the Tigers worked their way back into the game and eventually won it.

If Detroit hadn’t recently lost four games in a row, they might have been looking back at July 30 as the day they kept their season alive.


3. Tennis: Ivo Karlovic defeats Roger Federer in three sets (July 31)

I didn’t see this coming.

Sure, his loss two weeks ago, in his first match after falling to Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon finals, was understandable, a classic symptom of a Grand Slam hangover.

But when Federer beat Robby Ginepri Tuesday, emerging from two sloppy sets to destroy his opponent, 6-0, in the third and final one, I figured the slump was over. Fed was back.

Apparently not. He didn’t even play all the badly against Karlovic, evidenced by the fact that Federer’s serve was not broken the entire match. But he lost both tiebreakers, sandwiched between a 6-4 second set victory, because he couldn’t mount a consistent challenge against Karlovic’s serve, and because the 6'10" Croat played better during the big points.

Yes, that’s right: Federer was outplayed during the big points. This never happens. Even in his loss to Nadal, Federer hit big shot after big shot when he needed to. Thursday, against Karlovic, the magic just wasn’t there. Federer didn’t look like Federer anymore. He simply looked like a very good tennis player.

For Roger Federer, that simply isn’t good enough.


2. MLB: Cubs 6, Brewers 4 (July 28)

This first matchup between two NL Central titans certainly lived up to its billing. The two teams went back and forth throughout the game, matching the playoff atmosphere in the stands with a similar one on the field.

After two ninth-inning runs propelled the Cubs to victory, nobody could have predicted what happened next.

Simply put, the Cubs took off and the Brewers fell flat. Chicago would go on to sweep the four-game series—perhaps the biggest series ever in Miller Park—and put substantial distance between the two teams in the standings.

The game itself was extremely entertaining. The Cubs jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but the Brewers responding with three runs in the sixth off Ted Lilly to take a one-run lead. With staff ace CC Sabathia toeing the rubber, things looked pretty good in Milwaukee.

That is, until second baseman Rickie Weeks’ terrible throw turned what would have been an inning-ending double play in the top of the seventh into a 4-3 Cub lead. But the Brewers would fight back again, with Russell Branyan’s solo shot in the bottom half of the inning tying the score.

RBI hits from Derrek Lee and Mark DeRosa in the ninth would give the Cubs another lead and provide the final margin. The Brewers haven’t been the same since, and currently trail the Cubs by five games and only lead the Cardinals by one game in the wild-card race.


1. MLB: Red Sox 2, Athletics 1 (August 1)

The Manny Ramirez Era in Boston came to a long, drawn-out end when he was traded to the Los Angels Dodgers on Thursday.

It didn’t take long for a new one to begin.

In his first game with the Sawx, new acquisition Jason Bay scored both Boston runs, including the game-winner in the bottom of the 12th inning. After tripling with two outs, he was brought home on a Jed Lowrie infield single.

The ending was almost much more dramatic. Bay’s triple, a blast to left field, almost cleared the Green Monster, which would have been the perfect storybook ending. But even though it was not to be, Bay hustled and made it to third standing up, as the ball caromed back towards the infield.

From there, all Bay—who also had two walks and made a sliding catch in left earlier in the game—had to do was trot home on Lowrie’s game-winning hit.

It may very well be Bay’s performance that determines whether or not Boston makes the playoffs, and so far, he has proved up to the task. In his first weekend with the Red Sox, Bay hit .364 with a home run, three RBI, six runs scored, and a ridiculous OPS of 1.352. It’s obviously a very limited sample, but if Bay can even come close to keeping up this level of production, Beantown won’t miss Manny after all.