MLB: Ranking the Top 5 Collapses in Pennant-Race History
Last night, September 28th, 2011, will go down as one of the biggest and most exciting days in the history of baseball. I, and thousands of other fans alike, were left in utter shock.
Two of the biggest collapses in baseball history happened just minutes apart. We saw Craig Kimbrel, who has been utterly dominant all year, blow a save in a game the Atlanta Braves needed to win. We also saw the greatest team ever assembled in the history of sports (Boston), lose a thriller to the Baltimore Orioles, and then just minutes later Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays hit a 12th-inning walk-off home run to put an end to the Boston Red Sox's season.
5. 2011 Atlanta Braves
Let's start with one we just talked about. The Braves opened the month of September with an eight-and-a-half game lead in the wild card over the St. Louis Cardinals. Going just 9-13 in their first 22 games in September, the Braves still led by three with just five games to play. They lost their final five games to complete their historic collapse and allow the surging Cardinals to make the postseason.
Last night's game ended soon after Craig Kimbrel took the mound. He gave up the tying run, and the game went to extra innings. The Phillies would take the lead in the 13th inning, ending the Braves' playoff hopes.
4. 1995 California Angels
On August 20th, the Angels, then known as the California Angels, held a nine-and-a-half-game lead in the AL West and a 12-game lead in the wild card.
The Angels ended up going 12-27 in their final 39 games, blowing both leads in the division and wild card. There was still hope though, as they faced the Seattle Mariners in a one-game playoff. But Mariners ace Randy Johnson pitched a complete game, ending the Angels' season.
3. 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers
Leading by 13-and-a-half games on August 11th, the Dodgers were all but sure to make it to the World Series. But by season's end the Giants and Dodgers were forced to play a three-game series to see who would make the World Series.
The Dodgers didn't collapse. They went 26-22 in their final 48 games. The Giants caught fire, though, winning 37 of their final 44 games.
The three-game series was split at 1-1. The third game contained one of the most famous and jaw-dropping home runs of all time.
Heading into the ninth, the Dodgers led 4-1. The Giants rallied and put runners on second and third, cutting the lead in half, 4-2. Up came Bobby Thompson, who swung on an 0-1 pitch, sending the ball over the left field wall. The Giants had won the pennant on "The Shot Heard 'Round the World."
2. 2007 New York Mets
Before the Mets were in their current state of suckishness, they were a pretty good team. A year after they made it all the way to the NLCS, it seemed as if they could do it again.
With just 17 games left, the Mets led the NL East by seven games. They went just 5-11 in their final 16 games but still forced a one-game playoff against the Phillies.
Sending ace pitcher Tom Glavine to the mound, it seemed as though the Mets could still reach the postseason. Nope. Glavine did not pitch well, as the Phillies won and sent the Mets home packing.
1. 2011 Boston Red Sox
After all the hype the Red Sox received during the offseason, I can't rank this anywhere else but No. 1. The Red Sox made two really big moves in the offseason, acquiring Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres and signing Carl Crawford to a mammoth deal.
The Red Sox were the easy favorites to win the AL East and even the World Series. People said they had the best lineup in baseball and a historic pitching rotation. Add in a dynamic bullpen, and you have a team that could potentially unseat the 1927 Yankees as the best team of all time.
The Red Sox started the season 0-6, but after that, they cruised for most of the year. The Red Sox entered September leading the Yankees in the AL East. They also maintained a nine-game lead over the Rays, who were trailing the Yankees in the wild-card race. The Red Sox collapsed, winning just seven games in September. They completed the biggest collapse of all time, forcing everything to come down to the last game of the season.
The Red Sox played the Orioles, while the Yankees played the Rays. During the middle of both games, it looked like Boston would be getting to the postseason. While the Red Sox led by one, the Rays trailed by seven to the Yankees.
The Rays scored six times in the bottom of the eighth to make it a one-run game. They were down to their last strike when Dan Johnson crushed a home run to send the game to extras.
While the Rays game continued, the Red Sox got the Baltimore Orioles down to their final strike with Papelbon cruising through, striking out the first two batters with ease. Then Nolan Reimold drove in a run to tie the game. A few pitches later, the Red Sox lost on an RBI single from Robert Andino.
Just minutes after the Red Sox lost, Evan Longoria launched his second homer of the game, a walk-off home run to propel the Rays to the playoffs.