Red Sox Nation, you can stop reading now. Fast Eddie won’t be making you smile today. The only thing I love more than the New York Yankees winning another AL East title is a good old-fashioned late-season collapse by the Boston Red Sox. And this season’s version was the best ever. Last night, on one of the most memorable nights in baseball history, the Red Sox completed the greatest September collapse ever.
After entering September with the best record in the American League, the Red Sox proceeded to lose 20 games in 28 days. Needing to win on the last night of the season to preserve a chance of making the playoffs, the Red Sox entered the ninth inning leading the last-place Baltimore Orioles 3-2 with their All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon pitching. The Red Sox had not lost a game the entire season when leading while entering the ninth inning. Well, there’s always a first time. Papelbon gave up two runs on three hits in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Red Sox lost and left their fate in the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays, who were losing to the Yankees 7-0 entering the bottom of the eighth inning. In an equally improbable outcome, the Rays scored seven runs in the last two innings to tie their game and send it into extra innings, ultimately winning the game and the last playoff spot with a walk-off home run by Evan Longoria in the bottom of the 12th inning.
The Red Sox collapse brings back so many great memories of previous Red Sox failures during the 86-year span from 1918-2004 when they failed to win the World Series. There was 1978, when the Red Sox held a 14 1/2 game lead over the Yankees in mid-July. By September 7th, the Yankees had closed the gap to four games and went to Boston for a four game series. The Yankees won all four of those games, leaving Boston tied for first place. The two teams battled back and forth for the rest of September, ending the regular season in a tie and forcing a one-game playoff for the title, which the Yankees won on a legendary home run by Bucky Dent.
Then, in 1986, the Red Sox faced our other New York team, the Mets, in the World Series. In the iconic sixth game of that Series, the Red Sox took the lead in the top of the tenth inning and entered the bottom of that inning on the verge of winning their first World Series since 1918. They had the Mets down two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the tenth when the Mets began the greatest comeback in World Series history with a single by Gary Carter. The inning ended on one of the most famous errors of all time, when Bill Buckner allowed a sure-out slow ground ball hit by Mookie Wilson to roll between his legs while the Mets’ Ray Knight scored the winning run. The Mets went on to win the seventh game and the Series.
In 2003, The Red Sox and the Yankees played the full seven games in the American League Championship Series to decide who would go to the World Series. The Red Sox pushed the Yankees to the wall and were leading 5-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox aging ace Pedro Martinez was still pitching. After he gave up a run, Red Sox manager Grady Little went out to the mound to check on Pedro, but left him in the game. Pedro gave up two more runs that inning and the Yankees forced the game into extra innings, finally winning the pennant in the bottom of the eleventh inning on Aaron Boone’s walk-off home run.
If you are still reading, you must be a Yankee fan and you’re smiling from ear to ear. Read it again. And again. It never gets old.