What a Finish (2011 MLB Review)

 

MLB Baseball is the longest season in professional sports in terms of games as every team plays almost every day during the summer for a total of 162 games. This for many would mean that there is little to no chance of a tight finish as after 162 games there would be the haves and the have-nots by the end of the season. This is of course far from the truth as the MLB Playoff race has become one of the most entertaining aspects to the game every year. This was not changed in 2011 as the playoff race came down to the very last day of the regular season in both leagues. First in the American League the race was again a part of the toughest division in baseball in the AL East. The East has provided the wild card team in 11 of the 16 years that the wild card has been in place since 1995 and this year was not different. With the Yankees taking the top spot in September the Red Sox had a 9 game lead in the wild card race with the L.A. Angels and the Tampa Bay Rays hoping they could get a miracle and overtake the Sox. The Red Sox then began to lose as the Rays began to win and the lead shrank. The Red Sox began the biggest late season collapse in MLB history as they went 7-20 in September while the Rays went 17-10. The Angels were knocked out of the race early in September and the race came down to a battle for second place in the AL East. In the last week of the season the Red Sox let the Rays get within a game and eventually tie the race up. It came down to the final game as the Rays and Red Sox were tied in the Wild Card Race. If Boston could win against the Baltimore Orioles they would be able to, at the very least, force a playoff game if the rays were to win against the Yankees. With a loss and a Rays win the Red Sox would cap off the worst collapse in MLB history. The Sox took on the Orioles and had the lead going into the 9th inning as they brought out the usually strong Jonathan Papelbon to close out the game. Then Papelbon blew the save and took the loss as the Red Sox were now forced to wait and see if the Yankees could beat the Rays. Tampa Bay had it tough as they went down by 7 runs early but a rash of HRs tied the game up and sent it into extra innings. As extra innings started the score of the Red Sox game flashed on the scoreboard sending the Rays fans into a loud cheer. Just after that Evan Longoria smacked a walk off HR to Left Field winning the game for the Rays and sending them to the playoffs. Meanwhile in the NL the Atlanta Braves and St Louis Cardinal were in the same battle as they were both tied in the last day of the season. This was after a 10 ½ game lead by the Atlanta Braves that they had on August 26th. Much like the Red Sox the Atlanta Braves destroyed themselves going 9-18 in the month of September. Meanwhile the Cards went 18-9 as they overcame the large deficit to tie the race up on the last day of the regular season. The Cards got a little luck in the last series as they faced the worst team in baseball the Houston Astros while the Braves had to face the best team in baseball in the Phillies. The Cards easily handled the Astros winning 8-0 and then went into the clubhouse to watch the Braves game. Atlanta had some success early going ahead 3-1 in the 3rd inning but were then shutdown and hurt by a lot of mistakes that eventually led to a 13th inning walk-off blooper by the Phillies to keep the Braves out of the playoffs. With the race going down to the last game the stage is now set for the MLB Postseason and fans are pumped to see it. With the best night in baseball finished it is also time to look back on some of the great performances of the past year.

As the teams showed their true colours down the stretch individual players showed their colours throughout the season. With the MLB moving to a pitchers league again after the Steroid era the Cy Young award will be a tough competition although there are two pitchers in particular that could win the league crowns. Roy Halladay has been noticed more since moving to Philadelphia but his performance continues to be amazing. Halladay finished the season with a 2.35 ERA but he may not defend his Cy Young award as LA Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has outpitched the Doc in every aspect having two more wins, 21-6 record, a smaller ERA, 2.28, and more strikeouts, 248, The big question will be whether a great pitcher on a terrible team beats a great pitcher on a great team. In the AL there is really one competitor as Justin Verlander has dominated this year pitching a no-hitter against the Blue Jays that was almost a perfect game and coming very close two more times to a no-hitter. With a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts Verlander seems to be a lock for the Cy young and is part of the conversation for AL MVP. As for the offensive side of the ball Jose Bautista again won the HR race although with only 43 HRS instead of his 54 last year. The batting crown in the AL goes to Miguel Cabrera with a .344 batting average while in the NL Jose Reyes became the one bright spot for the New York Mets with a .337 batting average. AS for the MVP it will be a tight race as in the AL Verlander may become the first pitcher to win the award since Dennis Ekersely won the award in 1992. With that going against him Verlander may have to surrender the award to an offensive player and in the running will be many players. The top players for the AL will most likely be Jose Bautista and Curtis Granderson and with the power of the Yankees Granderson will most likely take the award if they do decide not to give it to a pitcher. In the NL another pitcher is being considered as Roy Halladay could be the one to break the streak but is less likely to do this. With Ryan Braun and Justin Upton in the running it looks like Braun will win it thanks to his teams great performance this year. This year in baseball showed some great races to the end and had some of the best individual performances as the domination was shown. Now it is time to see if that domination will translate to the postseason as the race begins to the World Series.

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