Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Yikes Red Sox !!! The Biggest Pennant Race Collapses

Can the Red Sox halt their disastrous nosedive? Well, the California Angels did - in 1995. On August 9 they were ahead by 11 1/2 games but won just 12 of their next 34.

Meanwhile the Ken Griffey Jr.-led Mariners went 16-3 to pull into a two-game lead before dropping their last two. The Angels rallied to win their final five games. Good enough?

Not quite, the two teams ended up tied, forcing a one-game playoff. Phew, that was close! And how did the reawakened Angels do? Mariner ace Randy Johnson beat 'em 9-1 to put them out of their misery. Now let's go back and retrace some other memorable collapses.

Before there were the Amazin' Mets there were the Miracle Braves. In 1914 the New York Giants had a 10 1/2 game lead late in July. The Boston Braves went 34-10 to win the pennant by the same 10 1/2 games.

On September 1, 1938 the Pirates beat the Giants 6-0 and were seven games ahead of the Cubs. But Chicago finished September with ten straight wins, including
an exciting sweep of Pittsburgh at Wrigley which featured the
'homer in the gloaming". (see photo at right)

At 5:30 in game two of the series on a foggy afternoon the umpire said the ninth inning would be the last. With two out and the count 0-2 player-manager Gabby Hartnett hit one into the first row to thrill the crowd and put the Cubs a game up. It was the most famous home run in baseball between Ruth's called shot (also at Wrigley) of '32 and Thompson's '51 playoff blast. (See next item.) The Cubs went on to win the pennant.

On August 11, 1951 the Brooklyn Dodgers had 13 1/2 game lead. They went 26-22 the rest of the way. Pretty good. But their crosstown enemies, the Giants, won 16 in a row and finished an incredible 37-7 to tie the Bums on the last day of the season. The Giants won the best 2-of-3 playoff series when Billy Thompson hit the "shot heard round the world" with a very nervous rookie named Willie Mays in the on deck circle.

In 1964 the Philadelphia Phillies had a 6 1/2 lead with just twelve games to play. But the Cardinals won eight in a row and the Phillies lost ten in a row and finished one game back.

On August 14, 1969 the Cubs had a 9 1/2 game lead in the brand new National League East. But early in September the Amazin' Mets, who were in the middle of a 10-game winning streak, took two from the Cubbies to pull into first. The Mets went on to have a 9-game winning streak in late September and won the East by 8 games. Chicago lost 14 of their last 20. But they would have had to do a whole lot better to keep pace with New York.

In 1978, with 32 games left, the Red Sox held a 7 1/2 game lead over the Yankees. But they won just three out of seventeen in the first half of September, including four straight at home to New York.

No problem, for the mighty Red Sox won their last eight games to win it all. Nope, not quite. The Yankees had gone 52-23 including an 8-3 finish to force a one-game playoff at Fenway. ... Bucky Dent. Nuff said.

At the half-season point in 1987 the Toronto Blue Jays were 46-35. Not bad. From then until the last week of the season they went 50-24 (.675). After taking the first 3 games of a 4-game series from the second place Tigers they were 3 1/2 games up. Lookin' good, Blue Jays. They lost the last game - in 13 innings after a Kirk Gibson homer tied it up in the ninth - okay, still, no sweat. But then Flanagan, Key, and Stieb each lost as the Jays were swept by the Brewers. The Jays went to Detroit for the final series and lost all three by one run to finish two games back. Ouch.

On September 6, 2009 the Detroit Tigers ended a 6-game winning streak with a 7-game lead in the AL Central Division. They won just three of their next nine and their lead was down to two games. After winning five of their next six, though they had a 3-game lead on September 26. They split their next four and were three up on the last day of September.

But the Twins swept their final three-game series and forced a playoff game, which Minnesota won in twelve innings. The Tigers had made history, becoming the first team since there has been a World Series to lose a 3-game lead with just four games to play.

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