Phillies, Brewers make the cut
Yesterday's game in Philadelphia was a close, hard-fought thriller with decisive playoff implications for the Phillies, and honor at stake for the woebegone Nationals. With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the ninth, Ryan Zimmerman hit a hard ground ball up the middle that ordinarily would have at least tied the game and set up the go-ahead run. Instead, shortstop Jimmy Rollins made a spectacular play, diving to grab the ball, starting a 6-4-3 double play that ended the game and started the fireworks. The Washington Post said the ball was hit "to short," which was not quite right, understating what a great defensive play Rollins made. Earlier in the game, he had robbed the Nats of a run-scoring hit by diving for a short fly ball to center field. (Shane Victorino collided with him and hurt his shin.) Thanks in large part to Rollins, the Phillies clinched their second divisional title in a row. If the Nats had won, today's games would have been that much more dramatic. Attendance on Saturday was 45,177, about 1,500 more than the number of seats available at Citizens Bank Park. No doubt, it will be "standing room only" in Philly on Wednesday and Thursday night when the Brewers play there.
Today's game, in contrast, didn't really matter to anyone, as both the Nats and the Phillies had their lineups full of second-stringers. The Nationals would have liked to at least reach the 60-win threshold and avoid total disgrace, but no such luck. The Phillies won 8-3, completing the three-game sweep, as the Nationals went quietly into the night, or winter. They finished the 2008 with a 59-102 record, the worst in the majors ; the Seattle Mariners finished with a 61-101 record.
In Milwaukee, meanwhile, the amazing C.C. Sabathia pitched a complete game, allowing only one run and four hits, leading the Brewers to a 3-1 victory over the Cubs -- and the crowd went wild! The Brewers thus became the second home team to win a playoff berth today. It will be Milwaukee's first postseason series since 1982, when they made it as far as the World Series. The Cubs clinched their divisional title last week, and are in resting mode.
The Cubs and Astros were supposed to play a make-up game tomorrow (remember Hurricane Ike?), but it will have no bearing on the playoffs, so it was cancelled.
Shea Stadium retires
It wasn't nearly as big a deal as the retirement of Yankee Stadium last week, but the final game at Shea Stadium was actually more relevant to the 2008 championships. The final batter was Ryan Church (a former Washington National!), who hit a long fly ball to the warning track in center field that was caught for the final out. The Mets lost to the Marlins 4-2, thus deciding the NL wild card race in the Brewers' favor. If the Mets had won, there would have been a playoff game with the Brewers tomorrow.
Next door in Flushing, meanwhile, Citi Field is about 85% completed. See MLB.com.
The Minnesota Twins and slumping Chicago White Sox both lost on Saturday, and both won today, but the divisional title is still up for grabs because the White Sox need to play a make-up game with the Tigers tomorrow. If the Chisox win, there will be a playoff game with the Twins in Chicago on Tuesday.
Preparations for hosting the first round of the ALDS are underway in Anaheim, for the fifth time in the seven last years, and for the first time ever in St. Petersburg. See the Post-season scores page, freshly updated.
In rain-drenched Boston, meanwhile, the (second-string) Red Sox took a 3-1 lead over the Yankees in the bottom of the eighth inning, and then the Yankees came back to tie it 3-3 in the top of the ninth. The game is going into extra innings, but it matters not a whit... For the first time since 1993, there will be no teams from New York in the Major League postseason series!