While Monday was probably a little too angst-ridden for Red Sox Nation, it was as entertaining a day as there’s been all season for the rest of Baseball Nation.
In the two early games Monday, Mariano Rivera broke Trevor Hoffman’s career saves record and the Baltimore bullpen shut down Boston to hold on for a one-run win. With two wins last week over the Rays, two more over the Los Angeles Angels and five more with the Red Sox, the sub-.500 O’s have become major players in September.
Then at night, the drama continued before it was even halftime of a “Monday Night Football” game in which the New York Giants dispatched the St. Louis Rams, 28-16.
Tony La Russa was at his La Russa-best (or worst), bringing in lefty Arthur Rhodes and righty Octavio Dotel to get the 27th out against Philadelphia. After Hunter Pence grounded out and the Braves lost minutes later, the Cardinals, whose bullpen has been shaky all season, moved within 2 1/2 games in the NL wild-card standings. Atlanta’s suddenly shaky bullpen squandered a late lead at Florida, where a crazy hop off the football-worn infield ate up Chipper Jones just before former Brave Omar Infante hit a walk-off homer off Craig Kimbrel.
Moments after Atlanta’s loss, with MLB Network showing both games on a split screen, the Angels fell to Toronto on a play in which nine-time Gold Glove-winning outfielder Torii Hunter was brought in as an extra infielder and tried to nail the runner at the plate on a groundball, as he had done previously this season. The gambit didn’t work, and Texas now leads by five in the AL West with nine days left in the season.
The Angels are just 4 1/2 out in the AL wild-card race, but they also trail the Rays, who are back to two behind Boston after the Red Sox’ 18-9 win in Game 2 of their doubleheader split with the Orioles. That 3 hour, 55-minute game of attrition went to Boston after Jacoby Ellsbury’s inside-the-park home run and Conor Jackson’s grand slam.
In case anyone wanted more baseball after nearly seven hours with the Red Sox and Orioles, the Arizona-Pittsburgh game had its share of entertainment, as well. The Diamondbacks won, 1-0, on a broken-bat home run muscled out by Justin Upton in the sixth inning. Ian Kennedy struck out 12 and allowed one hit in eight innings to go to 20-4 for the season.
Good games of all types were everywhere on a Monday in which the San Francisco Giants (winners of eight in a row and fringe contenders again) and nine other teams didn’t even play. It felt like September should feel, and hopefully more of the same is on the way.