Regular season ends with historic night

BY foxsports • September 28, 2011

The Tampa Bay Rays staged an incredible comeback Wednesday night, rallying from 7-0 down in the bottom of the eighth inning to beat the New York Yankees 8-7 in extra innings and secure the American League wild-card spot in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Meanwhile, in Houston, the St. Louis Cardinals thumped the Astros 8-0 to clinch the National League wild card, surpassing the Atlanta Braves, who fell 4-3 to the Phillies in extra innings in Atlanta.

The Rays and Boston Red Sox entered the final day of the regular season tied with 90-71 records in the race for the AL's final playoff berth, but Boston lost 4-3 to the Orioles after leading 3-2 going into the ninth inning.

Evan Longoria was the hero for the Rays, hitting a three-run home run to pull his team to 7-6 in the eighth inning before his solo blast in the 12th sparked wild scenes at Tropicana Field.

"You can't even put it into words," Longoria said. "We were out there for like five hours and then it was over in a matter of seconds. It's pretty cool."

A Yankees win looked the only likely outcome, but the Rays fought back to 7-3 in the bottom of the eighth before Longoria's three-run shot.

In the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, two strikes and the Rays' season on the line, pinch-hitter Dan Johnson homered to right field to take the game to extra innings.

Longoria's game-winning homer came just minutes after Boston's final result flashed up on the scoreboard.

Boston had held a 3-2 lead since the fifth inning and appeared to be headed toward victory in Baltimore, but the Orioles produced a remarkable comeback of their own, as Nolan Reimold doubled to score Kyle Hudson to tie it in the bottom of the ninth and Robert Andino singled on a line drive for the game-winning run with two outs.

The Braves led the Cardinals by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 25, before St. Louis went 22-9 and Atlanta had a disastrous 10-19 run. Going into Wednesday's final game of the regular season the two teams had identical records, but it was the Cardinals who prevailed thanks largely to a five-run first inning in Houston.

The Braves slumped to a fifth straight loss as the Phillies fought back from 3-2 down in the ninth to tie the game and eventually prevail courtesy of a Hunter Pence RBI single in the 13th inning.

Tampa Bay will open the playoffs Friday at the Texas Rangers, while the Cardinals take on the Phillies in Philadelphia on Saturday.

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