Oct. 7 was a dream day for baseball on paper, with four playoff games over 12 hours. However, the baseball on display surpassed even the wildest expectations, at least for fans and the Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers. Once the Dodgers became the first team to advance – on an eighth-inning Juan Uribe home run after two failed bunts, no less -- it was a fitting end to a wild day and night.
It all began with the least eventful game on the schedule -- for the first 8 1/2 innings. The Oakland Athletics were cruising to a 6-3 win over the Detroit Tigers, yet they still emptied the benches when Oakland closer Grant Balfour argued with Detroit’s Victor Martinez in the ninth.
If the Tigers want to use that for inspiration, a better source would be the Cardinals, who faced elimination against the Cinderella Pittsburgh Pirates at a hostile PNC Park. Yet Michael Wacha still came within five outs of a no-hitter, as Pedro Alvarez’s homer in the eighth was the Pirates’ only hit in a 2-1 loss.
As a result, the Cardinals get to host the Pirates for a deciding Game 5 on Oct. 9, going from underdogs to heavy favorites again in the blink of an eye. But their rally wouldn’t be as improbable as the one the Rays hope to pull off.
The Rays were down 2-0 to the Boston Red Sox in their series, and down 3-0 in the fifth inning of Game 3 until Evan Longoria’s three-run homer. Tampa Bay went on to take the lead and blow it in the ninth, then seemed destined to go to extra innings. But with two outs, Jose Lobaton hit a winning home run to force Game 4 -- at the same time Los Angeles’s Carl Crawford hit his second home run of the night over the Atlanta Braves.
After that, the Braves forced a tie off of surprise starter Clayton Kershaw, then took the lead going into the eighth. However, Yasiel Puig’s double and Uribe’s subsequent home run ended Atlanta’s season, and made Los Angeles the first league championship series participant.
While the Dodgers rest, the Athletics and Red Sox look to set up the ALCS with Game 4 road wins on Oct. 8. Regardless, their doubleheader seems unlikely to match the limitless fireworks of the previous day’s quadruple-header.