Back in April, the final weekend of the Major League Baseball season appeared loaded with can’t-miss games. A pair of 2009 playoff teams, the Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals, will play at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium. The Los Angeles Dodgers, fresh off back-to-back appearances in the National League Championship Series, are hosting the Arizona Diamondbacks, which made the NLCS in 2007.
The Atlanta Braves, whose manager Bobby Cox is retiring after 25 seasons and more than 2,000 wins with the franchise, are entertaining the three-time defending NL East champion Philadelphia Phillies. And of course the best rivalry of all would take center stage: The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox battling for bragging rights and, presumably, at least one playoff berth at Fenway Park.
Alas, the reality as the calendar turns to October turned out to be far different than the anticipation of April. Two teams have a chance to clinch a playoff berth at home this weekend, though there is little suspense involved as the Braves and San Francisco Giants complete their pursuit of the NL wild card and NL West, respectively.
In fact, a win tonight, October 1, by the Braves coupled with a loss by the skidding San Diego Padres will end the NL playoff race. The Braves lead the Padres by two games with three to play but are playing the Phillies, which clinched the NL East and the best record in the league earlier this week and are likely to rest their starters all weekend. The Giants lead the Padres by three games in the West heading into their three-game series at AT&T Park.
There’s even less suspense in the American League, where the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers clinched the Central and West crowns, respectively, last week, and the Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays locked up playoff berths this week. The Yankees and Rays are still vying for the AL East championship and, perhaps, the top overall seed in the junior circuit, but neither team seems to feel a sense of urgency to earn those honors.
The Yankees started Javier Vazquez for the first time in 19 days on Wednesday, September 29 and he was predictably shelled in an 8-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. The Rays, meanwhile, have lost four of their last five against the three last-place teams in the AL (Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals) and appear likely to rest All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria the rest of the regular season due to a left quad injury.
From a ticketing angle, the most interesting stories of the final week may have occurred in a pair of places where the home team has been out of the playoff picture for months. The New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles were each forced to postpone a game due to rain this week, but instead of scheduling a day-night doubleheader, both teams elected to play out the string as soon as possible and play the single-admission doubleheader—the Halley’s Comet of baseball. The Mets were swept by the Milwaukee Brewers Tuesday, September 29 in front of an announced crowd of 28,280 while the Orioles will face the Detroit Tigers today.