Take a Deep Breath and Bring on the Tigers

With Wild Card Wednesday done, the Yankees go back to games that matter to them

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    This came off a Yankee, yet it made New York smile. Discuss.

    If we don't wind up with the greatest playoffs in baseball history, the whole thing is going to seem like a pretty gigantic letdown after one of the more incredible and unbelievable nights the game has ever seen.

    There were four games involving the four teams fighting for the Wild Card going on at the same time and the ebbs and flows of each contest were a baseball fan's dream. The Yankees went up huge on a Mark Teixeira home run while the Red Sox and Braves built small leads in their own games.

    The Cardinals got underway a bit later, put up seven first inning runs and basically told the Braves they had to win the game or they would be going home early. Rain hit Baltimore and the Red Sox were forced to halt the best pitching performance they've had in a month when the tarp hit the field.

    The Rays rallied during that rain delay and, just as the Sox walked back on the field, Dan Johnson, the Rays first baseman who has hit some of the biggest home runs in franchise history and little else, tied the Yankees at seven with a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth. The Braves, meanwhile, were shellshocked after rookie phenom Craig Kimbrel blew the save and sent the game to extra innings.

    And then, finally, came the endgames. Hunter Pence singled home the winning run in the 13th in Atlanta, ending the Braves' playoff dreams and landing the Phillies a date with the Cardinals.

    Jonathan Papelbon made every Yankee fan in the world smile by allowing three straight hits with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and blowing the save to an Orioles team that was eliminated sometime around the Fourth of July. All eyes were on Tampa now.

    Evan Longoria against Scott Proctor in the bottom of the ninth worked out exactly the way you thought it would. Longoria homered, the Rays went crazy and the entire city of Boston went on a suicide watch.

    Captivating, thrilling baseball everywhere you looked and a pretty strong repudiation of the idea that the Wild Card makes for subpar September baseball. The Yankees were mostly bystanders, although they certainly did their part to push the Red Sox over the ledge over the last five days. 

    The Red Sox collapse would have been one of the most excruciating things you've ever seen, if it wasn't for the fact that it was the Red Sox. The fact that the game-winning hit off of the loathed Papelbon dropped in front of Carl Crawford, the man whose signing made the Red Sox everyone's heavy favorite in the AL, just made the whole thing that much sweeter.

    They won't be bystanders on Friday. In a smaller story that we're sure you've been following, the Tigers couldn't pass the Rangers and will head to the Bronx to get the playoffs underway on Friday night.

    Everyone will probably still be a bit hungover from Wednesday night's festivities, but there should be a pretty decent show going on at the Stadium. Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia locking horns in a game that finally matters as much to the Yankees as it does to the team they are playing against will be damn fun.

    Will it be as much fun as what went down on Wednesday night? Unless both guys take perfect games into the ninth inning, that's going to be a hard act to follow.

    Good thing, then, that it will just be day one of a long October. It feels like we're going to get a pretty special one from the game that's already given us so much this year.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.