Red Sox: Top five MLB September collapses prove playoffs are still possible
By Sean Penney
The Atlanta Braves entered the final month of the 2011 season with an 8.5 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals, a margin that held until September 6. The Braves were swept by the Cardinals that weekend, opening the window for a St. Louis comeback.
Atlanta was a dismal 8-17 in the month of September, including five consecutive losses to end the year. They wrapped up their season by getting swept by the 102-win Phillies, allowing the Cardinals to sneak ahead of them by one game for the Wild Card.
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Knowing that St. Louis had already won earlier that day, the final game of the season was a must-win for the Braves. Craig Kimbrel was arguably the best closer in baseball at the time but he wasn’t that night. The flame-throwing right-hander blew a ninth-inning save by giving up a leadoff base hit and walking the bases loaded before a sac fly tied the game. The Braves would go on to lose the game in 13 innings. Philadelphia had nothing to play for with MLB’s best record already secured yet they were the ones who fought as if their backs were against the wall.
Kimbrel notched a league-leading 46 saves on his way to earning Rookie of the Year honors that season but he stumbled down the stretch, blowing three saves and posting a 4.76 ERA in September. The rotation struggled to go deep into games. Derek Lowe went 0-5 that month to end up with a league-leading 17 losses. The Braves lineup hit a collective .235 for the month. Basically, just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
The Braves had a three-game lead in the Wild Card race with five games remaining and still couldn’t hold on. Just like the Red Sox this season, Atlanta had no chance of winning their division but the Wild Card was very much in play.