Going down to the wire

BOB ELLIOTT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

The baseball season began March 25.

And going into play yesterday, only the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels knew that they were playing each other this week in post-season.

The Tampa Bay Rays, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Los Angeles Dodgers were in but each had no idea who they would face.

The Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins still were fighting for the American League Central Division title while the New York Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers battled for the NL wild card berth.

In a great afternoon of September baseball yesterday, Wes Helms hit a solo homer off Scott Schoeneweis in the eighth inning as the Florida Marlins went on to beat the New York Mets 4-2 in the final game at Shea Stadium.

Ryan Braun hit a two-run homer off Bobby Howry in the eighth as CC Sabathia pitched a complete game on three days rest for a 3-1 win to put the Milwaukee Brewers in the playoffs for the first time since 1982.

Had the Mets and Brewers both won or both lost, there would have been an NL playoff tonight.

As it is, there still is a chance of a one-game, winner-stay-off-the golf course playoff.

The Twins and the White Sox each won yesterday and with a White Sox win today against the Detroit Tigers in a makeup game at Chicago, manager Ozzie Guillen's team can force a sudden-death playoff with Minnesota tomorrow.

That would be Game 163, if you are biting your nails along at home.

A year ago, the Colorado Rockies went to a 163rd game and found themselves trailing 8-6 in the 13th inning. Kaz Matsui and Troy Tulowitzki hit back-to-back doubles and Matt Holliday followed with a triple to tie the score. Jamey Carroll hit a fly ball just deep enough to score Holliday to send the Rockies to the post-season, although replays showed Holliday didn't touch the plate.

In 1999, Cincinnati Reds GM Jim Bowden arrived at Wrigley Field on Oct. 1 to discuss his club's rotation for the first round. The Reds dropped two of three games to fall into a tie with the Mets. Al Leiter then pitched a two-hitter in Game 163 to give the Mets the wild card. No post-season soup FOR YOU Jim Bowden.

The Chiacgo Cubs beat the San Francisco Giants 5-3, behind seven scoreless from Steve Trachsel in 1998.

Lefty Randy Johnson pitched a three-hit complete game as the Seattle Mariners knocked off the California Angels 9-1 in a playoff in 1995.

Joe Niekro tossed a complete game to help the Houston Astros eliminate the Dodgers 7-1 in Game 163 of 1980.

Probably the most infamous playoff game was the New York Yankees capping their September rally to beat the Boston Red Sox 5-4 in 1978 in Game 163. Everyone remembers Bucky (Bleepin') Dent and his three-run homer off Mike Torrez in the seventh. Yet, if Reggie Jackson doesn't hit a solo shot off Mike Stanley in the eighth ... who knows?

The Giants scored four runs in the top of the ninth to win the deciding game of the best-of-three 1962 playoffs on a Matty Alou single, two walks, a Willie Mays infield single, a scoring fly ball, two more walks and an error.

My personal worst playoff memory was in 1959 at age 9. The Milwaukee Braves, the team I cheered for, whose pictures covered my bedroom walls, dropped the opener to the Dodgers 3-2. My Braves blew a three-run lead in the ninth and lost 6-5 on a two-out error by shortstop Felix (Bleepin') Mantilla in the 12th.

We didn't see the ending as mother made us attend Cubs ... Boy Scouts to get some stupid badge.

Years later, we asked a number of people who played in that game about the throwing error.

They said first baseman Frank Torre could have picked the low throw and the Braves would have moved on to the 13th.

Frank (Bleepin') Torre.


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