I spent half an hour searching for a single video clip that would do justice to it — with the dramatic moments from each game intercut in chronological order, the way we watched it happen live on ESPN — but I can’t find one. You’ll have to settle for these two recaps from MLB. If you missed it, to your everlasting sorrow, here’s how close it was: The Sox were one strike away from winning and the Rays were one strike away from losing, and somehow, against all odds, it’s Tampa that’s the wild card this morning. And when I say “against all odds,” I mean against all odds:
The following is not mathematically rigorous, since the events of yesterday evening were contingent upon one another in various ways. But just for fun, let’s put all of them together in sequence:
The Red Sox had just a 0.3 percent chance of failing to make the playoffs on Sept. 3.
The Rays had just a 0.3 percent chance of coming back after trailing 7-0 with two innings to play.
The Red Sox had only about a 2 percent chance of losing their game against Baltimore, when the Orioles were down to their last strike.
The Rays had about a 2 percent chance of winning in the bottom of the 9th, with Johnson also down to his last strike.
Multiply those four probabilities together, and you get a combined probability of about one chance in 278 million of all these events coming together in quite this way.
Watching it in real time, with Longoria’s homer coming just three minutes after Papelbon’s meltdown in Baltimore, the odds felt considerably longer than that. It seemed so scripted, in fact, right down to how the arc of each game mirrored the Rays’ and Sox’ seasons, that I half-expected a wild-card Truther movement to be up and running today.
The sweetest moment here, needless to say, is watching the Orioles celebrate their 69th win of the year like they’d just won the Series. Pure baseball magic. Exit question one: Is it true that this is proof that baseball shouldn’t add anymore wild-card teams, as they’re now planning to do? An extra wild-card slot is an extra opportunity for season-ending drama like this. Exit question two: Is the Curse of the Bambino back or is this some entirely new curse? The Curse of Martha Coakley, maybe? Click the images to watch.