By John Supowitz
As we head into the final month of the season, there are still plenty of teams with a chance to play October baseball. There are also teams that may think they have a comfortable lead, but we've seen the game is unpredictable.
There have been some epic collapses in MLB history; the 1969 Cubs, whose failure at the end of the season led to The Miracle Mets, or the 1978 Red Sox, where a 6.5-game lead on September 1st led to the nickname Bucky Bleepin' Dent.
We can go all way back and find teams with deplorable Septembers, but we've seen it in recent history; here are some of the most recent September collapses.
2011 Red Sox
The Red Sox had the second-best record going into September and a nine-game lead in the AL East but would go on to lose 20 of 27 games that month, even failing to win consecutive games.
Boston still had a chance to win the division on the last day. They were up 3-2 with two outs in the ninth inning until Nolan Reimold hit an RBI double to tie the game, and Robert Andino had an RBI single to win it and end the Red Sox season. That would completely change the organization. The team cut ties with popular players, manager Terry Francona was fired, and GM Theo Epstein left for the Chicago Cubs.
Not only did we watch one team have an epic collapse in 2011, but there were two collapses that both culminated on the last day of the regular season. The Atlanta Braves had an 8.5-game lead in the wild-card heading into September. Their 8-18 record destroyed that lead, but the Braves still had a chance to get into the playoffs. They had a three-game lead over the Cardinals with five games left. Atlanta lost the first four, heading into a tie on the final day. The Braves would lose that final game in epic fashion; the Phillies tied the game in the ninth inning and won it in the 13th to send the Braves home for the winter.
The Mets were coming off a season in which they lost in a heartbreaking seven games in the NLCS. Going into September 13th, they owned a seven-game lead in the NL East. That lead would cut down to 1.5 games with seven to go. The Mets were playing at home against teams with under .500 records; everything was in their favor to win the division. They would lose six of those games to not only lose the NL East to the Phillies, but a wild-card spot to the Rockies and Padres by one game.
This was a great Tigers team that had been in the World Series just three years prior. They held a three-game lead with just four to play. They would go on to lose three of the last four by a combined score of 21-4. A win in the final game would have helped the Tigers force a one-game tiebreaker on the road against the Twins. In that game, they had an early 3-0 lead before allowing the Twins to score four. Minnesota would go on to win that game in extra innings.
The Rangers were coming off back-to-back American League pennants and were favored to do it again. They just needed to win one game in a three-game series in Oakland, and they couldn't get it. They would be swept, and Oakland would win the division; it was the only day they actually led the AL West. Texas would still claim the wild card but would lose to the Orioles in the NLDS.
John Supowitz is a graduate of Quinnipiac University with a Master’s degree in Sports Journalism. He is currently at college football writer for NBC Sports and a game operations producer for the Colorado Rockies AA affiliate Hartford Yard Goats. E.mail him at email@example.com.
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