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The greatest night of baseball: Phils, Manuel set franchise records

Atlanta's Martin Prado and Dan Uggla sit in the dugout after their loss to the Phillies cemented one of the biggest collapses in baseball history. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

How do you recap such an incredible night of baseball?

Records, drama, comebacks, chokes. It’s all a part of what makes the game of baseball special, and that all happened in one night.

Atlanta, GA: The Philadelphia Phillies trail the Braves, 3-2, in the top of the 9th. Rookie closer Craig Kimbrel was three strikes away from guaranteeing at least one more game of Braves baseball. The first batter, Placido Polanco, ripped a lead off single into right field. Two batters later, Ben Francisco and Jimmy Rollins worked back-to-back walks to load the bases with one out. Chase Utley followed with a sacrifice fly to score pinch runner Pete Orr and tie the game…

Houston, TX: The Cardinals just blew out the Houston Astros, 8-0, to win their 90th game of the season, putting them 1/2 a game ahead of the Braves for the NL Wild Card. Sitting in their clubhouse, they anxiously waited for the Phils and Braves to end…

Atlanta: In the 13th inning, Hunter Pence drove in Brian Schneider to give the Phils a 4-3 lead. They would go on to win a franchise record 102 wins and give Charlie Manuel a franchise record 646th win. It completed the Braves miserable choke. The Cardinals were in, the Braves were shut out.

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Season Preview: AL Central

Chicago White Sox

Expectations: Ozzie Guillen tweets every lineup change from the dugout.
Key addition: 1B/OF Adam Dunn (.260, 38 HR, 103 RBI with Washington)
Key loss: RP Bobby Jenks (1-3, 27 Saves, 4.44 ERA)
Projected record: 92-70

Summary: Most of the puzzle pieces remain from last year’s team, with a power addition of Adam Dunn.  The team has speed (Juan Pierre, Alex Rios), power (Dunn, Paul Konerko) and pitching (John Danks, Mark Buherle).  Alexei Ramirez, Gordon Beckham and Carlos Quentin are all solid ballplayers. The White Sox have a question mark in the bullpen, as they will have Chris Sale or Matt Thornton closing.  Jake Peavy’s injury concerns are troublesome, but as an end of the rotation guy, he won’t be relied on as an ace.

Minnesota Twins

Expectations: Increased amount of man-crushes on all-star catcher Joe Mauer.
Key addition: 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka (.260, 14 HR, 41 RBI with Chiba of the Japanese League.
Key loss: 2B Orlando Hudson (.268, 6 HR, 37 RBI)
Projected record: 89-73

Summary: Mauer leads the Twins, who are bitter after two straight first round exits to the Yankees.  The core of the team returns, although key component 1B Justin Morneau missed the second half of last year with a concussion, and has only played six spring training games thus far.  The Twins rotation is decent; no stud ace, but some solid pitchers to get the job done.  One of the biggest question marks is the bullpen.  Joe Nathan is coming off Tommy John surgery, and if he is the Joe Nathan of old, the Twins will be fine.  If not, Matt Capps will be their go-to guy.

Detroit Tigers

Expectations: Leading the league in DUI arrests.
Key addition: C/1B Victor Martinez (.302, 20 HR, 79 RBI with Boston)
Key loss: OF Johnny Damon (.271, 8 HR, 51 RBI)
Projected record: 85-77

Summary: The Tigers underachieved last season going 81-81, finishing 13 games behind the first place Twins.  They added Boston’s Victor Martinez, who is a .225 career hitter at Detroit’s Comerica Park.  Will Martinez continue his struggles at his new spacious home?  He will likely DH for the team, hitting behind Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez, so RBI opportunities will be there.  Detroit’s pitching is good with Justin Verlander, Matt Scherzer and Rick Porcello.

Cleveland Indians

Expectations: The Indians beg Pedro Cerrano and Rick Vaughn to come back and play for the team.
Key addition: OF Austin Kearns (.263, 10 HR, 49 RBI with Cleveland and New York AL)
Key loss: Uhhhh…. I guess 3B Andy Marte (.229, 5 HR, 19 RBI)
Projected record: 70-92

Summary: Carlos Santana has recovered from a knee injury he suffered last August, only two months after being called up to the major league club.  The Tribe are going to rely on their young catcher and OF Shin Soo-Choo, who hit .300 last year, with 22 HR and 90 RBI.  Other offensive weapons, Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore, have had trouble staying healthy in recent years.  Pitcher Fausto Carmona had a good year last season (3.77 ERA), despite losing 14 games.

Kansas City Royals

Expectations: Could contend for the AAA Championship.
Key addition: OF Jeff Francoeur (.249, 13 HR, 65 RBI with New York NL and Texas)
Key loss: SP Zach Greinke  (10-14, 4.17 ERA, 181 K)
Projected record: 65-97

Summary: The Royals fortunately have a deep minor league system, stocked up from many years of top draft picks.  However, that won’t help them this year.  They do have 1B Billy Butler, who hit .318 last year.  Top prospect 3B Mike Moustakas is ready for a promotion, and might get one this season.  Unfortunately the Royals traded away their best player, SP Zach Greinke for a boatload of prospects.  It’ll be a while before Kansas City is a competitor again.

Welcome Back J-Roll

Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino pies Jimmy Rollins after his two-run walk-off homer Wednesday night. Yong Kim/Philly Inquirer

As I said earlier this week, the Phillies would be welcoming back Jimmy Rollins with open arms. And boy did they ever. Rollins’ late-inning heroics made him the second player in as many days to save J.C. Romero’s ass as the Phillies won 7-6.

With the score tied 5-5, Romero got himself into bases-loaded, one-out trouble after giving up a run to make it 6-5. But the wild lefty got Russell Branyan to line into a double play to end the inning. Brian Schneider led-off with a walk and Wilson Valdez pinch-ran. After Ben Francisco grounded out, Rollins ripped a line drive that cleared the right field fence to win it for the Phillies in come-from-behind, walk-off fashion.

Rollins’ homer was his lone hit of the night. The MVP, All-Star short stop is just 1-for-9 in his return from his second stint on the DL but he snapped the eight-at-bat hitless streak in a huge way with his shot off of former ace turned bull pen bum Kerry Wood.

Jayson Werth had himself a monster game. His solo shot in the second inning tied the game at two. He also singled and doubled in the game to go 3-for-3 with two runs and an RBI. Ryan Howard had a pair of hits, Raul Ibanez drove in two and Schneider homered. Shin-Soo Choo homered twice and drove in four four the Indians.

Kyle Kendrick was roughed up in his four innings, allowing five runs, four earned, on six hits and two walks while striking out one. Jake Westbrook wasn’t any better as he allowed four runs in five innings on seven hits and a walk while striking out two.

It was a back and forth game. Cleveland jumped out two a 2-0 lead in the first. then the Phillies tied it up in the second. Cleveland took a 3-2 lead in the third off a Carlos Santana sacrifice fly. The Phillies got two more in the fourth thanks to Ibanez’s two-run double. The Indians were quick to answer with two in the fifth to make it a 5-4 game in favor of Cleveland. Schneider’s solo shot in the seventh tied it until Romero’s blunder and Rollins’ heroics in the ninth.

Doubles: Werth (25), Ibanez (14). HR: Werth (13), Schneider (1), Rollins (3).

WP: Romero (1-0). LP: Wood (1-3).

Boxscore.

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