Baseball playoff pairings set on one stunning night

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Jim Leyland still was dazed a day later. So were baseball fans everywhere, trying to explain one of the wackiest wrap-ups to the sport’s regular season. In case you missed it:

• Down to his last strike, a benchwarmer delivered a lightning bolt.

• Desperate to make a catch, the $142 million man let the ball slip away.

• Trying to get it right, an umpire reversed a call.

Pitch by pitch, the playoff picture flipped. Startling collapses and stunning rallies left fans bleary-eyed and a little exhausted, what with a season’s worth of hope, joy and failure wrapped into a single night.

Midnight came, along with more madness. When it was over, Tampa Bay and St. Louis were in, Boston and Atlanta were out.

“That was probably the most dramatic day in the history of the game, it really was,” Texas Rangers star Michael Young said Thursday. “You have those two games with dramatic endings, three games with dramatic endings, just a crazy day.”

Added teammate Ian Kinsler: “Oh, man, we were on the bus, checking in for the plane, getting luggage checked, going through security line and guys are screaming, ‘They tied it up! Baltimore tied it up!”

Cellphones, split screens, three TVs at time, a rain delay in Baltimore - it was hardly enough to keep track of the four teams vying for the wild card berths in the National and American leagues on Wednesday, the final day of the regular season.

Leyland and his Detroit Tigers already were assured a trip to the postseason. But the 66-year-old manager was riveted in his office, watching Boston and Tampa Bay play their games.

Leyland turned to Tigers coach Lloyd McClendon for help.

“Trust me, I don’t have one, but McClendon has one of those fancy things you can watch. I don’t know what they call it. Playman,” Leyland said Thursday.

An iPad, actually.

“I could see it. Then it went out because of the satellite or something. I don’t know, it came back on. You could hear it, then you could see it again,” he said. “It was great. We were talking back and forth.”

“You can’t explain this to people, the emotions in baseball. Even from our side. Just watching it. We became fans.”

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