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Baseball reigns with 20-game day

Baseball reigns with 20-game day

A baseball season is a test of endurance and consistency, they say.

They also say that baseball titles and postseason fates are not decided in one day.

Well, Saturday might be the exception.

Out of Friday night's havoc will come Saturday's splendor.

When clouds part and fields dry from the East Coast to the heartland, the sun (hopefully) and the baseball muses will shine on a September day unlike any other in recent memory.

Friday night's siege of bad weather threw pennant races into overdrive, creating today's schedule of 20 games -- 15 of them with postseason implications. Friday's six postponements matched the toll of April 15, 2007, as the Majors' most in one day since April 12, 1997, when eight games were washed away.

It's a good thing that fans have MLB.TV Premium at their disposal, which allows them to watch games complete with their own home-team broadcast feed and commentators. Sixteen of the 20 games on today's slate will be available for fans to watch.

Of course, a lot of fans would far rather go to the ballpark to take an active role in rooting on their favorite team, in which case getting tickets online is just the thing.

Even with the Cubs and Astros remaining on the sidelines as they sit out Hurricane Ike's rage, this will be the heaviest day of big league baseball activity since the existing 24 teams played 21 games on Sept. 7, 1970. ...

... When Edwin Starr's "War" topped the charts, and "Patton" took home the Oscar for Best Picture, and O.J. Simpson was one game into his sophomore season with the Buffalo Bills ...

There hasn't been even a 20-game day since Aug. 4, 1974. Of today's scheduled 20, a dozen will be American League affairs, the most since the Junior Circuit played the same number on Aug. 8, 1985.

Once again, "DH" will stand for doubleheader, not designated hitter.

The day's six doubleheaders -- four created by Friday's rainouts and two others by earlier postponements -- will mark the first time that so many have been played in one day since Aug. 17, 1980. ...

... When No. 1 on the hit charts was "Magic," by Olivia Newton-John, and Robert DeNiro was "Raging Bull," and the Tigers were retiring Al Kaline's No. 6 ...

New York's misty-eyed farewell bash to Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium just got mistier. Both the Yankees and Mets will play two at home -- after rainouts against the Rays and Braves, respectively -- for only the third time. (The other two were on Sept. 21, 1982, and on April 13, 1997).

And if your spinning head can stand one more flashback, three of the twin bills will be single-admission affairs, not the neo day-night variety. The Braves-Mets in Shea Stadium, the Tigers-White Sox in U.S. Cellular Field and the Twins-Orioles in Camden Yards will recapture a threesome last seen on Sept. 29, 2004.

In this amazing convergence of hope and opportunity, the standings atop two divisions could change within a few chaotic hours of baseball:

The Boston Red Sox, who sliced Tampa Bay's lead in the AL East to two games with their storm-dodging 7-0 victory over Toronto on Friday night, double up against the Blue Jays at 12:35 p.m. and 7:05 p.m. (all times ET). Simultaneously, the Rays will be playing their own day-night deal in the Bronx.

Tampa Bay, of course, could foil Boston's two-fold hopes and lengthen, rather than lose, its lead. While James Shields and Matt Garza will pit their combined 23-17 records against the hot-and-cold of Mike Mussina and Sidney Ponson, Boston will be relying on the back end of its rotation against a pair of hot Toronto hands.

Paul Byrd and Bartolo Colon, making his first start since being taken down by a sore back in mid-June, will take on A.J. Burnett and Jesse Litsch and their cumulative 28-18 record.

Meanwhile, the White Sox and the Twins, one game apart in the AL Central, will both be engaged in doubleheader action. Chicago will host Detroit, with the nightcap following 30 minutes after the 3:55 p.m. opener, and Minnesota plays two in Baltimore starting at 5:05 p.m.

Meanwhile, the NL East and NL Wild Card races could get considerably tighter.

The day dawns with the Mets holding a three-game lead in the NL East over the Phillies -- who will defer their own doubleheader to Sunday as a result of Friday's rainout against the Brewers, who also hold a three-game lead over them for the NL Wild Card.

Individual glory will also be sought coast-to-coast.

In Anaheim, Angels reliever Francisco Rodriguez will be looking for his 58th save of the season to break the Major League record he currently shares with former White Sox closer Bobby Thigpen.

In Phoenix, Randy Johnson takes on the Reds and young sensation Edinson Volquez, seeking career win No. 295 to stay on course for the 300-win club.

Boston's Dustin Pedroia will try to stretch his narrow lead in the AL batting race against a pair of right-handers he has played to a draw in the past; he is batting a combined 7-for-24 (.292) against Burnett and Litsch.

And so it will go during this Ballapalooza that will stretch 2,600 miles from Boston to San Diego, and from mid-day to deep night.

Assuming all the games start on time and are of average length, the first pitch will be delivered at 12:35 p.m. by Byrd in Fenway Park, and the last delivery will be made by Brian Wilson in PETCO Park at 1 a.m.

In between, there will be thousands of pitches, hundreds of base hits, dozens of shattered bats, perhaps even a few instant replays -- and 745 minutes of low sliders, high fives and rapid heartbeats.

And with fans storming the turnstiles for 17 different gates, it could also be a record attendance day.

When the last bank of ballpark lights are dimmed, we may have witnessed a day unlike any other in the continuum of the Beautiful Game.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["pennant_chases" ] }
{"content":["pennant_chases" ] }