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Division Series packed with late action

Division Series featured plenty of late action

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If you're thinking this year's Division Series games had more ninth-inning excitement than we've seen in a while, you're right on the money.

The teams in the four series combined for 15 ninth-inning runs, which tied 2002 for the most in Division Series history. In the six years in between, the ninth-inning run total for the first round was in single digits four times.

Ninth-inning fireworks have been the buzz of the playoffs to this point. Fittingly, the first round concluded with the Phillies advancing when they scored three in the top of the ninth in Game 4 to eliminate the Rockies.

"It was pretty dramatic," said Phils right fielder Jayson Werth, who drove in the game- and series-winning run with an RBI single. "The way the game went tonight, the ups and downs, what can you say? We knew what we needed to do and we got the job done."

It was a hard first round of the playoffs for closers. Colorado's Huston Street, who gave up the Game 4 lead to Philadelphia, had saved 35 of 37 games during the regular season.

In Game 2 of their NLDS meeting with the Dodgers, the Cardinals were one out from tying the series when mayhem wrecked closer Ryan Franklin's road to a save in the bottom of the ninth.

A two-out error with no one on base by left fielder Matt Holliday opened the door for the Dodgers to score three runs and take the game. Franklin was 38 for 43 in save chances and had a 1.92 regular-season ERA. Los Angeles went on to sweep St. Louis in three games.

Good til the last drop
Ninth-inning runs scored in Division Series action from 1995-2009
Year Top 9 Bot 9 Total
2009 4 11 15
2008 3 8 11
2007 5 1 6
2006 1 5 6
2005 3 5 8
2004 3 7 10
2003 3 3 6
2002 4 11 15
2001 2 7 9
2000 4 9 13
1999 1 10 11
1998 3 5 8
1997 3 7 10
1996 6 0 6
1995 11 3 14

Twins closer Joe Nathan banged out 47 saves in 52 chances in the regular season, including 12 in a row to end the season, while posting a 2.10 ERA in 70 games. In Game 2 of the ALDS vs. the Yankees, Nathan blew a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth when Alex Rodriguez hit a two-run home run. New York went on to take a 4-3 win in 11 innings.

"There's always pressure," Nathan said after the game. "No matter where. That's my job. That's what I get paid to do. I get paid to come into these tight situations in tough spots, in front of these crowds, all season long. ... It was no different tonight."

Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon had a streak of 26 scoreless postseason innings until the Angels nailed him for three runs and a blown save in Sunday's Game 3 series sweep by Los Angeles. It was Vladimir Guerrero's two-run single to center field that doomed Boston.

Papelbon saved 38 of 41 games in the regular season and had a 1.85 ERA in 66 games.

"Your team fights and puts you in that situation, and they call upon you and you let them down," Papelbon said. "Your team expects you to pull through and preserve that win for you and then you don't, it's definitely not a good feeling."

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

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