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Fighting it out to the finish
Wild races in the West highlight exciting month
By Gary Washburn / MLB.com

New York City firefighters join in 9/11 pregame ceremony in Milwaukee.  (Brad Girsch/MLB.com)
The season's final month was an exciting one, filled with exciting milestones and pennant races. The A's, Angels and Twins proved that medium market teams can compete with the big boys.

It was also marked the end of an era in Detroit, two sparkling records by closers and the anniversary of the most tragic day in American history.

Sept. 1
The Oakland A's continued their incredible, record-breaking winning streak when Miguel Tejada hit a dramatic three-run, ninth-inning homer off Minnesota's Eddie Guardado for a 7-5 win. It was the A's 18th win in a row.

The New York Mets, meanwhile, set a similar record for consistency, but this is nothing to be proud of. The Mets tied a National League record with their 14th consecutive home loss, a 9-5 defeat to Philadelphia.

Sept. 2
Making a late pennant chase, the Los Angeles Dodgers punished division-rival Arizona, 19-1, relegating the Diamondbacks to use veteran first baseman Mark Grace as a pitcher. He allowed a home run.

Sept. 3
Not much was going right for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but there was a heartwarming story for the struggling club. Solomon Torres, whose infamous performance cost the Giants the 1993 Western Division title, threw 8 1/3 scoreless innings in a 3-0 win over Atlanta. It was his first win in six years.

Sept. 4
What appeared to be a cinch win for their 20th straight victory, the A's had to rally for an improbable 12-11 decision over Kansas City. Scott Hatteberg won the game with a walk-off homer after the A's blew an 11-0 lead.

September Multimedia Highlights
September Audio
September Video  56K | 300K
 September Photos

 
 
    Cards photo tops in 2002
A touching moment with Kannon Kile and the St. Louis Cardinals received the honors as the best baseball photo of 2002. View the complete results >
 
Giambi call garners honors
WCBS announcer John Sterling's description of a mammoth Jason Giambi homer was voted as the best radio call of 2002. See the complete results >

Sept. 5
Alex Rodriguez became the first shortstop in history to post consecutive 50-homer seasons when he socked two in an 11-2 win over the struggling Orioles.

Sept. 6
The Twins, in what would be a Division Series preview, used flawless pitching from Brad Radke, who would toss a six-hitter in a 6-0 win, snapping the A's 20-game winning streak.

Sept. 8
The Rangers didn't have much to sing about after another long season, but the club did set a Major League record with a homer in its 26th consecutive game in a 6-3 loss Tampa Bay. Rafael Palmeiro hit the shot.

Sept. 9
Randy Johnson continued his astounding season by collecting his 300th strikeout for the sixth time in his career in a 5-2 win over San Diego.

Sept. 10
In what would be a prelude to their World Series run, the Giants used a Benito Santiago homer to beat the Dodgers 5-2 to take over the National League Wild Card lead.

Sept. 11
Baseball joined America to commemorate the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The most emotional tribute occurred at Yankee Stadium in New York, with a moving 45-minute pre-game ceremony before the Yankees' 5-4, 11-inning win over Baltimore.

Meanwhile, in the hotly-contested race deciding the AL West, Anaheim rallied for two runs in the bottom of the eighth for a 5-4 win over the A's in a crucial four-game series.

Sept. 13
The Devil Rays needed all the good news they could get. And they accomplished a franchise first by executing a triple play in a 5-2 loss at Toronto.

Sept. 14
The Red Sox weren't going to reach the playoffs, but the season still had significance for Derek Lowe, who collected his 20th win in a 6-4 victory over Baltimore. Lowe also had a 40-save season in 1999.

Sept. 15
It had been 11 years since baseball fans had a reason to be excited in Minnesota, but on this day, memories of the past 10 trying seasons dissipated. The Twins, despite a tight budget, clinched the American League Central with a 5-0 win over the Cleveland Indians. Kyle Lohse pitched six scoreless innings.

Sept. 16
As the season wound down and the division races were settled, there was one still very much alive. Anaheim and Oakland were tussling in the AL West and this night, the A's forged ahead thanks to Miguel Tejada, who singled home the winning run in the ninth inning for the 4-3 victory.

Sept. 19
What was a normal game between two teams headed nowhere turned into a bizarre and sad scene when two White Sox fans jumped onto the Comiskey Park field and attacked Royals first-base coach Tom Gamboa. Gamboa was OK and the two assailants were arrested, but the incident resurrected the issue of player and coach safety on the field.

Meanwhile, on the field, the Rangers' Alex Rodriguez belted his 56th homer of the season, sending his old club, the Seattle Mariners, to the brink of playoff elimination.

Sept. 20
Very rarely in baseball does the workmanlike veteran get the credit he deserves, but on this night he did. Mike Bordick set a Major League record for shortstops with his 102nd consecutive errorless game in a 4-2 Baltimore loss to Boston.

The A's continued their success despite payroll challenges, beating Texas 4-2 to clinch their third consecutive playoff appearance. Jermaine Dye knocked in the go-ahead run.

Sept. 21
Once a starter with a mediocre record, Eric Gagne improved his velocity, sported goggles and fired away as the Dodgers closer. He collected save No. 50 on this night with a scoreless ninth in a 5-3 win over the San Diego Padres.

Sept. 22
Fred McGriff has played with several different teams but he has maintained his consistency and power. That was no more evident than when he belted his 30th homer in the Cubs' 5-4 loss to the Pirates. McGriff became the first Major Leaguer to hit at least 30 homers with five different teams.

Also, it was an emotional day in Cincinnati. The Reds were swept by the Phillies to close out Cinergy Field (formerly Riverfront Stadium).

Sept. 23
The playoffs were 10 days away but perhaps the fate of one team was cemented because of a simple shallow fly ball. Arizona left fielder Luis Gonzalez crashed into teammate Tony Womack during a 13-1 loss to St. Louis and was lost for the season with a separated shoulder. The Diamondbacks were swept by the Cardinals in three games in the NLDS.

Sept. 25
Andruw Jones has long been admired for his defensive prowess but his power is quickly catching up. He belted three homers in a game for the first time in his career, in a 7-1 win over the Phillies.

Sept. 26
The Anaheim Angels suffered through 16 years of shabby teams, late-blown division leads and ineptitude before this night. The Angels capped their amazing season with a 10-5 win over Texas to clinch their first playoff spot since 1986. Garret Anderson highlighted the game with his 29th homer.

Sept. 27
While Derek Lowe made his splash this season as a closer converted into a starter, John Smoltz did the exact opposite. The former Cy Young winner and one of the top pitchers in the 1990s broke a National League record for dominance by a closer. He collected his 54th save in a 3-1 win over the Mets.

Meanwhile, in what would be one of his final highlights as an Indian, Jim Thome broke the team record for homers with his 51st in an 8-3 win over Kansas City.

Sept. 28
The Giants always seem to be in the playoff race but this season it appeared they would be edged by the hot Dodgers. But a blazing September carried the Giants to another postseason berth and win No. 94 put them over the top.

Sept. 29
An era came to an end today that has lasted more than many lifetimes. In a normal season finale between non-playoff teams, Detroit and Toronto, Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell graced the microphone for the final time, ending 55 years in the booth.

Gary Washburn is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at gwashb7519@aol.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.