On the Ball: Greatest Baseball Playoff Games
Tuesday night’s thrilling AL Wild Card game was an instant classic with multiple lead-changes, a late-inning comeback, and a walk-off hit in extras to cap it off. Had the game occurred a little later in the postseason, it would rank as one of the greatest ever. Here are the 10 best postseason games over the last quarter-century:
10. 2001 World Series Game 4: NY Yankees 4, Arizona 3 (10 innings) tied with Game 5: NY Yankees 3, Arizona 2 (12 innings)—The Yankees were down two runs heading into the bottom of the ninth of both games and somehow managed to win each time in extra innings—courtesy of blown saves by Arizona closer Byung-Hyun Kim. Game 4 ended just after midnight on Nov. 1 via a Derek Jeter walk-off home run, earning him the “Mr. November” title.
9. 2004 NLCS Game 6: St. Louis 6, Houston 4 (12 innings)—Down 3–2 in the series, St. Louis led 4–3 in the ninth, before a Jeff Bagwell single scored Morgan Ensberg to tie it. The game remained that way until the bottom of the 12th when Jim Edmonds connected for walk-off two-run home run to extend the series, which St. Louis won.
8. 1992 NLCS Game 7: Atlanta 3, Pittsburgh 2—The Braves were down 2–0 heading into the ninth against the Pirates, in a rematch of the previous season’s NLCS, and somehow rallied for the win. Pinch-hitter Francisco Cabrera’s two-out, two-run single scored David Justice and the slow-footed Sid Bream, who barely beat the tag at home, for the thrilling victory.
7. 1995 ALDS Game 5: Seattle 6, NY Yankees 5 (11 innings)—One of the more thrilling series ever, the AL’s first division set featured numerous comebacks to either tie or take the lead (13 in total) and the clinching Game 5 was no different. Don Mattingly’s two-run double in the sixth broke a 2-all tie, but the Mariners rallied for two in the eighth to knot the score at four. Then in the top of the 11th the Yankees pushed across a run to take the lead, but in the bottom half of the inning Edgar Martinez doubled in Joey Cora and a sliding Ken Griffey Jr. for the win.
6. 1999 NLCS Game 5: NY Mets 4, Atlanta Braves 3 (15 innings)—The Braves won the first three games of this series, but the Mets won Game 4, to put some doubt in Atlanta’s World Series plans. In this thrilling Game 5, Atlanta scored twice in the fourth to tie it at two, and then the game went scoreless for 10 agonizing innings. Finally, in the top of the 15th, Atlanta pushed a run across via a Keith Lockhart triple, but the Mets answered with a bases-loaded walk followed by Robin Ventura’s Grand Slam ‘single’—although he homered, he was before he ever touched second.
5. 2004 ALCS Game 4: Boston 6, NY Yankees 4 (12 innings)—Boston, trailing 3–0 in the series and 4–3 in the bottom of the ninth, rallied for a run off of Mariano Rivera, to tie it at 4. The game remained scoreless until the 12th when David Ortiz hit a walk-off two-run home run to win it. Ortiz became a household name that postseason as the Red Sox rallied to win the pennant and the World Series.
4. 2001 World Series Game 7: Arizona 3, NY Yankees 2—After blowing late leads in Games 4 and 5, Arizona turned the tables on the Yankees, who were gunning for their fourth straight World Series title, in Game 7. Trailing 2–1 heading into the bottom of the ninth, and facing Mariano Rivera, the Diamondbacks tied it on a Tony Womack double and won it on a bases-loaded bloop single courtesy Luis Gonzalez.
3. 2003 ALCS Game 7: NY Yankees 6, Boston 5 (11 innings)—Armed with a 5–2 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth in the deciding game of this classic series, the Red Sox looked like they were finally going to beat the Yankees. Then Grady Little happened. With Pedro coming off the hill after the seventh inning, celebrating like he had done his job, Little put him back out there for the eighth, instead of opting for a reliever. The Yankees pounced on a worn-down Pedro for three runs to tie it at five. Then after a pair of scoreless innings, Yankee third baseman Aaron Boone ended the series with a dramatic walk-off home run.
2. 2011 World Series Game 6: St. Louis 10, Texas 9 (11 innings)—As far as back and forth goes, this was the biggest roller-coaster postseason game ever. Texas became the first team to lose after being within a strike of a series win on two different occasions. The Rangers blew a 7–5 ninth-inning lead and then a 9–7 10th-inning lead before losing on a walk-off home run in the 11th. The hero of the night was St. Louis third baseman David Freese, who had the game-tying triple in the ninth and the game-winner in the 11th.
1. 1991 World Series Game 7: Minnesota 1, Atlanta 0 (10 innings)—Few pitching matchups in games as big as this have ever lived up to their billing—but this one did. While a young John Smoltz (he was 24 then) held the Twins scoreless into the eighth before giving way to the bullpen, Jack Morris was more than his equal, holding the Braves scoreless for an amazing 10 innings. Finally in the bottom half of the tenth, pinch-hitter Gene Larkin hit a bases-loaded single to clinch the series.