Tuesday, October 23, 2012

MVP vs MVP in the Fall Classic

The World Series between the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants should be a fun one. It also could be showcasing both of 2012's Most Valuable Player Award winners.

San Francisco catcher Buster Posey is the consensus favorite to take home the award in the National League. The American League race is much more controversial. While Angels center fielder Mike Trout gets my fictional vote (another argument for another time), Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera has had a monster season for the Tigers and is the favorite to nab the honor in the A.L.

That got me wondering...how often have that year's MVPs faced each other in the World Series?

The MVP was first awarded by the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1931. But there were two earlier incarnations of the award. The Chalmers Award was given out from 1911-1914 and the League Award was given out from 1922-1929.

So here are the instances of MVPs squaring off on the ultimate stage:

Year NL MVP AL MVP World Series
1912 Larry Doyle (NYG) Tris Speaker (BOS) BOS d. NYG
1914 Johnny Evers (BSN) Eddie Collins (PHA) BSN d. PHA
1927 Paul Waner (PIT) Lou Gehrig (NYY) NYY d. PIT
1931 Frankie Frisch (STL) Lefty Grove (PHA) STL d. PHA
1934 Dizzy Dean (STL) Mickey Cochrane (DET) STL d. DET
1935 Gabby Hartnett (CHN) Hank Greenberg (DET) DET d. CHN
1936 Carl Hubbell (NYG) Lou Gehrig (NYY) NYY d. NYG
1939 Bucky Walters (CIN) Joe Dimaggio (NYY) NYY d. CIN
1940 Frank McCormick (CIN) Hank Greenberg (DET) CIN d. DET
1941 Dolph Camilli (BKN) Joe Dimaggio (NYY) NYY d. BKN
1942 Mort Cooper (STL) Joe Gordon (NYY) STL d. NYY
1943 Stan Musial (STL) Spud Chandler (NYY) NYY d. STL
1945 Phil Cavarretta (CHN) Hal Newhouser (DET) DET d. CHN
1946 Stan Musial (STL) Ted Williams (BOS) STL d. BOS
1950 Jim Konstanty (PHI) Phil Rizzuto (NYY) NYY d. PHI
1955 Roy Campanella (BKN) Yogi Berra (NYY) BKN d. NYY
1956 Don Newcombe (BKN) Mickey Mantle (NYY) NYY d. BKN
1957 Hank Aaron (MLN) Mickey Mantle (NYY) MLN d. NYY
1960 Dick Groat (PIT) Roger Maris (NYY) PIT d. NYY
1961 Frank Robinson (CIN) Roger Maris (NYY) NYY d. CIN
1963 Sandy Koufax (LAD) Elston Howard (NYY) LAD d. NYY
1967 Orlando Cepeda (STL) Carl Yastrzemski (BOS) STL d. BOS
1968 Bob Gibson (STL) Denny McLain (DET) DET d. STL
1970 Johnny Bench (CIN) Boog Powell (BAL) BAL d. CIN
1975 Joe Morgan (CIN) Fred Lynn (BOS) CIN d. BOS
1976 Joe Morgan (CIN) Thurman Munson (NYY) CIN d. NYY
1980 Mike Schmidt (PHI) George Brett (KC) PHI d. KC
1988 Kirk Gibson (LAD) Jose Canseco (OAK) LAD d. OAK

It's happened 28 times, with 25 coming since the inception of the modern award in 1931. 11 of these 25 occurrences happened in the first 16 years (1931-46).

20 of the 25 came before divisional play began in 1969. That makes sense, because when only the league's top team won the pennant, the writers would sometimes give the award to a player on that team, perhaps at the expense of a more deserving player.

Since the start of the LCS era it's only happened five times, with just one coming after 1980. So if Posey and Cabrera do take home their respective league's MVP, it will be very unique for recent times.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Looking at 3-1 Comebacks

The St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants have crawled out of their own graves several times of late, but one will be going home for good after tonight's winner-take-all Game Seven.

The Giants have fought back from 3-1 down to become the 17th team in MLB postseason history to force a seventh game. 11 of the previous 16 finished the job and completed the comeback.

UPDATE: The Giants won Game Seven en route to a World Series sweep and second title in three years. Teams that went from down 3-1 to 3-3 are 12-5 in Game Seven.

Down 3-1, came all the way back  
1925 Pittsburgh Pirates (WS)
1958 New York Yankees (WS)
1968 Detroit Tigers (WS)
1979 Pittsburgh Pirates (WS)
1985 Kansas City Royals (ALCS)
1985 Kansas City Royals (WS)
1986 Boston Red Sox (ALCS)
1996 Atlanta Braves (NLCS)
2003 Florida Marlins (NLCS)
2004 Boston Red Sox (ALCS)
2007 Boston Red Sox (ALCS)
UPDATE: 2012 San Francisco Giants (NLCS)

Down 3-1, forced seventh game, came up short

1912 New York Giants (WS)
1967 Boston Red Sox (WS)
1972 Cincinnati Reds (WS)
1992 Pittsburgh Pirates (NLCS)
2008 Boston Red Sox (ALCS)

Of the 12 teams to come back, six of them did it by winning the final two games on the road.

Of the 17 teams to force a Game Seven, eight of them have done it as the Giants have, winning the fifth game on the road before coming home and winning the sixth. Those teams that snatched the momentum are 6-2 in Game Seven.

According to WhoWins.com, this NLCS marks the fourth time that the team hosting Game Seven had gone L-W-L-L-W-W. The 1925 Pirates and 1986 Red Sox completed their comebacks and won the series over the Washington Senators and California Angels, respectively.

The Cards will look to the example set by their 1967 predecessors. St. Louis nearly blew a 3-1 World Series lead to the Red Sox, but Bob Gibson turned in a ten-strikeout complete game (and swatted a home run) for a 7-2 win at Fenway.

Still, squandering a 3-1 lead is a familiar feeling for the Redbirds, as they now account for four of the 12 times it's happened (1968 WS, 1985 WS, 1996 NLCS, 2012 NLCS).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How Often Do Teams Finish the Sweep?

Thanks to their suddenly dormant offense, the New York Yankees have dropped the first three games of the American League Championship Series to the Detroit Tigers and are in a big hole.

The Yanks know something about 3-0 comebacks, but now they need to be on the other end of history to reach the World Series.

Detroit's outstanding starting pitching has led the way and although New York sends CC Sabathia to the hill tonight, the Tigers are still primed for the sweep as Max Scherzer (MLB-leading 11.08 K/9 IP) will get the ball.

In the MLB postseason, how often do teams that hold a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series win Game Four and complete the sweep?

UPDATE: I've updated these numbers to reflect the Tigers sweeping the Yanks in the 2012 ALCS and the Giants' subsequent sweep of the Tigers in the World Series.

31 teams have started a series 3-0 to set themselves up for a sweep*. 25 of them finished the job in the next game. Of the six teams that lived to fight another day, half were knocked out in Game Five. The 1998 Braves and 1999 Mets both won Games Four and Five of the NLCS before falling in Game Six. The 2004 Red Sox were the first team to force a seventh game and of course were the first to come all the way back and win it.

* I'm not counting the 1907 Cubs and 1922 Giants, although both are listed as winning their series 4-0. The first game of the Cubs/Tigers Fall Classic was called a tie after 12 innings due to darkness and Game Two of the Giants/Yankees series was also a tie for the same reason through ten innings.

Up 3-0 in the World Series

1914 Boston Braves
1927 New York Yankees
1928 New York Yankees
1932 New York Yankees
1938 New York Yankees
1939 New York Yankees
1950 New York Yankees
1954 New York Giants
1963 Los Angeles Dodgers
1966 Baltimore Orioles
1976 Cincinnati Reds
1989 Oakland Athletics
1990 Cincinnati Reds
1998 New York Yankees
1999 New York Yankees
2004 Boston Red Sox
2005 Chicago White Sox
2007 Boston Red Sox
UPDATE: 2012 San Francisco Giants

1910 Philadelphia Athletics (lost Game Four to the Cubs, won Game Five)
1937 New York Yankees (lost Game Four to the Giants, won Game Five)
1970 Baltimore Orioles (lost Game Four to the Reds, won Game Five)

Up 3-0 in the League Championship Series

1988 Oakland Athletics
1990 Oakland Athletics
1995 Atlanta Braves
2006 Detroit Tigers
2007 Colorado Rockies
UPDATE: 2012 Detroit Tigers

1998 San Diego Padres (lost Games Four and Five to the Braves, won Game Six)
1999 Atlanta Braves (lost Games Four and Five to the Mets, won Game Six)

2004 New York Yankees (lost four straight to the Red Sox, flopped into history books)

With their ace on the mound, I think the Yanks have a good shot at joining the short list of teams to avoid the sweep, even if it's only for a day. Beyond that who knows, but as the '04 Sox can attest, it always starts with one.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Both Teams Lead in Extra Innings in Postseason

I was playing around on the Baseball Reference Play Index and was looking at go-ahead plays in extra innings in playoff games. I was drawn to the games that featured more than one and there were 18 such contests. These are the postseason games that had the visitor score in the top of the frame only to have the home team come back and either tie the score and extend the contest further, or win it outright.

Game Two - 1912 World Series

This one almost slipped through the cracks in my search, since there was only one go-ahead hit and the game ended in a tie. It is one of three World Series ties, along with the opener of the 1907 World Series and Game Two of the 1922 Series.

After Smoky Joe Wood won Game One for Boston, Christy Mathewson tried to even the set at Fenway. He allowed three unearned runs in the first inning, but the Giants got back in the game and even took a brief lead in the eighth before SS Art Fletcher's third error of the game tied it at five.

Fred Merkle, the unfortunate goat of the 1908 pennant race, led off the tenth for the Giants and scored on pinch-hitter Moose McCormick's sac fly. In the bottom half, Tris Speaker belted a shot into deep center field and came all the way around to score the tying run. It was scored a triple and an error on catcher Chief Meyers, so it wasn't exactly an inside-the-park home run, much like Paul O'Neill's not-quite-second-homer-of-the-game on Seinfeld.

Nevertheless, it was a 6-6 game and after both teams went down in the 11th, the game was called on account of darkness. All statistics counted, but Boston maintained their series lead and the best-of-seven set became an eight-gamer.

All six runs against Mathewson were unearned. Surprisingly, this doesn't represent not the most unearned runs allowed in a postseason game. John Candelaria allowed seven runs, all unearned, in Game Seven of the 1986 ALCS as the Red Sox blitzed the Angels to complete their amazing 3-1 comeback.

Game Eight - 1912 World Series

The finale of the great 1912 Series is one of the most famous games in the history of the Fall Classic. Smoky Joe Wood had won Games One and Four, but he allowed six runs in the first inning as the Giants forced a deciding Game Eight (remember the Game Two tie).

New York's ace Mathewson was outdueling Hugh Bedient 1-0, but Olaf Henriksen's* pinch-hit double tied the game in the seventh inning.

*Henriksen is the only person born in Denmark to play in the major leagues.

Wood was summoned in relief and posted zeroes in the eighth and ninth innings. The Giants rallied in the tenth against him when Red Murray doubled and Fred Merkle singled him home.

Mathewson had three outs to go to wrap up the title. Clyde Engle batted for Wood and lifted a fly ball to center field that Fred Snodgrass dropped, allowing Engle to reach second base. Snodgrass atoned when he robbed the next batter, Harry Hooper, of a hit with a great running catch, but Engle tagged up to third base. Steve Yerkes walked to bring up Hall of Famer Tris Speaker. The Baseball-Reference Bullpen explains:

"Speaker popped up the first pitch into first base foul territory, roughly halfway between first and home. First baseman Fred Merkle seemed to have the easiest play but Matty inexplicably called him off, yelling for catcher Chief Meyers to take it. Meyers was caught off guard, either hearing the call too late or not hearing it at all, and the ball fell harmlessly to the ground."

Speaker followed with a single to tie the game at 2-2. The runners also moved up to second and third on the throw home, so Duffy Lewis was walked intentionally to set up the double play.

With the bases loaded and one out, Larry Gardner hit a sacrifice fly to right field to bring home Yerkes and net the Red Sox the championship.

Wood became the sixth of 13 pitchers to win three games in one World Series. Snodgrass' drop went down as one of October's greatest blunders, with an unfortunate side note.

His teammate Fred Merkle, unfairly vilified for his baserunning miscue in the waning days of the 1908 season, had his shot at redemption erased with Boston's rally. If the Giants hang on to win in the bottom of the tenth, Merkle would have been remembered as the hero that knocked in the winning run in the top of the inning.

Game Three - 1914 World Series

On July 4, 1914, the Boston Braves hit rock bottom in the National League standings, falling 15 games behind the front-running Giants at 26-40. Then they went on an incredible 68-19 run to take the pennant. The math wizards at CoolStandings.com deemed the .782 ball played by the "Miracle Braves" as the greatest comeback in baseball history.

Waiting for them in the World Series were the powerhouse Philadelphia Athletics. The Braves pulled out 7-1 and 1-0 wins in Philly to go up two games to none as the series shifted to Boston.

Game Three was tied at two through four innings, but Boston's Lefty Tyler and Bullet Joe Bush of the A's settled in and both turned in five scoreless frames to send the game to extras.

Frank "Home Run" Baker knocked a bases-loaded single in the top of the tenth to hand the A's a 4-2 lead, but as they have all season, the Braves mounted a comeback. Hank Gowdy started the bottom half of the tenth with a homer that cut the lead in half. With one out, Herbie Moran worked a walk and moved to third on a single by Johnny Evers (who had moved on from Tinker and Chance). Joe Connolly followed with a sacrifice fly to tie it up, but the A's kept the Braves from winning it and the game continued.

Bill James (not that one), who pitched a complete-game two-hit shutout two days earlier, pitched two innings of scoreless relief for Boston and picked up the win when Boston rallied in the 12th.

Gowdy hit a leadoff double and Larry Gilbert was intentionally walked. Moran laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners over, but the pitcher Bush threw the ball away* and pinch-runner Les Mann darted home with the winning run. Boston finished the sweep the next day to clinch its first title.

*Bush's miscue was the first of five walk-off errors in postseason history. The next one was a similar sac bunt/E1 to put a "Miracle" team one win from the promised land. In the fourth game of the 1969 World Series, Pete Richert threw away J.C. Martin's bunt and the Mets took a commanding 3-1 series lead. The third was Mookie Wilson's grounder through Bill Buckner's legs. I was in attendance on my tenth birthday for the fourth one. The Yankees beat the Rangers in Game Two of the 1996 ALDS when third baseman Dean Palmer threw away Charlie Hayes's bunt and Derek Jeter scored the game-winner. The last was in Game Two of the 2009 ALCS, also at Yankee Stadium. In the 13th inning, Maicer Izturis airmailed the relay on a potential double-play grounder, and Jerry Hairston Jr. scampered home to win it. Two other errors won games in extra innings for the visiting team. In 1911, The A's beat the Giants on an Art Fletcher error, but the Giants did beat the Reds 101 years later on a Scott Rolen error on Tuesday.

Game Four - 1957 World Series

The Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee after the 1952 season and quickly became one of the most successful clubs in the league, both on and off the field. They faced the Yankees in the World Series in just their fifth season since the move. In Game Four, Milwaukee was up 4-1 at home and the great Warren Spahn was one out away from evening the series at two games apiece. Yogi Berra and Gil McDougald knocked two-out singles to set the stage for Elston Howard, who belted a three-run homer to tie the game. An inning later, Hank Bauer tripled off of Spahn to score Tony Kubek and the Yankees were suddenly three outs away from going up three games to one. The bottom of the tenth got off to an ominous start when Tommy Byrne plunked pinch-hitter Nippy Jones. With Bob Grim now on the hill, Felix Mantilla ran for Jones and moved into scoring position on a Red Schoendienst bunt. Johnny Logan doubled home Mantilla to make it 5-5, then Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews blasted a two-run homer to win it and give Milwaukee new life*.

* The shot by Mathews was the third game-ending homer in World Series history. The first game of the 1949 Series between the Yankees and Dodgers was 0-0 until Tommy Henrich's solo blast in the bottom of the ninth. Game One of the 1954 Fall Classic is known for "The Catch" by Willie Mays, but it ended on a pinch-hit three-run homer by Dusty Rhodes.

Lew Burdette pitched seven-hit shutouts in Game Five and Seven (on two days of rest) to lead the Braves to their first championship since 1914.

Game One - 1972 ALCS

The Tigers and A's are currently doing battle in the ALDS, but they have met in the postseason twice before. There was Detroit's sweep in the 2006 ALCS (capped by Magglio Ordonez's pennant-winning walk-off homer) and there was the great 1972 ALCS. John Autin of High Heat Stats has an in-depth look at this series, which is the first to feature two of the games on this list. The first game in Oakland was tied at one until Al Kaline knocked a home run off of Rollie Fingers in the 11th inning. Sal Bando and Mike Epstein opened the home half with singles to knock Tigers starter Mickey Lolich out of the game in lieu of Chuck Seelbach. Gene Tenace failed on a sacrifice attempt and it was still first and second for pinch-hitter Gonzalo Marquez. The rookie singled to tie the game and the right fielder Kaline tried to nail Tenace going first-to-third. The throw bounced away, and Tenace scored the winning run. The plate appearance by Marquez had a 0.71 Win Probability Added, making it the fourth-biggest swing by a pinch-hitter in postseason history. The other three are pretty well known:

Kirk Gibson's homer in the 1988 World Series (0.87)
Cookie Lavagetto breaks up Bill Bevens no-no, Dodgers win Game Five of '47 Series (0.822)
Francisco Cabrera singles, Sid Bream chugs home to give Braves the 1992 NL crown (0.737)

Game Four - 1972 ALCS

Four days later, this game was also 1-1 through regulation. Oakland broke out in the tenth inning with run-scoring hits by Matty Alou and Ted Kubiak to move within three outs of the pennant. The Tigers roared back in the bottom of the inning with three runs, tying the game on Norm Cash's bases-loaded walk and winning it on Jim Northrup's single. Detroit lived to fight another day, but the Oakland pitching duo of Blue Moon Odom and Vida Blue teamed up on the hill to beat Woodie Fryman 2-1 in Game Five to win the pennant.

Game Two - 1985 ALCS

The expansion Toronto Blue Jays finished in last place for the first five years of their existence, compiling a 270-482 record (.359) from 1977-1981. A young Bobby Cox took over as skipper and turned things around quickly, winning 89 games in his second and third seasons. They'd break through in year four, winning 99 games and their first AL East title. Up next was an ALCS matchup against the 91-win Kansas City Royals.

After winning Game One, Toronto came back from 3-0 down to take a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth. Pat Sheridan led off the top of the ninth for KC and ripped a home run off of Tom Henke to even the score. The Royals took the lead with small ball in the tenth when Willie Wilson hit a check-swing single, stole second and scored on Frank White's single.

Dan Quisenberry tried to slam the door in his third inning of relief, but Tony Fernandez led off with a single and scored on Lloyd Moseby's single. "Quiz" later had Moseby picked off at first base, but Steve Balboni booted the play, allowing Moseby to take second base. With two outs, Al Oliver knocked a single to plate Moseby and give the Jays a 2-0 lead. Toronto led three games to one but lost three straight, including the last two games at home, to fall to the surprising Royals.

Game Six - 1986 NLCS

One of the most thrilling games ever played. The Mets were a brash and colorful team that steamrolled over the National League en route to 108 wins in 1986. The Astros were big underdogs, but won two games behind the outstanding pitching of Mike Scott (18 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 19 K). New York still led the series 3-2, but the looming prospect of facing Scott in Game Seven added an unexpected sense of urgency.

Six batters into the bottom of the first, the Astros had scored three runs against Bob Ojeda. The Mets were stymied by Bob Knepper, who tossed eight innings of two-hit ball and was in for the ninth. New York quickly came to life with a triple by Lenny Dykstra, Mookie Wilson's RBI single and Keith Hernandez's RBI double. With the score now 3-2 and the tying run at second, closer Dave Smith entered the game. Gary Carter and Darryl Strawberry both worked seven-pitch walks to load the bases. Ray Knight added another good at bat before driving a sacrifice fly to tie the game at three, but things were just getting started.

Roger McDowell was brilliant out of the New York bullpen, retiring 14 out of 15 batters to get through the 13th inning. Larry Andersen tossed three scoreless frames for Houston as well. The Mets took the lead in the 14th when Carter singled, Strawberry walked and Wally Backman singled. Jesse Orosco replaced McDowell to finish the game but with one out, Billy Hatcher roped a home run just inside the Astrodome's left field foul pole to extend the game.

The Mets broke out in the top of the 16th with three runs, coming in on RBI singles by Knight and Dykstra and a wild pitch. This delirious game wasn't quite over, though. Trailing 7-4, the Astros did not quit. Hatcher and Glenn Davis stroked run-scoring singles to make it a 7-6 game and put the tying and winning runs aboard.

Orosco and Kevin Bass battled to a full count before Orosco struck him out to win the pennant after nearly five heart-stopping hours.

Game Six - 1986 World Series

The Mets advanced to the World Series to face the Red Sox, who came back from 3-1 down in the ALCS to beat the Angels. Boston won the first two games in Queens and although the Mets took two of three in Fenway, the Sox still had two chances to break Babe Ruth's curse at Shea Stadium.

The visitors struck with two quick runs before the Mets tied it in the fifth inning. A Ray Knight error at third base led to Boston's go-ahead tally in the seventh. Sox manager John McNamara took out Roger Clemens after seven strong innings. McNamara contends that Clemens asked to be removed from the game, but The Rocket says that he did not.

It's only controversial because reliever Calvin Schiraldi coughed up the lead in the eighth on Gary Carter's sacrifice fly. New York missed chances to win it in that inning and in the ninth before Boston moved to the brink of history in the tenth.

Dave Henderson, who saved the Red Sox and began the ALCS comeback with his historic homer, hit another shot against Rick Aguilera to open the inning and would-be Series MVP Marty Barrett added an insurance run with a single.

Schiraldi got two quick outs in the bottom of the tenth and the Mets appeared to be doomed. But Carter singled. And Kevin Mitchell singled. And Knight singled on an 0-2 pitch to drive in Carter, move Mitchell to third and knock out Schiraldi. Bob Stanley came in to get one more out and had two strikes on Mookie Wilson. The eighth pitch of the showdown squirted away from catcher Rich Gedman and Mitchell raced home to tie the game.

Wilson then dribbled a grounder to first baseman Bill Buckner and you know what happened next.

The stunned Sox recovered in Game Seven and held a 3-0 lead in the sixth inning, but the Mets inevitably stormed back to win the championship.

Game One - 1995 ALDS1

We are now in the Wild Card-era, which added twice as many playoff teams and twice as many postseason games as there were in the previous decades. So it's no surprise that half of the 18 games on this list have occurred since 1995. One-sixth of the games happened during a six-day span during the very first set of Division Series. On October 3, 1995, the O.J. Simpson verdict came in that afternoon and the powerhouse Indians hosted the Red Sox in their playoff opener that night.

The Tribe dominated the AL to the tune of a 100-44 record. The previous summer's labor strife pushed the start of the season into late-April and abridged the schedule. I think that shortened slate hurt the 1995 Indians historically, since their mark projects to 112.5 wins over a 162-game schedule. Perhaps they set the AL wins mark (previously held by the 1954 Tribe) before the Yankees would in 1998.

Roger Clemens and Dennis Martinez dueled at the Jake. John Valentin (who posted a superlative 8.1 bWAR in '95) hit a two-run homer in the third to put the Sox in front, but the Indians came back in the sixth on Albert Belle's two-run double and Eddie Murray's single.

In the top of the eighth, Luis Alicea, who hit a career-high six home runs in 1995, went deep to start the inning and tie the game at three. The bullpens did well after that. The Cleveland troika of Paul Assenmacher, Eric Plunk and Jose Mesa turned in 2 2/3 scoreless innings and Boston's Mike Stanton worked out of an eighth-inning jam before putting up zeroes in the ninth and tenth.

Tim Naehring clubbed a solo homer in the top of the 11th to put the Sox three outs from an upset, but Belle led off the bottom of the inning with one of his own to keep the game going. Boston manager Kevin Kennedy, believing there was cork in Belle's bat, had it confiscated by the umpires. That led to Belle's salty exchange and this memorable image of him flexing his muscle in the Cleveland dugout:

The New York Daily News reported that Belle had this to say about American League president Bobby Brown:  "I would've liked for the bat to be X-rayed and given back to me, but Bobby Brown split the bat open into two pieces. And you know what he can do with those two pieces."

Cleveland starter Ken Hill came on in the 12th and struck out Jose Canseco to strand two runners. The Indians had a chance to win after Mike Maddux loaded the bases with only one out, but Zane Smith induced a 5-2 force from Murray and another groundout from Jim Thome.

Hill shut out the Sox in the top of the 13th and Smith got two quick outs in the bottom half. That brought up 38-year-old catcher Tony Pena, who hit five home runs during the regular season with an OPS+ of 75. He worked the count to 3-0...would he get the green light? Good thing he did, because he delivered a game-winning home run, five hours and one minute after the  Pena is the second-oldest catcher to go deep in a playoff game, 206 days younger than Bob Boone, who homered in the Dave Henderson game in the 1986 ALCS.

Game Two - 1995 ALDS2

The day after Pena's early-morning blast, the Yankees and Mariners squared off in Game Two of their series. The Yankees won the opener in the first playoff game at Yankee Stadium since 1981 (an eternity for them). Andy Benes outpitched young Andy Pettitte early, carrying a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning. But Ruben Sierra homered to tie the game and Don Mattingly, in the postseason for the first time in his career, belted a home run to give the Yanks the lead and send the Stadium into delirium*.

*Fantastic job by Gary Thorne on his escalating "hang on to the roof!" call.

The game was far from over as the M's rallied for two runs off of Pettitte in the top of the seventh to take the lead, only to have Paul O'Neill tie it in the bottom half with a home run. The game held at 4-4 into the 12th inning, with relievers Norm Charlton and John Wetteland trading zeroes. Ken Griffey Jr. knocked a home run in the top of the 12th and knocked Wetteland out of the game. 

25-year-old Panamanian righty Mariano Rivera entered the game for his postseason debut. He retired Jay Buhner to end the frame. Wade Boggs and Bernie Williams worked one-out walks in the bottom of the 12th to put the tying and winning runs aboard. Another Yankee made his playoff debut when Jorge Posada pinch ran (seriously!!!) for Boggs. Tim Belcher set down O'Neill on a flyout but Ruben Sierra came through with a double to tie the game. Williams was thrown out trying to score from first and the game dragged on.

Belcher kept the New York bats at bay and Rivera put away the first eight batters he faced before allowing singles to Edgar Martinez and Buhner with one out in the 15th inning. He buckled down to get the next batters, including an inning-ending flyout by Tino Martinez to complete 3 1/3 shutout innings.

In the bottom of the 15th, Belcher issued a one-out walk to Pat Kelly and fell behind Jim Leyritz 3-1...

That gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series, needing only one win in Seattle to advance. The Mariners, who came back from 13 games out in August to catch the Angels for the AL West, weren't going down without a fight. They won the next two games to set up the deciding...

Game Five - 1995 ALDS2

The Kingdome was rocking in this winner-take-all game and little Joey Cora, after hitting three home runs in the regular season, began the scoring with a third-inning solo shot against David Cone. Paul O'Neill answered with a two-run homer, but Jay Buhner tied it with a single and it was 2-2 through four frames. Andy Benes walked the bases loaded in the sixth and Don Mattingly made him pay, slicing a ground-rule double to take the lead. In the eighth inning, Ken Griffey Jr. launched a homer to cut the New York lead to 3-2.

The blast came on Cone's 125th pitch and Buck Showalter stuck with him even after he walked Tino Martinez, allowed a single to Buhner and walked Alex Diaz to load the bases. Cone was clearly gassed after throwing 141 pitches, but he stayed in to face pinch-hitter Doug Strange. Cone walked him on a 3-2 pitch to tie the game. Showalter finally brought in Rivera, who struck out Mike Blowers on three pitches to end the inning and preserve the tie.

New York bounced back to put runners at first and second with nobody out in the ninth, but Lou Piniella called on his ace Randy Johnson in a rare relief outing. The menacing southpaw retired the side on eight pitches and kept the M's in it. He struck out the side in the tenth and after starter Jack McDowell worked out of trouble in the ninth and tenth for the Yankees, the tie carried into the 11th.

Johnson walked Mike Stanley on four pitches to start that inning and pinch-runner Pat Kelly was bunted up one station by Tony Fernandez. Randy Velarde singled to push the Yankees in front. It would be up to McDowell to get through the bottom half of the 11th against the meat of the Seattle lineup.

Cora reached on a bunt single and Griffey singled to move the tying run Cora to third base. That brought up Edgar Martinez and he came through with a rocket down the left field line. Joey Cora scored the tying run and Ken Griffey Jr. came all the way around from first to win the game and the series. The Mariners pulled off the stunning comeback and although they lost to Cleveland in the ALCS, this series is credited with saving baseball in Seattle.


Game Five - 1999 NLCS

Time for the third series on the list that had multiple games on this list. The 1999 NLCS is often overlooked as a great series. The Braves pulled away from the Mets to take the NL East on their way to 103 wins. The Mets had a much tougher road, winning a one-game playoff in Cincinnati for the Wild Card before upending Buck Showalter's surprising Diamondbacks in the NLDS.

The Braves won the first three games over the Mets by a total of four runs and looked poised for a sweep. They were four outs away from doing so before John Olerud knocked a two-run single in the bottom of the eighth to give the Mets a 3-2 win. The Mets were alive for another day, but they had a long way to go.

Greg Maddux (2 R, 7 IP) was terrific in the fifth game, but an aging Orel Hershiser came out of the bullpen and posted 3 1/3 scoreless innings of one-hit relief to keep the game tied at two.

The relief corps for both teams were outstanding as there were no runs from the fifth inning through the 14th.

The Braves broke out in the top of the 15th against Octavio Dotel on Keith Lockhart's two-out triple that scored Walt Weiss. Kevin McGlinchy, who came in for John Rocker in the previous inning, stayed in the game to try and wrap up the pennant.

Shawon Dunston led off with a single and stole second. Matt Franco worked a walk before Edgardo Alfonzo bunted the tying and winning runs into scoring position. Olerud was intentionally walked to load the bases and set up the double play, but McGlinchy couldn't find the plate, walking Todd Pratt to even the score once again.

That set the stage for Robin Ventura, who only needed a fly ball to the outfield to extend the series but gave the Mets much more than that.

His teammates mobbed him as he trotted from first base to second, and because he never made it around the bases, was awarded only one base and one RBI. The Mets were halfway to the first 3-0 comeback in MLB history and they did it on the unusual "Grand Slam Single."

Game Six - 1999 NLCS

The very next game in the series also qualified for this list, and you wouldn't have thought it would after the first inning. Al Leiter was tagged for five runs in the bottom of the first and became the first pitcher since Bob Welch in the 1981 World Series to be removed from a postseason start before recording an out.

As Hershiser did in Game Five, Pat Mahomes turned in four shutout innings to keep the Mets in it. New York rallied with four runs in the seventh inning to tie it at 7-7 before both teams traded runs in the eighth.

The Mets scratched a run across in the top of the tenth against New York villain John Rocker on a sacrifice fly to take their first lead. A year before, the Braves were the first team down 3-0 to force a sixth game (before falling to San Diego in the NLCS). Now the Mets were three outs from becoming the first team to win three straight to push the series to a winner-take-all game.

In came Armando Benitez, whose postseason struggles are well documented. An Andruw Jones leadoff single, a Ryan Klesko walk and a single from the light-hitting Ozzie Guillen added up to another tie.

Kenny Rogers replaced Benitez for the 11th and quickly unraveled. Gerald Williams opened the frame with a double and was bunted over by Bret Boone. Rogers walked Chipper Jones and Brian Klesko to load the bases for Andruw Jones. The count was 3-2, so Rogers HAD to throw a strike. Buuuuuuuuut:

Rogers issued the first (and to date, the only) game-ending walk in postseason history. It also was a series clincher that sent the Braves to the Fall Classic against the Yankees and denied the Mets a shot at an unprecedented comeback and Subway Series. Rogers's free pass was the fourth of seven postseason go-ahead walks in the seventh inning or later:

Cr# Date Series Gm# Batter Tm Opp Pitcher Score Inn Out Pit(cnt) WPA RE24 LI Play Description
1 1982-10-13 WS 2 Steve Braun STL MIL Pete Ladd tied 4-4 b8 1 4 (3-0) 0.15 1.00 4.83 Walk; Hendrick Scores; Porter to 3B; Smith to 2B
2 1988-10-08 NLCS 3 Mike Sharperson LAD @NYM Randy Myers tied 3-3 t8 2 7 (3-2) 0.25 1.00 5.79 Walk; Gonzalez Scores; Hamilton to 3B; Davis to 2B
3 1996-10-23 WS 4 Wade Boggs NYY @ATL Steve Avery tied 6-6 t10 2 6 (3-2) 0.31 1.00 6.90 Walk; Raines Scores; Jeter to 3B; Williams to 2B
4 1999-10-19 NLCS 6 Andruw Jones ATL NYM Kenny Rogers tied 9-9 b11 1 0.16 1.00 5.42 *WALK-OFF*:*ENDED GAME*:Walk; Williams Scores; Jones to 3B; Jordan to 2B
5 2003-10-15 ALCS 6 Johnny Damon BOS @NYY Felix Heredia tied 6-6 t7 2 4 (3-0) 0.18 1.00 4.74 Walk; Ortiz Scores; Mueller to 3B; Varitek to 2B
6 2007-10-12 NLCS 2 Willy Taveras COL @ARI Jose Valverde tied 2-2 t11 2 4 (3-0) 0.31 1.00 6.90 Walk; Spilborghs Scores; Hawpe to 3B; Carroll to 2B
7 2009-10-16 NLCS 2 Andre Ethier LAD PHI J.A. Happ tied 1-1 b8 2 7 (3-2) 0.25 1.00 5.37 Walk; Martin Scores; Castro to 3B; Furcal to 2B
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/15/2012.

Last year, Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times argued that this was the greatest postseason series of all time.

Game Three - 2003 NLDS

The Giants won 100 games in 2003 and faced the wild-card upstart Florida Marlins in the NLDS. The teams split the first two games in San Francisco before playing two great games in Miami, both taken over by Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez. Pudge knocked a two-run homer in the first inning of Game Three and his battery-mate Mark Redman made it stand up for most of the night. San Fran tied it in the sixth inning on Pedro Feliz's single and it stayed 2-2 into the 11th.

The Giants scratched a run in extras against Braden Looper when Rich Aurilia walked, Barry Bonds reached on error by shortstop Alex Gonzalez and Edgardo Alfonzo singled in Aurilia. The Giants had a chance to break it open with the bases loaded and one out, but two groundouts limited the damage.

The Fish caught a break when right fielder Jose Cruz Jr. dropped Jeff Conine's fly ball to start the bottom of the 11th. Gonzalez made up for his error by contributing a walk and Miguel Cabrera (him?!) bunted the runners to second and third. Tim Worrell walked Juan Pierre to set up the force/double play and Luis Castillo grounded into a force at the plate.

Down 3-2 with two outs, Rodriguez singled to score two and hand the Marlins the pivotal victory.


It's one of only ten postseason walk-off hits that came while trailing. You can see the full list right here. Kirk Gibson's famous home run is the only other playoff game-ending hit that came when down to the last strike. 

Pudge would come through the next day as well, hanging onto the ball on a play at the plate to end the series.

Game Two - 2004 ALDS

The Yankees dropped the opening game of the 2003 ALDS to the Twins before coming back to win three straight and move on. They did the same the following year thanks in part to this wild game.

Johan Santana led Minnesota to a 2-0 shutout win in Game One and although they took early leads in the first and second innings of Game Two, the Yankees came back to take a 5-3 lead. That included a leadoff home run by Derek Jeter, who became the third player (joining Reggie Jackson and Jay Buhner) to hit a postseason homer into the batters-eye bleachers in dead center field.

Tom Gordon put two of the first three batters on in the top of the eighth to hand a sticky situation to Mariano Rivera. Mo was greeted by Justin Morneau's RBI single and Corey Koskie's ground-rule double that tied the game. It is one of just five blown saves in the playoffs for Rivera.

The game was still tied 5-5 in the 12th when Torii Hunter swatted a two-out solo homer off of Tanyon Sturtze to push the visitors in front. Joe Nathan retired six of seven in the tenth and 11th innings, but threw 32 pitches before coming back out for his third inning of work.

After a quick K of John Olerud, Nathan showed signs of fatigue by walking Miguel Cairo and Jeter on eight consecutive pitches.

Alex Rodriguez followed with a ground-rule double that brought in Cairo to tie the game again. Jeter could have scored, but the Twins caught a break when the ball bounced into the seats and kept Jeter at third. Nathan walked Gary Sheffield to load the bases before leaving for southpaw J.C. Romero. Hideki Matsui knocked the first pitch to right field. Jacques Jones made the catch but his throw home was late as Jeter scored the winning run and tied the series.

Game Two - 2009 ALCS

The Yankees and Angels battled for the 2009 AL pennant and Game Two was quite a fight. A.J. Burnett and Joe Saunders pitched well and it was 2-2 in extra innings. L.A. jumped in front in the top of the 11th on a Chone Figgins RBI single.

In the bottom half, Brian Fuentes got ahead of leadoff hitter Alex Rodriguez 0-2. Rodriguez served a line drive just over the right field wall for his second game-tying homer of the week and the game carried on.

David Robertson worked out of jams in the 12th and 13th before the Yankees rallied. Jerry Hairston knocked a pinch-hit single and Brett Gardner bunted him to second base. Ervin Santana walked Robinson Cano before Melky Cabrera rolled a potential inning-ending double play to second baseman Maicer Izturis. Izturis's throw to second flew into left field and Hairston scored to give the Yanks a 2-0 series lead.

The miscue was the fifth walk-off error in postseason history. The first one in the 1914 Series ended a game that appeared earlier in this post.

Date Series Gm# Batter Tm Opp Pitcher Score Inn RoB Out Pit(cnt) WPA RE24 LI Play Description
1914-10-12 WS 3 Herbie Moran BSN PHA Bullet Joe Bush tied 4-4 b12 12- 0 0.19 1.00 3.38 Reached on E1 (throw to 3B)/Sacrifice Bunt; Mann Scores/unER/No RBI; Gilbert to 2B; Moran to 1B
1969-10-15 WS 4 J.C. Martin NYM BAL Pete Richert tied 1-1 b10 12- 0 0.19 1.00 3.34 Reached on E1 (throw to 1B)/Sacrifice Bunt; Gaspar Scores/unER/No RBI; Weis to 2B; Martin to 1B
1986-10-25 WS 6 Mookie Wilson NYM BOS Bob Stanley tied 5-5 b10 -2- 2 9 (3-2) 0.40 0.91 3.77 Reached on E3 (Ground Ball); Knight Scores/unER
1996-10-02 ALDS 2 Charlie Hayes NYY TEX Mike Henneman tied 4-4 b12 12- 0 1 (0-0) 0.17 1.00 3.06 Reached on E5 (throw to 1B)/Sacrifice Bunt (Bunt to Weak 3B); Jeter Scores/No RBI/unER; Raines to 2B
2009-10-17 ALCS 2 Melky Cabrera NYY LAA Ervin Santana tied 3-3 b13 12- 1 1 (0-0) 0.28 1.00 4.26 Reached on E4 (throw to 2B)/attempted forceout (Ground Ball); Hairston Scores/unER/No RBI; Cano to 2B
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/15/2012.

Game Six - 2011 World Series

We finish with a game that has a legitimate claim as the greatest ever played. The Rangers were gunning for their first championship but the wild card entrant Cardinals wouldn't go away.

This game featured three ties and five lead changes by the seventh-inning stretch, and that's before the surreal final frames.

Texas led 7-4 with five outs to go, but Allen Craig homered to cut the lead to two. In the ninth, Neftali Feliz allowed a one-out double to Albert Pujols and walked Lance Berkman before striking out Craig. Feliz had a 1-2 count on David Freese and the Rangers were one strike away from winning it all until:


Just like that, it was tied and the Rangers were stunned. But Josh Hamilton immediately answered with a two-run shot in the top of the tenth and seemingly launched himself into history.

The Cardinals roared back again, however, in the bottom of the tenth. The unheralded duo of Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay singled against Darren Oliver and moved up on Kyle Lohse's bunt. Scott Feldman replaced Darren Oliver and Ryan Theriot grounded out. The Rangers traded the run for the critical second out and were still clinging to a 9-8 lead. Feldman got two strikes on Lance Berkman and were once again one strike away, but once again St. Louis crawled out of the grave.

At this point it seemed like it was just a matter of time until the Cards knocked off the shell-shocked Rangers to force a seventh game. It would be Freese leading off the 11th against Mark Lowe.

The Cardinals prevailed in Game Seven to win an improbable title.