Monday, September 30, 2013

Top Yankees Postseason Home Runs by Inning: First Inning

The New York Yankees did not qualify for the 2013 Major League Baseball postseason. For just the second time since the institution of the Wild Card and Division Series in 1995, the Bronx Bombers will not participate in the playoff tournament...I'm sure that fans of the other 29 teams will be able to cope with this news.

As for Yankees fans, we can do what we always do...wrap ourselves in pinstriped nostalgia!

As you can guess from the title, over the next two weeks I will unveil my rankings of the top Yankees playoff homers by inning. Since they won't be adding to the total this year I figured now would be as good a time as any to do it.

There have been 1,368 postseason games in major league history, and in those games 2,311 home runs have been hit. The Yankees have socked 387 of them, more than two and a half times as many as the team with the second most, the Cardinals. From Babe Ruth (1921 World Series Game Four) to Eduardo Nunez (2012 ALCS Game Three), 96 Yankees have gone deep in a playoff game. The Yankee with the most is Bernie Williams (22) and the pitchers that have allowed the most to the Yankees are Don Newcombe and Pedro Martinez (both served up eight). 

The methodology I'm using is a combination of Win Probability Added for the home run, the game/series in which it was hit and its overall impact on baseball history. There's a little bit of both numbers and gut going into this, and we'll see what people think of the lists.

6. Babe Ruth - 1923 World Series Game Six

The Giants had beaten the Yankees in the two previous Fall Classics, but 1923 would be different. The Yanks moved out of the Polo Grounds and opened up their new stadium that year, which culminated in yet another October meeting with their rival and former landlord.

The first World Series home run at the new Yankee Stadium was hit by Casey Stengel. His inside-the-parker with two outs in the top of the ninth broke a 4-4 tie and gave the Giants a series-opening win. The Yankees recovered and won three of the next four to move one victory away from their first championship.

Art Nehf retired the game's first two batters before Babe Ruth stepped to the plate and knocked a home run for a quick 1-0 lead.

The Giants came back and tied it in the bottom half and pulled ahead with single tallies in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Nehf had set down 19 of 21 after the Ruth homer and it looked like the series was headed to a seventh game with the Giants up 4-1 in the eighth.

With one out, Wally Schang and Everett Scott singled before the wheels really came off. Nehf walked pinch hitter Fred Hofmann on four pitches to load the bases, then walked the opposing pitcher, Bullet Joe Bush, on four pitches to force in a run. Rosy Ryan entered in relief and he too issued a four-pitch walk, this one to Joe Dugan that trimmed the lead to 4-3. Ryan struck out Ruth for the second out but Bob Meusel came through with a go-ahead single. Two runs scored, and a third came in on an error in center field to complete the five-run rally. Sad Sam Jones worked a scoreless eighth and ninth out of the pen and clinched the first of 27 Yankees World Series crowns.

5. Hideki Matsui - 2003 World Series Game Two

Less than 48 hours after winning an incredible, heart-stopping ALCS against the Red Sox, the Yankees looked flat in the World Series opener against the Marlins, going 1-for-12 with RISP in a 3-2 loss.

Needing a win to avoid going to Florida down 0-2, the Yankees got a big hit from Hideki Matsui. With two on and two out in the bottom of the first, the first-year bopper from Japan jumped ahead in the count 3-0 against Mark Redman. Godzilla got the green light and ran through it, drilling a three-run homer to dead center for a 3-0 lead.

Andy Pettitte, who came through with series-tying Game Two victories in the ALDS and ALCS, did it again here. He pitched eight and two-thirds innings of shutout ball, allowing an unearned run with two outs in the ninth before Jose Contreras came in for the 27th out.

The Fish took two out of three in Miami before Josh Beckett outdueled Pettitte in Game Six in New York to win the title for the wild-card Marlins.

4. Bob Watson - 1981 World Series Game One

The Yankees had beaten the Dodgers in eight out of ten World Series meetings, most recently in 1977 and 1978. If the first inning of the first game was any indication, this one would go the way of most of the others.

Jerry Reuss was in a second-and-third, two-out spot in the bottom of the first inning. Yanks first baseman Bob Watson belted a three-run jack that keyed a 5-3 victory. New York won the second game as well, but they dropped three straight one-run decisions in Los Angeles to fall behind 3-2. The Dodgers rolled 9-2 in Game Six to win the title.

Watson would return to the Yankees after his playing days as general manager he helped construct the 1996 championship club.

3. Bobby Richardson - 1960 World Series Game Three

This game became a laugher very quickly, thanks in part to New York second baseman Bobby Richardson.

Pirates lefty Vinegar Bend Mizell allowed four of the first five batters to reach in the bottom of the first and Danny Murtaugh dipped into his bullpen very early, calling on Clem Labine. Elston Howard greeted Labine with an RBI single that made it 2-0 and the bases were still loaded for Richardson. He hit the seventh grand slam in World Series history* and the Yankees led 6-0 only seven batters into the game.

* Elmer Smith of the Indians hit the first World Series grand slam in 1920. The next six were all hit by Yankees: Tony Lazzeri (1936), Gil McDougald (1951), Mickey Mantle (1953), Yogi Berra (1956), Bill Skowron (1956), Richardson (1960). Richardson's was the only one of those that was hit at Yankee Stadium. Tino Martinez's 1998 slam was the only other Yankee World Series slam at home.

Richardson drove in six runs to set a World Series single-game record that has since been equaled by Hideki Matsui in the 2009 clincher and by Albert Pujols in his 2011 three-homer game.

The Yankees won 10-0 and a theme was established in the 1960 Fall Classic. New York won their three games 16-3, 10-0 and 12-0. Pittsburgh won 6-4, 3-2 and 5-2 before coming back to win Game Seven 10-9 to score the thrilling upset.

2. Derek Jeter - 2000 World Series Game Four

New York had long dreamt of a Yankees-Mets World Series meeting, and we finally got one in 2000. The Yanks won the first two games at Yankee Stadium, but the Mets won Game Three at Shea. The fourth game would be huge, with either the Mets getting even at 2-2 or the Yankees taking control 3-1.

Derek Jeter stepped to the plate against Bobby Jones and in dramatic Jeter-esque fashion, does this:

One pitch into the game, the Yankees had grabbed the lead for good. Denny Neagle was in bend-but-don't-break mode for four and two-thirds innings before David Cone retired Mike Piazza on a pop up to end the fifth. The old Jeff Nelson-Mike Stanton-Mariano Rivera trio closed it up for the big win. The Yankees eked out another victory in Game Five to clinch their third straight championship.

1. Yogi Berra - 1956 World Series Game Seven

The Dodgers finally conquered the Yankees in the 1955 World Series, and the crosstown foes met yet again in 1956. The first four games were split before Don Larsen pitched a perfect game to give the Yanks a 3-2 series lead. Back in Brooklyn, the Dodgers won Game Six 1-0 in the bottom of the tenth inning on Jackie Robinson's walk-off single.

It all came down to the seventh game. Yogi Berra came to bat against Don Newcombe in the top of the first inning and set the tone for a Yankee rout:

His two-run shot was all the Yankees needed, but it didn't stop there. Yogi added another two-run homer in the third and Bill Skowron put the game away with a seventh-inning grand slam that made it 9-0 New York.

23-year-old Jersey City native Johnny Kucks didn't know he was starting Game Seven of the World Series until he saw that Casey Stengel had left a baseball in his shoe, but he stepped up with a magnificent game. He pitched a three-hit shutout, ending the series with a strikeout of Robinson in what would be Jackie's final major league plate appearance.

Monday, September 30: First Inning
Tuesday, October 1: Second Inning
Wednesday, October 2: Third Inning
Thursday, October 3: Fourth Inning
Friday, October 4: Fifth Inning
Monday, October 7: Sixth Inning
Tuesday, October 8: Seventh Inning
Wednesday, October 9: Eighth Inning
Thursday, October 10: Ninth Inning
Friday, October 11: Extra Innings

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