We are certainly in crunch-time now as we look at the biggest eighth inning postseason homers in Yankees history.
6. Thurman Munson - 1978 ALCS Game Three
The Yankees beat the Royals in the ALCS in 1976 and 1977, and this home run helped ensure it would happen again in 1978.
There was a split of the first two games in Kansas City, and Game Three in New York featured two ties and six lead changes. The last two came in the eighth inning. George Brett had three home runs, but the Royals still trailed 4-3 until they scored twice in the top of the eighth. In the bottom half, Roy White singled with one out to knock starter Paul Splittorff out of the game.
Doug Bird came in for K.C. and fell behind 2-0 on The Captain. Munson crushed the third pitch into the visiting bullpen for a two-run homer and 6-5 lead.
New York won the game and wrapped up the series the next day when Ron Guidry outpitched Dennis Leonard. The Yanks then beat the Dodgers in six games to win back-to-back titles.
5. Alfonso Soriano - 2001 World Series Game Seven
A classic World Series finished with a great crescendo in Game Seven. Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens were both brilliant and as the game carried into the late innings at 1-1, it appeared that whoever scored the next run would win the series.
Alfonso Soriano led off the top of the eighth, fouled off two 0-2 pitches, then golfed a splitter out of the park for a 2-1 Yankees lead.
If not for Arizona's rally in the bottom of the ninth against Mariano Rivera, Soriano's would-be fourpeat-clinching home run would be at the top of this list.
4. Derek Jeter - 1996 ALCS Game One
I saw this one in person and it was actually 17 years ago today. The series was supposed to begin the previous night, but a rainout pushed it back. With a new 4:00 start time, my dad picked me up from school early (much to the chagrin of my classmates) and I did my homework in the car on the ride down.
As for the game, the Orioles led the Yankees 4-2 with two outs in the seventh inning when October tire-fire Armando Benitez entered with the bases loaded. He walked Darryl Strawberry to force in a run but struck out Mariano Duncan to keep the O's in front. With one out in the eighth, Derek Jeter lifted a fly ball to right field...
Maier certainly reaches out over the fence to grab the ball, and the play should have been ruled a double (I think...doesn't look like Tarasco's getting up for that ball on the fly).
It was a brand new ballgame. Mariano Rivera worked a scoreless 10th and 11th before Bernie Williams hit a walk-off homer to give the Yanks a 1-0 lead in the series, which they'd win in five games.
3. Jim Leyritz - 1996 World Series Game Four
The defending-champion Braves smoked the Yankees at the Stadium in the first two games of the '96 Series. Joe Torre assured a furious George Steinbrenner that they'd simply sweep the three games in Atlanta and come home to clinch in Game Six. That's exactly what happened, but the fourth game made it an especially tall task.
New York won the third game but quickly fell behind 6-0 in Game Four. Win Probability gave the Yanks a three percent chance to win in the sixth inning, but they cut the lead in half with three tallies in that frame. It was still 6-3 in the eighth when Charlie Hayes and Darryl Strawberry singled off closer Mark Wohlers to bring Jim Leyritz to the plate as the tying run:
The Yankees plated the winning run in the tenth inning when Wade Boggs drew a bases-loaded walk against Steve Avery. New York won Game Five 1-0 when Andy Pettitte outdueled John Smoltz, and they came home and won Game Six to clinch their first championship since 1978.
2. Scott Brosius - 1998 World Series Game Three
The Yankees won the first two World Series games in New York, but the turning point that set up the sweep was Game Three in San Diego. David Cone and former Yankee Sterling Hitchcock traded zeroes into the sixth, when the Padres rapped their first hits and scored three runs. Scott Brosius homered to open the seventh before the Yanks added another run to trim the lead to 3-2.
It was still a one-run game in the eighth when Paul O'Neill worked a leadoff walk against Randy Myers. Friars skipper Bruce Bochy decided to turn to closer Trevor Hoffman for a six-out save.
Hoffman was at the height of his powers in 1998, converting 53 of 54 save chances during the regular season. He posted a 265 ERA+ and allowed only 41 hits in 73 innings while striking out 86. After retiring Bernie Williams, he walked Tino Martinez on five pitches to bring up Brosius.
The Yankees won this game and the next to complete a 125-win season (including playoffs) that places them among the greatest teams ever.
1. Reggie Jackson - 1977 World Series Game Six
This was the choice I struggled with the most on the countdown. Reggie Jackson's first two home runs had a greater impact on the outcome of the game, as this one came with the Yankees already leading 7-3 in the eighth. Still, Reggie's towering blast into the batter's eye bleachers in dead center remains not only one of the most famous homers in Yankees postseason history, but one of the most famous ever hit in the World Series.
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