Where This Year's MLB Division Series Spectacle Ranks Among All-Time Best
Since its inception in the 1995 postseason, the Major League Baseball's round of best-of-five division series has given us some truly memorable moments.
My colleague and fellow MLB featured columnist Ely Sussman did a great job breaking down his top 10 division series moments in an article last week, which is definitely worth checking out—when you're finished reading this, of course.
Those great moments helped to make a particular series memorable, but this season has seen not just one, but all four series provide some terrific moments and some incredibly evenly matched and competitive play.
So here is my take on where this season's division series rank collectively among the best division series rounds in baseball history.
Photo Credit: Seattle Times
The 1995 round cracks the list solely on the strength of perhaps the greatest five-game division series of all time, between the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners.
In the other matchups, the Cleveland Indians swept the Boston Red Sox, the Cincinnati Reds swept the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Atlanta Braves dropped the Colorado Rockies in four games.
However, the Yankees-Mariners series went the full five, with the Mariners rallying back from being down 0-2 in the series.
The final game was capped off with what has come to be known simply as "The Double," as Edgar Martinez hit a two-run double in the bottom of the 11th with the Mariners trailing by a run. Ken Griffey Jr. raced around to score from first base in a game that is often credited with saving baseball in Seattle.
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This one also makes the list on the strength of one series in particular, as the Yankees swept the Texas Rangers, while the Braves and New York Mets beat the Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks, respectively, in four games.
Todd Pratt did deliver some dramatics for the Mets, as the backup catcher hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 4 to clinch the series for New York.
The marquee series, however, was between the Indians and Red Sox, as Boston fell behind in the series 0-2 but rallied back to advance to the ALCS.
Ace Pedro Martinez left Game 1 early after suffering an injury, but he came back to pitch in relief in Game 5 when he threw six innings of no-hit ball to earn the win and clinch the series. Prior to that game, the Red Sox had put up a ridiculous 23 runs in Game 4 in a wild one.
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The 2003 postseason was as exciting as any we've ever seen, as both league championship series went to seven games and the World Series was closed out in six behind the heroics of Marlins ace Josh Beckett.
The division-series round was not without its own dramatics, as both the Cubs-Braves series and the Red Sox-Oakland A's series went to five games.
The Cubs and Braves traded wins through the first four games, but the Cubs closed things out in Game 5 in Atlanta, as Kerry Wood went eight innings and allowed just one run on five hits while striking out seven to earn his second win of the series.
The Red Sox-A's series was far more dramatic, as three of the five games were decided by one run, including the final two.
The Red Sox fell behind in the series 0-2, but they rallied back thanks to a game-winning two-run double from David Ortiz in the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 4, a four-run fifth inning that was highlighted by a solo home run from Jason Varitek and a three-run shot by Manny Ramirez in Game 5.
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It's not over yet, but this season's division series has already provided some of the round's most memorable moments.
The Yankees and Baltimore Orioles series, which is knotted up at 2-2, already has a hero in Raul Ibanez, who hit a pinch-hit home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth to tie the score at two runs apiece. He hit a walk-off winner in his next at-bat in the bottom of the 12th inning. Oh, and in case you hadn't heard, he did it hitting in place of Alex Rodriguez.
The Orioles exacted revenge in the series by winning Game 4 on a 13th-inning RBI double courtesy of J.J. Hardy.
The Reds-Giants series wrapped up Thursday afternoon, with the Giants completing the comeback from down 0-2, becoming the first team to close out a series with three road wins in the process.
The A's continued to find exciting ways to win games, as they rallied with a three-run bottom of the ninth in Game 4. The Tigers had a late-inning win as well, as they walked off on a sacrifice fly in Game 2, before Justin Verlander pitched a complete-game shutout in Game 5.
Meanwhile, the wild-card Cardinals are also going into a deciding fifth game against the Nationals, who had baseball's best regular-season record.
Photo Credit: Bleeding Yankee Blue
The 2001 division-series round still ranks as the best of all time in my mind, as three of the four series went to a decisive Game 5.
The Yankees-A's series gets the most attention, as the Yankees rallied from down 0-2, and the series featured Derek Jeter's infamous flip play in Game 3 that turned the tide of the series.
The Mariners bested the Indians in five games, despite the fact that the Indians looked to have the series well in hand after their 17-2 victory in Game 3 gave them a 2-1 lead in the series.
The Diamondbacks-St. Louis Cardinals series was a tight one from start to finish, with a pair of one-run games and no blowouts among the five games. Game 5 was capped off by a walk-off single from Tony Womack, who failed to get down a suicide-squeeze bunt with runners on first and third as the lead runner was hung out to dry at the plate.
He quickly redeemed himself though, cashing in on the runner on second base to win the series.