The Most Clutch Postseason Moment in Every MLB Team's History
There's something about playoff baseball that brings the best out in people.
Critical moments that are answered with clutch performances get us all feeling like children again, allowing the pure joy and emotion of the moment envelop us, not worried about how we appear to others or what anyone else thinks.
Whether it's the players on the field, the announcers in the booth, or the fans in the stands, we live for these moments.
They are what makes baseball so great.
Throughout the storied history of the game, a number of players have performed under intense pressure, leading their teams to victory when others thought it impossible, or at the very least, highly improbable.
With that in mind, I bring to you those moments, and the people who answered the call.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Luis Gonzalez' Single, Game 7, 2001 World Series
Not only was this the first Game 7 of a World Series in Diamondbacks history, but this was one of the first pieces of evidence we were given that Mariano Rivera was, in fact, not a machine. That he was capable of failing when the season rested in the balance.
After winning three World Series titles in a row and four in five years, nobody gave the Diamondbacks much chance of coming back against the Yankees when Game 7 moved into the ninth inning. The Yankees had a one-run lead and Rivera was on the hill.
Yet the Diamondbacks came back. A Mark Grace single, a throwing error by Rivera and a sacrifice bunt put runners on first and second with one out.
Tony Womack doubled, scoring the tying the game at two. Craig Counsell got plunked, loading the bases for Luis Gonzalez,
Against a drawn-in Yankees infield, Gonzalez hit a blooper over second base that would give the Diamondbacks the World Series crown.
Atlanta Braves: Francisco Cabrera's Single, Game 7, 1992 NLCS
It's the bottom of the ninth inning. The bases are loaded, there are two outs, and you trail by one.
What do you do?
Of course, you send a guy who had taken 10 regular season at-bats for you to the plate with your season hanging in the balance.
That's exactly what Braves skipper Bobby Cox did against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and it couldn't have worked out any better.
Francisco Cabrera pinch hit for Jeff Reardon, and he'd hit a line drive to left field, one that dropped right in front of Pirates outfielder Barry Bonds.
David Justice crossed home plate with the tying run, Bonds fired the ball to home plate, and former Pirates first baseman Sid Bream slid in just ahead of the tag to send the Braves to the World Series.
Baltimore Orioles: Scott McGregor Goes the Distance, Game 5, 1983 World Series
Scott McGregor didn't pitch poorly in Game 1 of the 1983 World Series, allowing two runs and four hits over eight innings of work and striking out six—but with the Orioles only able to score one run off of Phillies' starter Al Holland, McGregor was the hard luck loser in the Series opener.
When he took to the mound in Game 5, with the Orioles leading the series 3-1, thoughts of receiving no run support had to be running through his head.
McGregor threw a complete game shutout, scattering five hits and two walks while striking out six Phillies.
Fittingly, the final out of the World Series was a line drive off the bat of the Phillies' Gary Maddox—one that wound up in the glove of a 23-year-old shortstop named Cal Ripken Jr.
Boston Red Sox: David Ortiz HR, Game 4, 2004 ALCS
This one was tough to decide—Carlton Fisk waving his home run fair in the 1975 World Series put up a valiant fight, but ultimately Big Papi wins out because of what this moment sparked.
With the score tied at four and the Yankees holding a 3-0 lead in the series, Paul Quantrill took the mound to start the 12th inning for the Yankees.
Not only did Big Papi's blast win the game and spark one of the most remarkable comebacks in sports history, but he sparked a run that would eventually put an end to 86 years of frustration, as the Red Sox would go on to win the World Series for the first time since 1918.
Without Big Papi's heroics, Yankees fans might still be chanting "1918" anytime they see someone wearing a Red Sox cap.
Chicago Cubs: Orval Overall Shuts Down the Tigers, Game 5, 1908 World Series
With the Cubs ahead 3-1 in the 1908 World Series against the Detroit Tigers, Game 2 starter Orval Overall took to the mound looking to give the team back-to-back World Series championships in Game 5.
Against a lineup that featured future Hall of Famers Sam Crawford and Ty Cobb, Overall went the distance for the second time in the series, throwing nine innings of shutout baseball, scattering three hits and four walks while striking out 10 batters.
The duo of Crawford and Cobb went a combined 1-for-7 with a walk and two strikeouts against him in the series-clinching contest.
Chicago White Sox: Freddy Garcia Doesn't Need Run Support, Game 4, 2005 WS
After watching his team score 19 runs against the Houston Astros in the first three games of the 2005 World Series, Freddy Garcia had to figure that he'd be able to count on a decent cushion in Game 4, one that would atone for any mistakes he left over the plate.
Except that cushion never came, and Garcia found himself in a pitcher's duel with the Astros' Brandon Backe.
For seven innings, Backe kept the White Sox off of the board. Garcia matched him inning for inning, allowing four hits and three walks while striking out seven.
Jermaine Dye's seeing-eye-single in the top of the eighth would give Chicago their only run of the game, but the combination of Cliff Politte, Neal Cotts and Bobby Jenks held it together in relief, giving the White Sox their first World Series victory since 1917.
Cincinnati Reds: Joe Morgan's Single, Game 7, 1975 World Series
Joe Morgan didn't have a great World Series in 1975, hitting .259 with a .660 OPS, but he made sure that his hits counted.
Twice during the seven game series against the Boston Red Sox would Morgan win the game for the Reds: first in Game three, when his 10th inning single broke a 5-5 tie, giving the Reds a 6-5 victory but more importantly, a 2-1 lead in the series.
But the most clutch of his hits came in the top of the ninth inning of Game 7, with the game tied at three.
With runners on the corners, two outs, and faced with a 1-2 count, Morgan took the fourth pitch of the at-bat to center field, where the ball would drop in front of Fred Lynn, allowing Ken Griffey to score from third and giving the Reds a 4-3 lead.
A 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth by Will McEnaney clinched the World Series for the Reds, their first of two consecutive World Series titles as the Big Red Machine.
Cleveland Indians: Tony Pena Goes Deep, Game 1 , 1995 ALDS
They'd go on to lose the World Series in six games to the Atlanta Braves, but just getting to the Fall Classic was a major accomplishment for the Cleveland Indians in 1995.
But to get there, they had to get through two rounds of the playoffs first, and it all started with Tony Pena in extra innings of Game 1 in the 1995 ALDS.
Pena didn't even start the game—he was inserted in the top of the 11th inning to replace Wayne Kirby, who had pinch run for starting catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. in the 10th.
With the game tied at four and with two outs in the bottom of the 13th inning, Pena took Boston's Zane Smith deep, giving the Indians a 5-4 victory—the first playoff win for the franchise in 41 years.
Colorado Rockies: Willy Walks, Game 2, 2007 NLCS
Willy Taveras wasn't exactly an on-base machine for the Colorado Rockies in 2007, walking only 21 times in 403 plate appearances.
But in Game 2 of the 2007 NLCS against the Arizona Diamondbacks—a game that saw him make a few spectacular plays with the glove in center field—it was his patience at the plate that would give the Rockies a 2-0 series lead.
With the game tied at two in the 11th inning, Taveras came to the plate to face Jose Valverde. The bases were loaded and there were two outs, so laying down a bunt for an infield single was out of the question.
Taveras never moved the bat from his shoulder, drawing a four-pitch walk that scored Ryan Spilborghs with what would be the game-winning run.
The Rockies would sweep the Diamondbacks, but get swept by the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.
Detroit Tigers: Magglio Wins It, Game 4, 2006 ALCS
Holding a 3-0 advantage in the series and having outscored the Oakland A's by a combined score of 16-6, the Detroit Tigers found themselves in a battle in Game 4 of the 2006 ALCS.
The game was tied at three heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, and with only one out and the bases loaded, A's skipper Ken Macha brought in his closer, Huston Street, to get out of the jam. Street wouldn't disappoint, inducing a double play to end the inning and keep the score tied.
Back on the mound for his third inning of work in the bottom of the ninth inning, Street recorded two quick outs before giving up back-to-back singles to Craig Monroe and Placido Polanco.
Tigers right fielder Magglio Ordonez stepped to the plate with a base open.
Ordonez, who had hit a solo shot off A's starter Dan Haren in the sixth inning that tied the game at three, was no match for an overworked Street, launching a three-run bomb that sent the Tigers to the Fall Classic—22 years to the day of the team's last World Series triumph.
Houston Astros: Chris Burke Sends Everyone off to Bed, Game 4, 2005 NLDS
This could have gone to Brad Ausmus, who hit a solo shot with two outs in the ninth inning to send us to extra innings, but the nod goes to the man who ended the longest playoff game in MLB history.
With the game tied at six, the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves headed into the 18th inning of play in a game that seemed like it would never end.
With one out, Burke worked a 2-0 count against Braves rookie Joey Devine.
Devine's third pitch would be his last pitch, as Burke deposited it in the stands to give the Astros a 7-6 victory and send the team into the NLCS for the second straight season.
They would beat the Cardinals in the NLCS before being swept by the White Sox in the World Series.
Kansas City Royals: Dane Iorg Keeps Hope Alive, Game 6, 1985 World Series
Kansas City trailed the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 in the 1985 World Series, needing a win in Game 6 to stay alive.
Danny Cox and Ken Dayley would keep the Royals off of the scoreboard through eight innings, while Royals' starter Charlie Leibrandt kept the Cardinals scoreless until Brian Harper's pinch-hit single in the eighth inning gave the Cards a 1-0 lead.
The Royals would load the bases in the bottom of the ninth against Cardinals closer Todd Worrell, and with one out, Dane Iorg was sent in to pinch hit for Royals' closer Dan Quisenberry.
Iorg hit a looper to right field that dropped in front of Andy Van Slyke.
Onix Concepcion scored easily from third, and catcher Jim Sundberg would slide in just ahead of the tag to give the Royals the 2-1 win.
They'd go on to win Game 7, giving the Royals the only World Series championship in franchise history.
Kansas City hasn't returned to the playoffs since then.
Los Angeles Angels: Scott Spezio Starts the Rally
Down 5-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, on the heels of being crushed 16-4 in Game 5, it sure looked like the San Francisco Giants were going to win the World Series.
Except the rally monkey and Scott Spezio had other ideas.
With one out and runners on first and second, Giants' skipper bought in one of his reliable veteran relievers, Felix Rodriguez, to face Spezio.
Spezio would work a 3-2 count over seven pitches, and the eighth pitch from Rodriguez would end up in the bleachers, as the Angels climbed back to within two runs.
They'd go on to win Game 6 and the series-clinching Game 7, but none of that happens without Spezio's clutch home run.
Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers: Johnny Podres, 1955 World Series
Johnny Podres wasn't clutch in one game for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1955 World Series, he was clutch in two of them.
Facing the New York Yankees, who had won six of the previous eight World Series, Podres started Game 3 and Game 7 for the Dodgers.
All he did was throw two complete games, holding the powerful Yankees lineup to two runs, scattering 15 hits over 18 innings of work while walking four and striking out 10.
His clutch pitching gave the Dodgers their first World Series championship and earned him World Series MVP honors.
Miami/Florida Marlins: Edgar Renteria Makes History. Game 7, 1997 World Series
In the bottom of the 11th inning, Marlins shortstop Edgar Renteria stepped up to the plate to take on Indians' ace Charles Nagy, who was pitching in relief.
With the bases loaded and two out, Renteria hit a ball right at Nagy. It sailed right over the pitcher's glove (some believe the ball nicked his glove, but watch the video to make your own decision,) making it's way into center field and scoring the World Series-winning run.
It would be the first time that a Wild Card team won the World Series, and the Marlins accomplished the feat only five years into the team's existence.
Milwaukee Brewers: Plush Wins It, Game 5, 2011 NLDS
Whoever lost this game was going home, and the Milwaukee Brewers weren't quite prepared to call it a season.
With the game tied at two and Diamondbacks' closer J.J. Putz on the mound, the Brewers Carlos Gomez would hit a one-out single, then steal second base to move into scoring position.
Nyjer Morgan was up next, and he'd work a 2-2 count before hitting a ground ball up the middle, past a diving Willie Bloomquist and into center field.
The speedy Gomez had little trouble scoring from second, and the Brewers advanced to the NLCS, where they would lose to the St. Louis Cardinals in six games.
Minnesota Twins: Kirby Puckett, Game 6, 1991 World Series
This one was a very close call, as I went back and forth between Kirby and Jack Morris, who pitched one of the greatest playoff games in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series that we will ever see.
But Kirby Puckett came through in the clutch more than once in Game 6, and without Kirby's heroics, Morris doesn't have a chance to throw his remarkable 10-inning complete game in Game 7.
First, Puckett robbed the Braves' Ron Gant of a two-run home run in the third inning with a leaping catch at the wall, a shot that would have tied the game.
With the game tied at three, they headed into the bottom of the 11th inning. Up to this point, Puckett had a role in all three of the Twins runs, scoring once and driving in the other two.
Kirby would take the fourth pitch he'd see from the Braves' Charlie Liebrandt to deep left-center field, over the wall and keeping hope alive for the Twins, who would go on to win Game 7.
New York Mets: Let's Play 16, Game 6, 1986 NLCS
The Houston Astros took a 3-0 lead into the top of the ninth inning at home against the New York Mets, a team they trailed 3-2 in the 1986 NLCS. The Astros needed a win to stay alive and threw Cy Young Award winner Mike Scott in Game 6.
But the Mets had other ideas, putting up three runs in the top of the ninth to tie the game, and the 3-3 score would hold until the 14th inning, when Wally Backman's one-out single gave the Mets a 4-3 lead.
The lead would be short-lived, however, as the Astros answered in the bottom half of the inning when Billy Hatcher hit a deep home run to left field off Mets reliever Jesse Orosco, who had entered the game to start the inning.
With the game tied at four, the Mets put up three runs in the top half of the 16th inning, but everyone knew that the lead probably wouldn't hold, based on how the game had played out so far.
They were right, as the Astros put two runs on the board against Orosco, now working his third inning of the game.
With two outs, Orosco buckled down, striking out Kevin Bass and sending the Mets to the World Series.
There were plenty of choices from the Mets' remarkable 1986 season, but this one continues to stand out for me for the simple fact that Jesse Orosco knew that Davey Johnson wasn't going to come save him—it was all on his shoulders.
New York Yankees: Perfection, Game 5, 1956 World Series
Words can't do this justice, so I'm not even going to try.
Let the men involved tell the story.
Oakland A's: We Were Chanting Rudi Before the Movie, Game 2, 1972 World Series
I know the movie spells the name with a 'Y' at the end, but if the picture doesn't make you think people were chanting "Rudi! Rudi!" well before the movie about the Notre Dame football player was released, perhaps the video below will.
Without this catch, chances are that the A's dynasty of the early 1970's doesn't happen.
First, Joe Rudi hit a solo shot in the third inning of Game 2 to give the A's a 2-0 lead over the Cincinnati Reds.
Then, in the bottom of the ninth with a runner on first, Reds' third baseman Denis Menke hit a shot to left field that was, at the very least, going to smack against the wall and go for extra bases.
Except Joe Rudi had other ideas, making one of the most spectacular catches in MLB history.
Philadelphia Phillies: Use Stairs in Case of Emergency, Game 4, 2008 NLCS
The Philadelphia Phillies held a 2-1 series lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2008 NLCS, and as the game played on at Dodger Stadium, the game was tied at five in the eighth inning.
With two outs in the top of the eighth and a runner on first base, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda replaced Cory Wade on the mound with Jonathan Broxton.
The Phillies countered by sending Matt Stairs to pinch-hit for pitcher Ryan Madson.
Stairs would work a 3-1 count before taking Broxton deep for a two-run blast that would stand as the game-winning hit.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Pops Knows Best, Game 6, 1979 World Series
The Pittsburgh Pirates needed a big performance heading into Game 7 of the 1979 World Series, and Willie "Pops" Stargell delivered.
Stargell would go 4-for-5, with two doubles and a mammoth two-run shot in the sixth inning off of Orioles starter Scott McGregor that gave the Pirates a 2-1 lead, a lead they would never relinquish.
San Diego Padres: Garvey Is Groovy, Game 4, 1984 NLCS
With the San Diego Padres trailing the Chicago Cubs 2-1 in the 1984 NLCS, things weren't looking good when Cubs closer Lee Smith stepped on the mound for his second inning of work in the ninth inning of a tie game.
Padres first baseman Steve Garvey stepped to the plate to face Smith, one of the great closers in the history of the game.
Smith threw a fastball over the outer portion of the plate, and the Padres slugger went right with it, driving a game-winning home run over the right-field wall and giving the Padres new life in the series—a series they would eventually go on to win.
San Francisco Giants/New York Giants: Shot Heard Round the World, 1951
Two teams that hated each other—the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers—faced off in a three-game playoff series for the National League pennant in 1951.
Bobby Thompson stepped to the plate to face Ralph Branca.
You know what happened next.
Seattle Mariners: Edgar Martinez Doubles, Game 5, 1995 ALDS
Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS between the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees was tied at four headed into the 11th inning, when Randy Velarde's RBI single would give the Yankees a 5-4 lead heading into the bottom half of the inning.
Joey Cora and Ken Griffey Jr. would hit back-to-back singles off of Yankees pitcher Jack McDowell, bringing Edgar Martinez to the plate with a chance to tie the game.
Remember that giddiness, that overwhelming urge to scream at the top of your lungs?
I give you the Mariners' late, great, play-by-play announcer, Dave Niehaus, with a call that embodies all of that and more.
St. Louis Cardinals: The Wizard of Oz Can Hit Too? Game 5, 1985 NLCS
With the series tied at two games apiece heading into Game 5, it was only fitting that the game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals was tied at two as they headed into the bottom of the ninth.
After watching his southpaw ace, Fernando Valenzuela, scatter four hits over eight innings of work—but also walk a playoff-record eight batters—Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda turned to right-handed reliever Tom Niedenfuer to take on the top of the Cardinals lineup.
After Niedenfuer got leadoff hitter Willie McGee to pop out to third baseman Bill Madlock, Ozzie Smith stepped into the batter's box, hitting from the left side of the plate. While he had done this 3,009 times before, he never ended one of those at-bats with a home run.
With a 1-2 count, Smith drove Niedenfuer's fourth pitch of the at-bat deep to right field, hitting a concrete pillar behind the right-field wall to give the Cardinals the Game 5 victory and the series lead, inspiring legendary Cardinals announcer Jack Buck to give us one of his classic calls:
Tampa Bay Rays: Willy Aybar Steps Up, Game 7, 2008 ALCS
With Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS between the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox tied at one headed into the bottom of the fifth inning, nobody was quite sure what to expect.
Willy Aybar would lead the bottom half of the inning off with a double, advance to third on Dioner Navarro's single, and score the tie-breaking run on Rocco Baldelli's single.
Aybar would lead off the bottom of the seventh inning as well, and he crushed a Jon Lester pitch to left field to give the Rays some breathing room with a 3-1 lead, which would wind up being the final score of the game that sent the Rays to their first World Series.
He'd finish the day 2-for-3 with two runs scored, a double, a RBI and a home run.
Texas Rangers: Kinsler Connects, Game 5, 2010 ALDS
Ian Kinsler's two-run shot in the ninth inning off of Rafael Soriano didn't win the game for the Rangers, but it capped off a day when the second baseman was involved in nearly every run that the Rangers scored.
With the game tied at one, Kinsler was at-bat in the fourth inning when Nelson Cruz stole third base. Tampa Bay's Kelly Shoppach made a bad throw to third base in an attempt to nail Cruz, who trotted home with the go-ahead run.
He'd come to the plate again in the sixth inning, with runners on first and second with one out.While he hit a ground ball that resulted in an out, Vladimir Guerrero was motoring around the bases and scored, giving the Rangers a 3-1 lead.
Then, of course, his two-run blast in the ninth inning sealed the series for the Rangers, giving them a 5-1 lead and the franchise their first playoff series victory in the team's history.
Toronto Blue Jays: Touch 'Em All Joe, Game 6, 1993 World Series
Joe Carter stepped to the plate with two runners on and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning to face Philadelphia Phillies' closer Mitch Williams with the Blue Jays trailing by one run.
There wasn't a doubt in anyone's mind when Carter made contact with the fifth pitch of the at-bat where the ball was headed, and Carter's three-run blast gave the Blue Jays their second consecutive World Series championship.
Washington Nationals: Jayson Werth Keeps Hope Alive, Game 4, 2012 NLDS
If this one seems familiar, it's because we just saw it happen last week.
With Game 4 between the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals tied at one, Jayson Werth worked a 12-pitch at-bat against Cardinals reliever Lance Lynn.
With a 3-2 count, Werth loved what he saw with Lynn's 13th pitch, sending it deep into the night and keeping the Nationals alive for one more game.