Career-Defining Moments from 2012 MLB Postseason

Greg Pinto@@Greg_PintoCorrespondent IOctober 18, 2012

Career-Defining Moments from 2012 MLB Postseason

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    Major League Baseball's postseason is where memories are made. 

    It's where the men are separated from the boys and any given player can become a legend in a single moment. We see that every season. A player on the brink of irrelevance delivers a clutch hit; gets a huge strikeout.

    We've already seen our fair share of those moments during the 2012 postseason—and its not even over yet. We haven't even reached the Fall Classic yet and we've already seen players rewrite the history books—put their new stamp on it. 

    What's a career defining moment? Well that's simple. It's a moment that you will remember years from now when a player's name is mentioned and his career is said and done. Here are some of the best so far from 2012.

O'Day Has Arrived

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    Video: Must C: Confrontation

    You want to talk about pressure? Ask Darren O'Day what it's like to be in this situation in your first season as one of the "go-to" guys in the bullpen. 

    O'Day, who really found his niche with the Baltimore Orioles this season, was called into one of the season's most pressurized situations when the New York Yankees put two runners in scoring position in the eighth inning of a tied game. 

    If the Orioles lost, they were going home. 

    With one out in the inning, O'Day got the call. His first opponent? Alex Rodriguez. Struck him out. His next opponent? Nick Swisher. Lazy fly ball to right field. 

    Talk about clutch.

Moore's Single Gives Nats Lead

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    Video: Must C: Clutch

    After reliever Ryan Mattheus escaped the bottom half of the seventh inning without giving up a run, the Washington Nationals got a chance to make a dent in the St. Louis Cardinals'' lead in the top of the eighth. 

    With runners on second and third and two outs, Nationals rookie Tyler Moore stepped to the plate with a chance to give the Nats a lead, and he did just that. 

    Moore slapped a single to right field that allowed both runs to score, and the Nationals would hold on to that 3-2 lead to win the game.

Coke Punches out Scorching Hot Ibanez

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    Video: Must C: Clutch

    Stop me if this sounds familiar: With the New York Yankees' backs against the wall, Raul Ibanez stepped to the plate with a chance to win the ball game. 

    The scene was a bit different in Game 3 against the Tigers, in Detroit. With runners at first and second with two outs in the top of the ninth, Ibanez stepped to the plate with a chance to tie the game—at least—against Phil Coke. 

    But Coke kept his cool. He drove the count to two strikes against Ibanez before finishing him off with a nasty breaking ball.

Kelly's Ninth Inning Sac Fly Wins It

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    Video: Must C: Clutch

    It's not a secret that Don Kelly is one of Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland's favorite weapons, and with good reason—the guy comes through in the clutch. 

    With the game tied at four in the bottom of the ninth inning and the bases loaded, Kelly got the chance to send the Tigers to Oakland with a two game lead in the series and he did just that.

    Kelly crushed a sac fly to right field, allowing the run to score easily. 

Posey's Moon Shot Buries Reds

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    Video: Must C: Crushed

    The Cincinnati Reds would eventually make things interesting in the win or go home Game 5 of the NLDS, but Buster Posey's fifth inning moon shot grand slam really felt like the death blow for them.

    With the bases juiced, the man that many believe will be named the National League's MVP following the conclusion of the season unloaded them in a hurry. 

    Posey hit a no-doubt-about-it bomb to deep left field off of the second deck that—judging by the way he reacted—hurt Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan's feelings. 

Jay's Incredible Catch

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    Video: Must C: Catch

    As a member of the reigning World Series champions, Jon Jay knows a thing or two about getting the crowd into the game. 

    With Joe Kelly pitching, Danny Espinosa smashed a fly ball to deep center field that looked like was going to fall in for extra bases. 

    Jay took an awkward route to the ball and, even with a four run lead, this looked like trouble. But the outfielder recovered nicely and made a leap towards the wall, crashing into it and leaving us unsure as to whether or not he actually made the catch. 

    But he did, and it was incredible.

Hardy's Extra-Innings, Game-Winning Double

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    Video: Must C: Clutch

    The Baltimore Orioles were baseball's Cinderella team this season (though I'm sure the Oakland Athletics would like to have a word about that). The O's overcame the toughest division in baseball to finish in second place and secure a Wild Card spot. 

    Now they were up against another challenge—the New York Yankees. 

    The Yankees took a two to one game lead in the series and forced the Orioles to the brink of elimination in Game 4. Tied in the 13th inning, it was up to J.J. Hardy to make sure it didn't stay that way, and he succeeded. 

    Hardy gave the O's the opportunity to fight another day with his clutch, 13th inning double that would eventually be the winning run.

Crisp's Sensational Catch

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    Video: Must C: Coco

    Coco Crisp was a big part of the reason the Oakland Athletics were heading back home facing a two-game deficit in the ALDS. His misplay in center field helped the Detroit Tigers secure a win. 

    So with Prince Fielder at the plate and the Oakland fans behind him, it was time for a bit of poetic justice. 

    Fielder slugged a ball to center field that Crisp had to run a long way for. He leaped and made a sensational grab that had he not made, would have given Fielder a home run.

Mattheus Tightropes out of Danger

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    Video: Must C: Clutch

    Ryan Mattheus probably wasn't a guy one everyone's radar coming out of spring training. He may have been an unknown entity to some Washington Nationals fans. But by the end of Game 1 of the NLDS, everyone knew who he was (and how to pronounce his last name).

    Nats skipper Davey Johnson called on Mattheus in the toughest situation imaginable. The bases were loaded with nobody out in the bottom of the seventh inning, and the Nationals already trailed the St. Louis Cardinals 2-1.

    Mattheus gets the first batter to ground to shortstop, and Ian Desmond gets the runner at home. One out. 

    The next Cardinals batter is Yadier Molina, who Mattheus jams on the inside half of the plate and forced him to ground into a double play. 

    Talk about clutch.

Verlander's Complete Game Clinches ALDS

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    Video: Must C: Clinch

    Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball, and I say that knowing that there will be some people who disagree. What makes him the best? He is an ace among aces. 

    He has the filthy "stuff" that scouts love. He has the statistics that satisfy both the new and old school classes of thought. Most importantly, however, Verlander steps up when it's all on the line. 

    With the Oakland Athletics having rallied to tie the ALDS at two, the Detroit Tigers called on their ace to shut them down and he did just that, tossing a complete game shutout and making it look easy. That's what Verlander is all about.

Yankees Stage Ninth Inning Comeback

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    Video: Must C: Comeback

    The Detroit Tigers are lucky that Game 1 of the ALCS didn't go in a different direction after the implosion of their closer, Jose Valverde, because it almost did. 

    With a 4-0 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, Valverde needed three outs to finish off the Yankees. But after a Russell Martin single and a home run by Ichiro Suzuki, getting out unscathed was no longer an option. 

    With two outs in the inning, Valverde walked Mark Teixiera and in stepped Raul Ibanez. No stranger to postseason heroics, Ibanez launched a fly ball to right field that cleared the wall by a couple of rows and the Yankees scored four runs to tie it in the bottom of the ninth.

Werth's Walk-Off Bomb

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    Video: Must C: Clutch

    There has been so much fuss made about Jayson Werth's mega-deal from the moment he signed it that, at this moment in time, you couldn't help but be happy for him. 

    With the Washington Nationals—who finished the regular season with the best record in baseball—pressed against the wall by the St. Louis Cardinals, Werth stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning with the score tied at one. 

    He got a fastball right over the heart of the plate and Major League hitters know what to do with those. Werth crushed a home run that would allow the Nationals to fight another day.

A's Rally for Game 4 Win

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    Video: Must C: Comeback

    This is more of a series of career defining moments than a single moment, but I think that people are willing to make an exception for the fantastic story that was the Oakland Athletics. 

    Trailing two games to one in the series and on the brink of elimination in the ninth inning, the A's rallied to not only tie the game, but win it. 

    Down 3-to-1, Josh Reddick singled. Then Josh Donaldson slugged a double off of the wall in deep left-center. With two runners in scoring position, Seth Smith drove them both in to tie the game and set the stage for Coco Crisp. 

    With a runner on second base, Crisp singled to right field and the A's were going to take a chance at winning the game. Had the ball been fielding cleanly, it would have been close, but Avisail Garcia's fielding error gave the A's an incredible, come-from-behind victory.

Ibanez Goes Deep Not Once, but Twice

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    Video: Must C: Classic

    How much of a bargain has Raul Ibanez been for the New York Yankees this season? 

    After a solid regular season, the lefty is really making his money in the playoffs. He wasn't even in the lineup for Game 3 of the ALDS, but got his shot when manager Joe Girardi pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez, a controversy in and of itself. 

    But Ibanez made the most of this moment, launching a game-tying home run into the stands. He stayed in the game and got another chance to bat in extra innings. 

    He did it again. Ibanez's second home run of the night was a walk-off shot. Incredible.

The Cardinals' Incredible Comeback

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    Video: Must C: Comeback

    When teams are in a situation with two outs and a two-run lead in the bottom half of the ninth inning in a postseason game, they expect to make it stick. The Washington Nationals couldn't do it. 

    Carlos Beltran slugged a double to deep center field to get the rally started. Matt Holliday grounded out and Beltran moved to third base. One out. Then Allen Craig struck out, and with two outs, the St. Louis Cardinals were on their last leg. 

    But not so fast. Yadier Molina walked, putting runners at the corners. Then David Freese walked and the bases were loaded. 

    Daniel Descalso stepped to the plate with a chance to tie the game and he smashed a ground ball back up the middle that hit off of shortstop Ian Desmond's glove. 

    With the game tied and two runners in scoring position, rookie Pete Kozma—filling in for the injured Rafael Furcal—hit a line drive to right field that allowed both runners to score. 

    The Cardinals bullpen did what the Nationals bullpen couldn't do in their half of the ninth inning and made the lead hold. The Cards advanced.