Ranking the 10 Greatest Division Series Moments in MLB History

Ben Stepansky@@benstepanskyCorrespondent IOctober 7, 2013

Ranking the 10 Greatest Division Series Moments in MLB History

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    The division series has only been around since the 1995 MLB season—aside from an extra playoff series in 1981 due to a strike-shortened season—but there has been drama along every step of the way.

    After winning the division series, teams still must win eight more games to earn a ring, yet the heroics are no less valuable in the early stages of postseason baseball. 

    Memorable moments come in all sorts of forms: walk-off hits, incredible pitching performances and amazing acrobatic fielding plays. 

    Which play in the almost 20 years of division play rank among the best? 

    My oh my, you'll have to read on.

10. Pedro Martinez's Relief Appearance (1999 ALDS, Game 5)

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    Leaving his Game 1 start after just four innings pitched due to back stiffness, Pedro Martinez was unsure if he would return during the rest of the Boston Red Sox's playoff run. 

    However, his magical performance in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians would go down in Boston sports history. During an 8-8 slugfest, Martinez entered in relief to hurl six hitless innings partnered with eight strikeouts to earn the win and advance the Red Sox to the ALCS.

    In 1999, Pedro was about as dominant as dominant can be. He went 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts on his way to the first of back-to-back AL Cy Young Awards.

9. Ivan Rodriguez's Collision at Home (2003 NLDS, Game 4)

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    Looking back on the 2003 Florida Marlins (sounds weird now, doesn't it?) is a nostalgic trip down memory lane. It's been 10 years since the Marlins have made it to the postseason, but the thought of the 2003 World Series winners led by All-Star catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is a good one. 

    In an NLDS matchup against the San Francisco Giants, the Marlins were up two games to one in the series and led Game 4 7-6 when the Giants were threatening in the top of the ninth. A Jeffrey Hammond two-out single propelled baserunner J.T. Snow to attempt to score from second. 

    Marlins left fielder Jeff Conine came up gunning, Rodriguez handled the errant throw and braced for impact.

    His facemask went flying but Pudge didn't budge, marking the first time a postseason series ended with the game-tying run thrown out at home plate.

8. Todd Pratt Hits Walk-off Home Run (1999 NLDS, Game 4)

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    One of the more unlikely heroes on the list, New York Mets backup catcher Todd Pratt sent Shea Stadium into a frenzy during the 1999 NLDS.

    Pratt, who used to be the manager of a Domino's pizza chain, hit a high fly ball to dead center that barely crept over the wall and past the glove of Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder Steve Finley.

    All-Star catcher Mike Piazza was limited by injuries, which forced Pratt into the starting lineup in Game 4. His lone hit in the series was a big one, advancing the Mets to their first championship series in 11 years.

7. Tony Womack's Flare (2001 NLDS, Game 5)

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    Tony Womack drove in just one run in the 2001 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals, but it came at the right time. 

    After failing on a costly suicide squeeze that caused teammate Midre Cummings to be thrown out at home plate, Womack stood in the box with two outs and a man on second.

    A soft flare landing between the retreating shortstop and the charging left fielder was all that was needed to knock in Danny Bautista.

    Clutch hitting redeemed a miserable mistake.

6. Chris Burke's 18th Inning Walk-off Homer (2005 NLDS, Game 5)

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    There was some sort of magic in Minute Maid Park for Game 4 of the NLDS between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves.

    Trailing 6-1 entering the bottom of the eighth, the Astros rallied for four runs with one swing as Lance Berkman sent a grand slam home run into the stands closing the gap to one run. In the bottom of the ninth, Brad Ausmus hit a two-out solo shot to tie the game at six runs apiece. 

    Then, a chess match began through out the next eight innings until Chris Burke, who had entered the game as a pinch runner, sent a line-drive home run over the left field porch in the bottom of the 18th to send the Astros to the NLCS.

    Roger Clemens took the win, throwing three shutout innings of relief in the longest postseason game in MLB history.

    Holy toledo, indeed.

5. Kevin Brown Dazzles (1998 NLDS, Game 1)

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    Before the new Wild Card format, there was the classic Game 1 matchup of ace against ace. During the 1998 NLDS between the San Diego Padres and Houston Astros, Kevin Brown lined up against Randy Johnson. 

    Each starter would hurl eight innings, but Brown had everything working for him, allowing just two hits and striking out 16 batters on his way to a Game 1 victory.

    Brown's 16 Ks is the second most in MLB postseason history behind Bob Gibson's 17 strikeouts in the 1968 World Series.

4. Raul Ibanez's Late-Inning Heroics (2012 ALDS, Game 3)

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    Raul Ibanez was the man with the golden bat for the New York Yankees in last year's ALDS against the Baltimore Orioles when he became the first MLB player to hit two home runs in a postseason game in which he did not start.

    Pinch hitting for Alex Rodriguez in the bottom of the ninth with one out and down 2-1 in Game 3, Ibanez launched a 1-0 sinker from Orioles closer Jim Johnson over the right field wall, much to the delight of A-Rod.

    In his next at-bat leading off the bottom of the 12th with the game still tied at 2-2, Ibanez clobbered a first-pitch fastball into the upper deck at Yankee Stadium to give the Bombers a 2-1 series lead, which they would eventually win in five games.

    The heroics continued for Ibanez, who would hit a two-run game-tying home run in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Tigers to force extra innings, though the Yankees would eventually lose.

    Click here for Ibanez's game-tying home run in the ALDS.

3. Jeter's Flip (2001 ALDS, Game 3)

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    What has become one of the more iconic plays of Derek Jeter's career was his instinctual barehanded flip to home in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS.

    Trailing 1-0 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Oakland's Terrence Long scorched a double down the right field line. Desperate for a run in a game in which the Yankees' Mike Mussina allowed just four hits, Jeremy Giambi was attempting to score from first base.

    Right fielder Shane Spencer's throw missed both cut-off men and was bouncing down the first base line nowhere near catcher Jorge Posada. Suddenly, Jeter appears to collect the wayward baseball and sidearm toss the ball to Posada who tagged out Giambi.

    Down two games to none, that play would kick start the Yankees, who would go on to take the series.

2. Roy Halladay's No-Hitter (2010 NLDS, Game 1)

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    In his postseason debut with the Philadelphia Phillies, Roy Halladay wanted to make a statement. 

    Mission accomplished.

    Against the National League's highest-scoring offense, the Cincinnati Reds, Halladay walked just one batter, allowed zero hits and struck out eight to earn the Phillies a win in Game 1 of the NLDS.

    It was just the second no-hitter in postseason history and first since Don Larsen's perfect game during the 1956 World Series.

    Doc threw 79 of his 104 pitches for strikes and likely held his breath as catcher Carlos Ruiz fell to his knees to make the final out of the game. 

1. Edgar Martinez's Series Clinching Double (1995 ALDS, Game 5)

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    The Seattle Mariners had tied the game in the bottom of the eighth, but the big, bad Yankees took a one-run lead into the bottom of the 11th inning, threatening a Mariners team that had proven so resilient.

    With Joey Cora on third and Ken Griffey Jr. on first, Edgar Martinez stepped up to the dish. On an 0-1 count he laced a ball down the left field line and gave hope to a franchise when all hope seemed to be lost. Cora and Griffey Jr. both scored as Seattle came back from a two games to none series deficit. 

    Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus gave one of the most memorable calls ever as the play unfolded. His legacy, as well as that of the 1995 Mariners and "The Double," will live on in Seattle history forever.