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Travis Ishikawa became a postseason hero on Thursday with his walk-off home run against the Cardinals in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.

Tied 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning, the first baseman-turned-left fielder’s three-run blast clinched the NL pennant for the San Francisco Giants, sending the team to its third World Series appearance in the last five years.

Ishikawa’s historic shot also put him elite company, as he became just the ninth player in postseason history to clinch a series with a home run.

So join us in a trip down memory lane as we look back at the greatest series-clinching home runs in playoff history, presented chronologically.

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The San Francisco Giants are World Series-bound for the third time in the last five years after knocking off the St. Louis Cardinals in five games to clinch the National League Championship Series.

The Giants will now meet the upstart Kansas City Royals in the Fall Classic in a battle of each league’s Wild Card winners. The Royals have yet to lose a game this October, completing respective sweeps of the Angels and Orioles in the American League Division Series and American League Championship Series, and continue to fire on all cylinders on both sides of the ball.

From Madison Bumgarner’s dominance on the mound in each series to Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas’ power surge to Buster Posey’s knack for driving in runs to Greg Holland shutting the door in the ninth innings, the Giants and Royals both have had players thrive in the postseason spotlight.

However, both teams also have guys that have underperformed this October—guys that, with a stronger and more consistent showing, could help their respective clubs win the World Series.

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The St. Louis Cardinals’ World Series aspirations were dashed Thursday with one swing of the bat, as Travis Ishikawa’s three-run, walk-off home run in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series propelled the San Francisco Giants to a 6-3 win and, more importantly, another trip to the Fall Classic.

Ishikawa’s Game 5 home run marked the second time in the series the Giants won in their final at-bat, and the National League Wild Card champions will now try to win their third World Series title in the last five years.

For the Cardinals, it was another disappointing exit from the playoffs—one which arguably could have been avoided or at least delayed if skipper Mike Matheny hadn’t repeatedly mismanaged the bullpen.

Matheny’s tenuous feel for his relievers was on full display throughout the NLCS, but his decision to put in Michael Wacha—last year’s NLCS MVP who hadn’t pitched since Sept. 26—to start the ninth inning of a tied, win-or-go-home playoff game was the icing on the cake.

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After early departures from the postseason in back-to-back years, the Los Angeles Dodgers were ready to shake things up.

In previous years, that might have involved signing a big-name free agent or executing a blockbuster deal, perhaps even a managerial change.

Those things could still happen, but if they do, it won't be Ned Colletti calling the shots.

The Dodgers shocked the baseball world Tuesday by hiring Tampa Bay Rays general manager Andrew Friedman to be their president of baseball operations, as reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. Colletti, the Dodgers' general manager since 2005, will remain with the organization as a senior adviser to president Stan Kasten.

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While the postseason is heading toward the World Series and, thus, the conclusion of the 2014 Major League Baseball season, that only involves the four teams still playing. For the other 26, the offseason began more or less as soon as they were eliminated from the playoffs or contention.

As those clubs prep for a winter that's bound to be filled with transaction action—rumors, speculation, trades, signings and more—it's time to take stock of the teams that are in position to potentially make a major move involving a trade of prospects and/or young big leaguers for more established stars.

To that effect, this isn't a rundown of the best farm systems but rather a look at a handful of clubs that both have quality and quantity in the minor leagues as well as the need to make a trade to upgrade at the major league level.

In short, these are teams that have the young talent to spare and/or swap and either already are contenders or are positioned to join the playoff picture in 2015.

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The St. Louis Cardinals lost a heartbreaker Tuesday, as Randy Choate’s throwing error in the 10th inning gave the San Francisco Giants a 5-4 win in Game 3 of the NLCS.

However, Choate’s rough outing with the game on the line didn't define the Cardinals’ Game 3 loss.

Instead, the game came down to manager Mike Matheny’s decision not to use right-handers Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal, easily the team’s top bullpen weapons in virtually any scenario, or even Michael Wacha in the extra inning of a postseason game in a tied playoff series.

After Rosenthal’s blown save in Game 2 of the NLCS, Matheny, who was forced to remove the closer with two outs in the ninth inning, stated the hard-throwing right-hander remains the team’s closer.

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If you love prospects, then it doesn’t get any better than the Arizona Fall League.

With six teams comprised of players from all 30 organizations, the AFL offers top prospects an opportunity to refine their skills long after the end of the minor league season.

For some players, the competition in the AFL is superior to anything they’ve previously experienced as a professional. For others, it’s a chance to prove to their organization that they’re ready to be challenged at the highest level.

The 2013 AFL produced a diverse group of promising big leaguers this season, a group that includes Marcus Stroman, Jorge Soler, Tommy La Stella, Aaron Sanchez, Andrew Heaney, Ken Giles, C.J. Cron, Mookie Betts and Jonathan Schoop, just to name a few.

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The St. Louis Cardinals have their core of veteran players. The Adam Wainwrights, the Matt Hollidays, the Yadier Molinas.

Yet it seems that with every trip to the postseason, the Cardinals churn out an entirely new cast of heroes, many of them becoming key players for the organization in subsequent years.

The 2011 postseason was David Freese’s coming-out party, as the Cardinal third baseman came from seemingly out of nowhere to bat .397/.465/.794 with five home runs, eight doubles and 21 RBI in 18 games.

After being named MVP of the NLCS, Freese one-upped himself in the World Series against the Rangers, taking home MVP honors thanks to a historically good Game 6 performance that included a game-tying triple in the ninth inning and walk-off home run in extras.

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You can’t predict baseball, they say. Yet, when it comes to the postseason, that’s exactly what we attempt to do, using any relevant statistic, trend or storyline to contextualize individual performances and head-to-head matchups.

After all, with 162 regular-season games and two playoff series in the books, it’s not as though there’s a shortage of information.

With the American and National League Championship Series set to begin Friday and Saturday, respectively, it’s time to take an in-depth look at some of the stats that define (either for better or for worse) the four remaining teams seeking a World Series berth.

Here are 10 crucial stats that could project the 2014 ALCS and NLCS winners.

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For the second time in the last three years, the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals are set to square off in the NLCS.

The series begins at Busch Stadium, with Game 1 scheduled for Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

The Cardinals didn’t have as strong of a season as they did in 2013, when they lost the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, but they played well enough down the stretch to edge out the Pittsburgh Pirates for the NL Central crown. In the NLDS, St. Louis knocked off the Dodgers in four games, beating Clayton Kershaw twice in the process.

The Giants, meanwhile, captured the second Wild Card spot and promptly ended both the Pirates’ and Nationals’ seasons within a five-game span. The team has won 11 of its last 12 playoff games dating back to the 2012 NLCS.