Regardless of all four of the "underdog" teams getting eliminated in the Division Series, we're having a pretty awesome postseason. We've had walkoffs, we've had comebacks, we've had stunning collapses, we've had dominant pitchers, we've had dominant hitters, and we've had everything in between. But as of right now, I'm not sure if we have anything that will go down in history. In the Cardinals' comeback over the Nationals in game five of the NLDS, it was more of an accumulation of moments than one defining moment. When the Giants came back to beat the Reds after being down 2-0, there wasn't much to take away from that series in terms of moments. Coco Crisp's walkoff single in game four of the ALDS between the A's and Tigers could go down as a big moment, as long as you ignore Justin Verlander turning Oakland into sashimi in game five. The most defining moment of the playoffs so far is probably Raul Ibanez's 12th inning walkoff homer in game three of the ALDS between the Yankees and Orioles.
But anyway, that got me thinking about prior postseasons,and how things have been going crazy since 1991. If you exclude this year's postseason, and remember there were no playoffs in 1994, there have been 20 postseasons including that 1991 year until today. So why not compile a list of the top 25 "moments" from those postseasons? Some of these are more "extended" moments than others, but they're all memorable in their own way, and will be talked about by more than just their respective fanbases for years to come.
1991 World Series Game Six – Puckett walks it off in the 11th inning
Potentially the most memorable moment in Twins franchise history, with the beloved future Hall of Famer Puckett extending Minnesota's World Series to a game seven against the Braves
1991 World Series Game Seven – Morris goes ten
I'm already cheating by going with a full game performance as opposed to one moment. But if you ask someone about this game, a very small percentage of people will mention Gene Larkin's walkoff, series winning single, and the majority of people will mention Morris throwing a complete game, ten inning shutout. What isn't talked about much at all when looking at this start from Morris is that he did it on three days rest after starting game four of the series in Atlanta.
1992 NLCS Game Six – Sid's slide
I apologize to all Pirates fans for posting this. The Braves trailed 2-0 heading into the ninth, loaded the bases with none out. With two outs, Bobby Cox's third catcher, Francisco Cabrera, singled in David Justice and Sid Bream, with Bream's slide barely evading Pirates catcher Mike LaValliere's tag from a Barry Bonds throw to send the Braves to the World Series. The Pittsburgh franchise hasn't been the same since.
1993 World Series Game Six – Carter wins the series
This series was absolutely nuts, and the Phillies were poised to take things to a game seven after a five run seventh inning gave them a 6-5 lead in game six. But in the ninth, closer Mitch Williams imploded, with Carter's walkoff, series winning homer as the dagger in the heart of the City of Brotherly Love. The Blue Jays haven't played in the playoffs since this game, and it took the Phillies until 2007 to get back.
1995 ALDS Game Five – Griffey's mad dash
This series may have actually saved baseball in Seattle. The Mariners lost the first two games of the series in New York, and then rattled off two straight wins at home before heading to a game five. The Yankees took a 5-4 lead in the top of the 11th against Randy Johnson (in relief). With Jack McDowell on the hill to finish the game off, Seattle's 11th inning was quick. Edgar Martinez's double down the line scored Joey Cora and Ken Griffey Jr, leading to an improbable comeback win in the series, and eventually, the building of Safeco Field in Seattle after the city was rejuvenated under Johnson, Griffey, and a young shortstop named Alex Rodriguez.
1996 ALCS Game One – Jeffrey Maier steals a homer
The Orioles led 4-3 in the eighth, and with one out, rookie Derek Jeter lofted a fly ball to deep right field. Baltimore right fielder Tony Tarasco settled under the ball…which never fell into his glove, because a fan named Jeffrey Maier reached over the fence and grabbed the ball. Right field umpire Richie Garcia upheld the homer call, and the Orioles went on to lose the game and eventually, the series.
1996 World Series Game Four – Jim Bleeping Leyritz
The Braves won the first two games of this series, and led game four in Atlanta 6-0 in the fifth inning. Then, the Yankees comeback started. Bobby Cox plugged his closer Mark Wohlers in the game in the eighth inning, and he imploded. The Yankees tied the game at six in the eighth, with Leyritz's homer being the tying blow. New York would take the lead in the 10th (on a bases loaded walk, and a bases loaded error) and won the game, tying the series at two games en route to two more wins in a row and the World Championship.
1997 World Series Game Seven – Renteria's walkoff winner
The Cleveland Indians were one of the most fearsome offenses in baseball in the mid to late 90s, and they won a pair of AL pennants…but lost both World Series they were in. This one to the Marlins was most heartbreaking, as Jose Mesa blew a save in the ninth inning that would have clinched the series win, and in the 11th, Edgar Renteria drove in Craig Counsell with two outs on a line drive that went just over pitcher Charles Nagy's glove.
2001 ALDS Game Three – The Flip
The A's led this series 2-0, and were heading back to Oakland as they looked to finish off the Yankees and head to the ALCS. In the seventh inning, trailing 1-0, Terrance Long doubled into the right field corner. Right fielder Shane Spencer airmailed his throw past both cutoff men, and Jeremy Giambi looked like he'd be able to cruise into home to score. But Derek Jeter came out of nowhere to flip the quickly slowing throw to catcher Jorge Posada, who grazed the non-sliding Giambi with a tag to end the inning. The Yankees would win the game 1-0, smashed the A's 9-2 in game four, and won game five 5-3 to advance to the ALCS to take on the 116 win Mariners.
2001 World Series Game Seven – The End of the Yankee Dynasty
This series was absurd, and game seven took the absurdity to another level. Alfonso Soriano hit an eighth inning homer off of Curt Schilling to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead, and Mariano Rivera came to close the game out in the ninth and give the Yankees their fourth straight World Championship (and fifth in six years). Mark Grace led off with a single, and then catcher Damian Miller laid down a bunt…only Rivera threw the ball away. After a Jay Bell bunt led to the lead runner getting thrown out, Tony Womack doubled down the right field line, scoring pinch runner Midre Cummings to tie the game. Rivera then hit Craig Counsell to load the bases for Luis Gonzalez, who homered 57 times during the regular series. Of course, Gonzalez fisted a ball just past the infield dirt that would have been caught if the infield was at regular depth, scoring Bell and winning the series for the Diamondbacks. After four championships in five years, the Yankees have won just one in the last 11 seasons (with 2012 looming as the 12th).
2002 World Series Game Six – Glaus sends it to seven
The Giants led the Angels 5-0 after their end of the seventh, but things collapsed after Dusty Baker gave starter Russ Ortiz the game ball. The Angels scored three in the seventh to make it 5-3, and in the eighth, scored three more, highlighted by a two-run double by Troy Glaus to give Anaheim a 6-5 lead. Troy Percival set the Giants down in order in the ninth to close it out, and the Angels would win game seven to win their first World Championship.
2003 NLCS Game Six – Bartman accelerates the Cubs collapse
The Cubs led the Marlins 3-0 in game six of the 2003 NLCS, and were just five outs from the World Series. Mark Prior got Luis Castillo to hit a fly ball down the left field line, and Moises Alou camped under it…only for a Cubs fan named Steve Bartman to obstruct a potential catch by Alou. Castillo would walk, and the Cubs unraveled from there. They allowed a total of eight runs in the inning, but Bartman's interference was merely one part of a complete breakdown by the Cubs. It was also the most memorable moment of the series.
2003 ALCS Game Seven – Boone sends the Yankees to the World Series
The Red Sox led 5-2 going into the bottom of the eighth inning, but Boston manager Grady Little milked starter Pedro Martinez for all he was worth, and the game was tied just five batters into that inning. The game progressed into extra innings, and to lead off the bottom of the 11th, Aaron Boone smashed a Tim Wakefield knuckleball high into the New York evening to give the Yankees another AL pennant, and crush the dreams of Red Sox fans for one more season.
2004 ALCS Game Four – Roberts steals second
The Red Sox were just three outs away from getting swept in the ALCS by the hated Yankees. Kevin Millar led the ninth off with a walk, and Dave Roberts came off the bench to pinch run for him. Bill Muellar followed with a single up the middle to score Roberts and tie the game at four. David Ortiz hit a walkoff homer in the 12th to give the Red Sox hope, and eventually, the first ever comeback from a 3-0 deficit in a baseball playoff series.
2004 World Series Game Four – the curse is broken
After a stunning ALCS comeback against the Yankees, the Red Sox continued to roll once they reached the World Series, and completed a four game sweep over the Cardinals. Once Edgar Renteria tapped back to Keith Foulke at the mound, Boston went into a state of absolute pandemonium. The Curse of the Bambino was finally over, the Red Sox were finally out of the shadow of the Yankees, and all was right with Red Sox Nation.
2005 NLDS Game Four – Burke ends the marathon
This game went 18 innings, the longest in MLB postseason history. A loss would be a crushing blow for either team. The Braves blew a 6-1 lead to send it into extras, and in the 18th, Chris Burke's walkoff homer against rookie Joey Devine ended the game and the series. The Braves wouldn't reach the playoffs again until 2010, and Devine's career never got off the ground after the homer due to a combination of ineffectiveness and injury.
2005 NLCS Game Five – Pujols' moonshot
With the Astros just one out from eliminating the Cardinals and heading to their first World Series in franchise history, Brad Lidge's pitch to Albert Pujols was hit into the stratosphere. The Cardinals took the lead 5-4 and won the game. The Astros would go on to win game six and the pennant, but Lidge had gopher ball problems in 2006 and 2007 following Pujols' moonshot. He was dealt to the Phillies after the 2007 season…and I'll get to that shortly.
2006 NLCS Game Seven – Molina's series winner
The 2006 Mets team was a juggernaut that ran through the National League in the regular season, but the Cardinals gave them a fight in the NLCS. With game seven tied at one in the ninth, manager Willie Randolph sent Aaron Heilman out for a second inning instead of using closer Billy Wagner. After a Scott Rolen single, Yadier Molina hit a two-run homer off Heilman that just…kept…carrying over the left field wall, giving the Cardinals a 3-1 lead. The Mets put up a rally in their end of the ninth, putting two on with none out and then loading the bases with two outs against Adam Wainwright, but Carlos Beltran struck out to end the game and send the Cardinals to a pennant and eventually, a World Series win over the Tigers.
2008 World Series Game Five – Lidge finishes the perfect year
Brad Lidge was electric for the Phillies during the 2008 season, going 41 for 41 in save attempts during the regular season. In the playoffs, Lidge went seven for seven in save attempts, but none was bigger in game five of the World Series against the Rays, when Lidge struck out Eric Hinske to end the game and propel the Phillies to the second World Championship in club history and first since 1980. After this season, Lidge hit a brick wall in his career, but no Phillies fan will ever hold animosity against him after 2008.
2011 World Series Game Six – Freese completes the comeback
The Texas Rangers were one out away from a World Championship twice in this game. In the bottom of the ninth, up 7-5, David Freese tripled against Neftali Feliz to bring in two runs and tie the game at seven. The Rangers got two of their own in the top of the tenth after a homer by Josh Hamilton, and looked to close it out again, but a Ryan Theriot RBI groundout and a Lance Berkman RBI single kept the Cardinals alive. But then in the bottom of the 11th, Freese hit a solo homer to dead center against Mark Lowe to give the Cardinals an unbelievable 10-9 comeback win and move the series to a game seven that the Cardinals won.
There were tons of moments that didn't make the cut (AJ Pierzynski and the dropped strike three, Scott Podsednik's walkoff homer, David Justice trashing Braves fans and then homering to win the series, something like 12 more moments from the 2001 World Series), but I think that these were the most memorable.