Sid Bream and the Braves won one of the greatest winner-take-all games in NLCS history. Photo Credit: MLB on YouTube Sid Bream scores the winning run for the Braves in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS vs. the Pirates. Photo Credit: MLB on YouTube.

Just before the Texas Rangers routed the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, forcing a Game 7.

The game between the Rangers and Astros was the 14th of its kind in American League history, while the Diamondbacks and Phillies are playing in the 19th game of its kind in National League history.

So, before we look ahead to Tuesday’s winner-take-all game in Philadelphia, let’s look at the 18 that game before it and see what kind of legacy the Diamondbacks and Phillies have to live up to.

As was the case with the American League (for anyone curious, Game 7 of the 2023 ALCS would be No. 12 or No. 13 on the now 14-game list), we’re looking only at games that decided the pennant after the normal regular season. So, there will be no NLDS or Wild Card games. We’re looking strictly at National League Championship Game Series, winner-take-all games. So, from 1969-1984, that means Game 5. From 1985-present, that means Game 7.

We’re also looking at regular season tie-breaker games from before 1969, but not all of them. While the American League used a one-game tie-breaker, the National League used a best-of-three. There were four tiebreakers before 1969, but only two went the full three games. So, those are the only two we’re looking at here.

It’s also worth reiterating that we’re not ranking the series, only the winner-take-all final game. Finally, while we’re using the same basic structure that we used on the American League list, we are changing things up a little. Since there are not only more games but more classics (as well as duds), we’re not looking in depth at every game.

With that out of the way, let’s see what kind of history the Diamondbacks and Phillies have to live up to.


  • 18. 1996 NLCS, Game 7: Atlanta Braves 15, St. Louis Cardinals 0
  • 17. 2012 NLCS, Game 7: San Francisco Giants 9, St. Louis Cardinals 0
  • 16. 1988 NLCS, Game 7: Los Angeles Dodgers 6, New York Mets 0
  • 15. 1987 NLCS, Game 7: St. Louis Cardinals 6, San Francisco Giants 0
  • 14. 1991 NLCS, Game 7: Atlanta Braves 4, Pittsburgh Pirates 0

No late-inning rallies made any of these games look more lopsided than they really were.

The 1991 game is significantly better than the other four but really can’t be put in the same class as any of the remaining games. In every one of these games, the winning team was up by at least three runs by the end of the third inning, if not sooner.


  • 13. 2018 NLCS, Game 7: Los Angeles Dodgers 5, Milwaukee Brewers 1
  • 12. 1973 NLCS, Game 5: New York Mets 7, Cincinnati Reds 2

Both games were close for a while.

The Brewers struck first in 2018 with a Christian Yelich home run. Los Angeles went ahead 2-1 in the top of the second inning when Cody Bellinger hit a two-run blast. The score remained there for a while. Yelich came up with two outs and a runner on second in the bottom of the fifth inning, but flew out. In the top of the sixth inning, Yasiel Puig came up with two outs and two on. He hit a three-run home run, giving the Dodgers significant insurance.

The first inning was huge for the Mets in 1973. In the top half, Tom Seaver got his way out of a bases-loaded jam. In the bottom half, Ed Kranepool delivered a two-run single. The Reds tied the game with a run in the third and another in the fifth, but it didn’t stay tied for long. An RBI double from Cleon Jones put New York back ahead. An RBI dugout from Don Hahn was sandwiched between RBI singles from Willie Mays and Bud Harrelson, giving the Mets a 6-2 lead.

Cincinnati did stir some in the ninth, loading the bases with only one out. But Jones’ RBI single in the sixth inning gave the Mets a five-run lead, so even a grand slam wouldn’t have tied the game — and no grand slam came.


  • 11. 1984 NLCS, Game 5: San Diego Padres 6, Chicago Cubs 3
  • 10. 2003 NLCS, Game 7: Florida Marlins 9, Chicago Cubs 6
  • 9. 2004 NLCS, Game 7: St. Louis Cardinals 5, Houston Astros 2

These games were all unique enough and different enough that they deserve a more in-depth look than any games we previously covered. But before we get into those, let’s look at some significant things these games all had in common — beyond the fact that they’re all three-run games that Cubs fans probably didn’t have a lot of fun watching and likely won’t have a lot of fun reading about.

In all three cases, the winning team also won the previous game. All three losing teams carried leads into the fifth inning (or later) but faced multi-run deficits by the end of the seventh inning. Finally, the losing team mounted very little offense after the lead was gone. The 2003 Cubs were the only team to score after the lead was gone, and that was a two-out solo homer in the seventh inning to cut the lead to 9-6.

Chicago hit a pair of home runs to take a 3-0 lead after two innings of Game 5 in 1984. After that, the bats went silent. Rick Sutcliffe managed to keep the Padres off of the board until the sixth inning, when they scored twice. It came apart in the seventh inning. San Diego tied the game when Cubs first baseman Leon Durham couldn’t handle a ground ball. The Padres then took the lead on a two-run double from Tony Gwynn, which took a bad (or good, depending on your perspective) hop over Ryne Sandberg.

In 2003, the Cubs erased an early 3-0 deficit when pitcher Kerry Wood launched a two-run homer to tie the game. Chicago then went up on a two-run home run from Moisés Alou. In the fifth inning, it all came apart. Iván Rodríguez cut the Florida deficit with an RBI double. Miguel Cabrera’s RBI groundout then tied the game and a Derrek Lee single put the Marlins ahead. Another run in the sixth and two more in the seventh essentially blew it open.

Houston, meanwhile, carried a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning of Game 4. Albert Pujols tied the game with a two-run double that scored Roger Cedeño. The next hitter, Scott Rolen, turned on the first pitch he saw from Roger Clemens, hitting a screaming line drive down into left field. The ball stayed in the air long enough to get over the wall for a two-run homer. St. Louis scored one more in the eighth inning, while the Astros generated only one more baserunner for the final three innings.

Also, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that Jim Edmonds might have saved this game in the second inning. With Houston leading 1-0 and runners on first and second, Brad Ausmus hit what looked like a two-run double. But Edmonds showed why he’s one of the best defensive center fielders in MLB history, tracking the ball down to making a diving catch.


8. 1962 National League tie-breaker, Game 3: San Francisco Giants 6, Los Angeles Dodgers 4

While the Giants scored the first two runs, the Dodgers came back strong. Tommy Davis turned a one-run deficit into a one-run lead for Los Angeles with a two-run homer in the sixth inning. Then in the seventh inning, Giants catcher Ed Bailey threw the ball away while trying to throw Maury Wills out stealing. Wills scored to put the Dodgers up 4-2, which remained the score until the ninth inning.

San Francisco loaded the bases with only one out. A Willie Mays single moved everyone up a base and scored Harvey Kuenn. An Orlando Cepeda sacrifice fly tied the game. Then, after Bailey was intentionally walked to load the bases, Jim Davenport drew a walk, putting the Giants back ahead. San Francisco got one more run courtesy of an error by Larry Burright. The Dodgers had the top of the order due up in the ninth, so the 4-2 lead wasn’t insurmountable. But they went down in order to end the game.

At the risk of getting ahead of ourselves, it’s easy to see why this is somewhat forgotten when compared to what happened in the tie-breaker series between these two teams 11 years earlier. The Giants tied the game on a sacrifice fly then took the lead on an error. That pales in comparison to both being accomplished simultaneously with a home run. Also, 1951’s ninth-inning comeback ended the game. Here, there was still a fairly bland bottom of the inning to sit through. But while this wasn’t 1951, it’s definitely a hidden gem.

7. 2020 NLCS, Game 7: Los Angeles Dodgers 4, Atlanta Braves 3

The Braves took a 3-2 lead in the top of the fourth inning on an RBI single from Austin Riley. A wild pitch then moved Dansby Swanson to third and Riley to second, giving Atlanta two runners in scoring position with nobody. But the opportunity to tack onto the field went for naught.

Nick Markakis hit a sharp grounder right to Justin Turner. The Los Angeles third baseman threw home to Will Smith, then ran to third base for the ensuing rundown. Smith threw the ball back to Turner, who dove and tagged Swanson out. Riley tried to get to third but after tagging Swanson, Turner threw the ball to shortstop Corey Seager, who was covering third. He tagged Riley out.

The Atlanta bats went quiet after that and eventually, the Dodgers made the Braves pay for not getting more separation. Kiké Hernández led the bottom of the sixth inning off with a game-tying home run. Then, after Max Muncy and Smith struck out to start the bottom of the seventh, Cody Bellinger launched a 2-2 pitch into the seats for what ended up being the game-winning home run.

6. 1981 NLCS, Game 5: Los Angeles Dodgers 2, Montreal Expos 1

In a low-scoring affair, the two teams combined for only nine hits and four walks. As a sign of how tough the pitching was, the first run of the game was scored when Montreal’s Andre Dawson hit into a double play in the bottom of the first inning. Los Angeles tied the game in the fifth inning on an RBI groundout from pitcher, Fernando Valenzuela.

The top of the ninth looked like it would be no different when Steve Garvey and Ron Cey made outs to start the inning, bringing Rick Monday to the plate with two outs and nobody on base. Monday, though, got count leverage. On a 3-1 pitch, Monday hit a ball to center field. While it was deep, it initially looked as though Dawson might have a play. But the ball continued to carry and went over the wall for a home run.

Montreal found some hope in the bottom of the ninth inning when Gary Carter and Larry Parrish drew two-out walks. But Valenzuela was pulled for Bob Welch, who retired Jerry White to end the game and series.

The Dodgers went on to win the World Series. And while the Expos had some great teams for the remainder of their time in Montreal, the franchise didn’t reach the postseason again until 2012 — as the Washington Nationals.

5. 1972 NLCS, Game 5: Cincinnati Reds 4, Pittsburgh Pirates 3

There was good news and bad news for Pittsburgh closer Dave Giusti when he came on to pitch the bottom of the ninth inning. The good news was that the Pirates were leading 3-2. The bad news? He had to deal with the heart of the Reds order, starting with Johnny Bench. Giusti got ahead of Bench, but his 1-2 pitch caught too much of the plate and Bench hit an opposite-field home run to tie the game. Tony Pérez and Denis Menke then singled, chasing Giusti from the game in favor of Bob Moose.

Moose retired the first hitter he saw, Cesar Gerónimo. But Gerónimo’s flyout moved George Foster (who was pinch-running for Pérez) to third with only one out. Moose got Darrel Chaney on a pop-up, meaning that the Reds now needed a hit — or a Pirates mistake — to score Foster. They got the latter. Moose’s 1-1 pitch to Hal McRae was low and in the dirt. Catcher Manny Sanguillén got a glove on it, but couldn’t stop it and the ball got away. Foster sprinted home to score the winning run.

4. 2006 NLCS, Game 7: St. Louis Cardinals 3, New York Mets 1 

While we’re just looking at the seventh game of this series, context is important here. By the time Game 7 rolled around, it felt like both teams were punching above their weights, although for different reasons.

The Mets were hands down the best team in the National League in 2006, but with season-ending injuries to Pedro Martínez and Orlando Hernández, the starting rotation was gutted. Oliver Pérez, who had a 6.55 ERA in 2006 (and a combined 6.22 ERA over the 2005 and 2006 seasons), was the Game 7 starter.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, had baseball’s best record in both 2004 and 2005. But those seasons ended in a non-competitive World Series sweep against the Boston Red Sox and a NLCS loss to the Houston Astros, respectively. They returned to the playoffs in 2006 but with 83 wins, didn’t feel like a serious contender. And while St. Louis’ starter, Jeff Suppan had a better season than Pérez, his 4.12 ERA and 1.453 didn’t exactly earn him Cy Young consideration.

With that context out of the way, we can tell the story of this game by looking at three plays.

Despite his struggles, Pérez was up to the task. But with the game tied 1-1 in the sixth inning, his luck seemed to run out. Scott Rolen looked to relive his 2004 heroics and hit what looked to be a two-run home run. New York left fielder Endy Chávez had other ideas. He made a leaping catch, robbing a home run from Rolen, and it didn’t stop there. Chávez quickly fired the ball back into the infield and the Mets doubled off Jim Edmonds to end the inning.

With the score still tied 1-1 in the ninth inning, Yadier Molina came up with one out and a runner on first. Molina hit a ball that looked similar to Rolen’s in the sixth. But it was slightly higher and went a few feet further. Chávez didn’t have a chance to recreate his sixth-inning heroics.

In the bottom of the inning, José Valentín and Chávez led off with singles, giving the Mets a chance. But  Adam Wainwright (who was a largely unknown reliever at the time) retired Cliff Floyd and José Reyes, bringing the Mets down to their final out. A Paul Lo Duca walk then loaded the bases for Carlos Beltrán, who was having a big series to that point and had dominated Cardinals pitching in the 2006 NLCS with the Astros.

But Wainwright went right after Beltrán, getting ahead 0-2. He then threw a curveball, which completely locked Beltran up. He couldn’t get the bat off of his shoulders and the ball fell into Molina’s glove harmlessly for a called third strike.

3. 1980 NLCS, Game 5: Philadelphia Phillies 8, Houston Astros 7

While Tuesday will mark the first Game 7 in the long history of the Phillies, they have played in other winner-take-all games. Philadelphia won its first World Series in franchise history in 1980. But before doing that, the Phillies had to survive a thrilling Game 5 against the Astros in the NLCS.

The Astros scored three times in the bottom of the seventh inning, giving them a 5-2 lead heading into the eighth inning with Nolan Ryan on the mound. But singles from Larry Bowa, Bob Boone and Greg Gross loaded the bases with nobody out. Pete Rose walked, which brought Bowa home and got Ryan out of the game. An RBI groundout from Keith Moreland brought the game to 5-4. Del Unser then tied the game with a two-out single while Manny Trillo’s two-run triple put Philadelphia ahead 7-5.

In the bottom of the inning, it was Houston’s turn to rally. With two outs, the Astros got a pair of RBI singles. Rafael Landestoy’s made the game 7-6, while José Cruz’s tied the game again. The Phillies mounted a mini-threat in the ninth inning but couldn’t score. When Houston went down in order in the home half of the inning, Game 5 went to extra innings. It was the fourth straight game in the series that required more than nine innings.

Gary Maddox put Philadelphia up for good in the tenth inning, delivering an RBI double to score Unser. The Astros again went down in order in the tenth inning, ending one of the best winner-take-all games and one of the best series ever played.


2. 1992 NLCS, Game 7: Atlanta Braves 3, Pittsburgh Pirates 2

After rallying from a 3-1 series deficit to force a Game 7, the Pirates were well positioned to complete the comeback and go to the World Series. They led 2-0 heading into the ninth inning.

But Terry Pendleton led the bottom of the inning off with a double. Then, David Justice then reached on an error from second baseman José Lind. Sid Bream followed Justice with a walk, loading the bases for the Braves with nobody out. Stan Belinda then got Ron Gant to fly out. And while Pendleton scored, the play was a positive for Pittsburgh, as neither Justice nor Bream advanced. That positive was quickly wiped out, though, when Belinda walked Damon Berryhill, loading the bases with only one out.

But after Belinda got Brian Hunter to pop out, the Braves were down their final out. The batter was Francisco Cabrera, who was pinch-hitting for pitcher Jeff Reardon. Cabrera had only 11 plate appearances in the regular season and his only action in the NLCS before this came in the ninth inning of Game 6, when the Braves were down 13-2. But while the scenario was less than ideal for Atlanta, it worked.

Cabrera rapped a 2-1 pitch into left field for a base hit. Justice came home from third with the tying run. But given that the ball got to left fielder Barry Bonds quickly, there was no way that Sid Bream would score from second. Bream was never a particularly fast runner but by this point of his career, any footspeed that he once had was long gone. But Bream chugged around third and headed for home.

While Barry Bonds, then Pittsburgh’s left fielder, had many tools, a strong throwing arm was not one of them. Still, Bonds’ throw got to catcher Mike LaValliere right as Bream was starting his slide. But the throw was slightly offline and worse, it went up the first-base line. That gave Bream an opening. And while LaValliere fielded the throw cleanly, his diving attempt to tag Bream was not in time.

1. 1951 National League tie-breaker, Game 3: New York Giants 5, Brooklyn Dodgers 4

Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the second inning, Whitey Lockman and Bobby Thomson each delivered one-out singles for the Giants in the second inning. Thomson, though, made a mistake. He tried to stretch a single into a double, not realizing that Lockman was still at second. didn’t realize that Lockman stayed at second base. The Dodgers tagged Thomson out, then retired Willie Mays to end the inning.

The score remained 1-0 until the bottom of the seventh inning, when Thomson hit a sacrifice fly to score Monte Irvin and tie the game. The tie didn’t last long, though. Giants pitcher Sal Maglie surrendered back-to-back singles to Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snider in the top of the eighth inning. Reese then scored on a wild pitch while Snider scored on a single from Andy Pafko. Billy Cox then delivered a two-out single to score Jackie Robinson, putting the Dodgers up 4-1.

After the Giants went down in order in the bottom of the eighth and the Dodgers did the same in the top of the ninth, New York came up with one final chance to make something happen. Alvin Dark and Don Mueller both singled to start the inning. Then, after Irvin popped out, Lockman doubled. That scored Dark, put the tying run on second base and brought Thomson to the plate as the winning run. The Dodgers made a pitching change, bringing Ralph Branca in to face Thomson.

Thomson homered off of Branca in the first game of the tie-breaker series. Then, after falling behind 0-1, Thomson took Branca deep again. The home run is one of the most famous in the history. The same can be said for the call from Russ Hodges.

[Photo Credit: MLB on YouTube]

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