On October 4th, 2006 Stephen Sullivan write a great article about World Series Winning Walk off Hits. His articles brought back great memories of some very exciting moments in sports. I remember Gene Larkin’s walk-off hit in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series to end what might have been the best baseball game ever played. I also fondly remember Joe Carter’s walk-off homerun in 1993 and watching him jump up and down for joy as he went to first base. It seems like just yesterday that Luis Gonzalez was getting the game winning hit up the middle against the New York Yankees. But before you get to the World Series there is the Division Series and Championship Series. So I now present you with some of the best walk-off hits in the Division and Championship Series, homerun style.
Johnny Bench vs. Tom Seaver
Game 1 1973 NLCS Cincinnati Reds vs. New York Mets
Game 1 of the 1973 NLCS was turning out to be a pitcher’s duel between future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver and Cincinnati’s Jack Billingham. Tom Seaver wasn’t just getting it done on the mound but also at the plate as he hit a double in the second inning to knock in the first run of the game. The run remained the difference in the game until in the 8th inning when Pete Rose homered to tie the game. Then in the ninth Johnny Bench homered to give the Reds a 1 – 0 lead in the series.
Steve Garvey vs. Lee Smith
Game 4 1984 NLCS San Diego Padres vs. Chicago Cubs
Let’s see it’s a playoff game and the Cubs are involved, take a wild guess who wins. The Padres took a 2 – 0 lead early in the game on a sacrifice fly from Tony Gwynn and a double from Steve Garvey. The game was very back and forth after that. The Cubs got a two-run homerun and a solo homerun to take the 3 – 2 lead. Then the Padres came back and tie the game in the fifth and then a RBI single and a passed ball in the 7th inning gave the Padres the 5 – 3 lead. The Cubs would come back and tie the game in the eighth. In the bottom of the ninth the Cubs brought in closer Lee Smith. After Tony Gwynn singled Steve Garvey hit the game winning homerun to cap a 5 RBI night.
Ozzie Smith vs. Tom Niedenfuer
Game 5 1985 NLCS St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Cardinals used their great speed to take an early 2 – 0 lead against Fernando Valenzuela but the Dodgers would come back in the fourth inning with a single and a homerun by Bill Madlock to tie the game at two. In the ninth Tom Niedenfuer came in to pitch and take the game into extra innings. After getting Willie McGee to pop up Ozzie Smith came to the plate and decided to bat left-handed. Ozzie Smith had never hit a homerun from the left side in his career until then. Ozzie Smith won the game 3 – 2.
Lenny Dykstra vs. Dave Smith
Game 3 1986 NLCS New York Mets vs. Houston Astros
Before Game 6 of the World Series or even game 6 of the NLCS there was another pretty good game in Game 3 of the NLCS. Houston started off the game with two runs in each of the first two innings to take a 4 – 0 lead. After the Mets finally got on the board in the sixth Darryl Strawberry hit a three run homerun to tie the game 4 – 4. The Astros would come back the very next at-bat and score on an error by Ray Knight. Dave Smith came in to shut down the Mets in the ninth. The first batter, Wally Backman, tried to bunt his way on. Houston’s first baseman Glenn Davis fielded the ball and reached to tag Backman but Backman slid to avoid the tag. Backman ended up being safe at first and the next batter Lenny Dykstra would homer to win the game for the Mets.
Jim Lyrists vs. Tim Belcher
Game 2 1995 ALDS New York Yankees vs. Seattle Mariners.
The 1995 ALDS between the Yankees and the Mariners was quite possibly the best Division Series ever. With one out in the 15th inning, Jim Leyritz hits a 2-run homer to right in the pouring rain to defeat the Mariners. At 5 hours 13 minutes, it breaks the record set one day earlier for the longest postseason game.
Bernie Williams vs. Randy Meyers
Game 1 1996 ACS New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles
Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS was one of the most controversial games in postseason history. In the 8th inning Derek Jeter hit a blast into right field when a twelve-year-old kid Jeffrey Maier reached onto the field and stole the ball from the outfielder. If the boy had not caught it the outfielder would’ve caught the ball. Instead Jeter’s hit counted as a homerun that tied the game. In the 11th inning Bernie Williams hit a winning homerun against Randy Meyers.
Todd Pratt vs. Matt Mantei
Game 4 1999 NLDS New York Mets vs. Arizona Diamondbacks
Going into the the NLDS the Diamondbacks were the favorite because they had the better record. But then it looked the Diamondbacks were an even bigger favorite when the Mets’ MVP candidate Mike Piazza couldn’t play because of an injury. In the bottom of the tenth with the score tied Mike Piazza’s replacement in the lineup, Todd Pratt, hit the game winning homerun.
Robin Ventura vs. Kevin McGlinchy
Game 5 1999 NLCS New York Mets vs. Atlanta Braves
The Mets still had a little magic left after the Todd Pratt walk off. The Mets got on the board first with a score of 2 – 0 on a homerun by John Olerud but the Braves would come back and tie it. The game went well into the night as the next ten innings would come and go without anyone scoring. The Braves finally broke through with a run in the 15th inning and the game looked over as John Rocker took the field. But in the bottom of the fifteenth Shawon Dunston would come through with a single for the Mets. Next Edgardo Alfonzo sacrifice bunted Dunston to second. John Olerud was then intentionally walked to load the bases. The next batter, Todd Pratt, also walked to bring in the tying run. Finally Robin Ventura hit a grand slam to win the game. It was the first walk-off Grand Slam in postseason history.
Benny Agbayani vs. Aaron Fultz
Game 3 2000 NLDS New York Mets vs. San Francisco Giants
Once again the Mets would need some heroics and like the previous year it came from an unlikely source. Russ Ortiz had been pitching a no-hitter going into the sixth inning when rookie outfielder Timo Perez hit a bloop single to score Mike Bordick. Later in the 8th inning Lenny Harris beat out what would’ve been an inning ending double play. The Giants brought in Rob Nenn who hadn’t blown a save since July but Edgardo Alfonzo hit a double to tie the game at two. It remained that way until the bottom of the 13th when Benny Agbayani homered into the left field bleachers.
Aaron Boone vs. Tim Wakefield
Game 7 2003 ALCS New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox
Who could forget Aaron bleepin Boone? In game 7 of the 2003 ALCS the Red Sox jumped out to a 4 – 0 lead knocking Clemens out of the game early. Two solo homeruns by Jason Giambi kept the Yankees in it but the score was 5 – 2 in the 8th. In a move that he still gets criticized for today Grady Little left Pedro Martinez in the game and he surrendered a double to Jeter and a single Bernie Williams. Little came to the mound but shockingly still left Martinez in the game to get out of it himself. Pedro then gave up doubles to Matsui and Posada and the game was tied at five. The game went into extra innings and Tim Wakefield pitched a scoreless 10th inning but in the bottom of the 11th the very first pitch to Aaron Boone disappeared into the left field seats.
David Ortiz vs. Paul Quantrill
Game 4 2004 ALCS Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees
The following year the Red Sox would finally get their revenge on the Yankees. With none out in the 12th, Ortiz hits a 2-run shot to right on a 2-1 pitch to keep Boston’s hopes alive in the series; coming only 10 days after his game winning shot against the Angels, he is the first player to hit two walk-off homers in the same postseason. It is the Red Sox’s first win in their historic ALCS comeback against the Yankees. The next day, Ortiz will hit a walk-off single in the 14th, leading him subsequently to be named series MVP.
Jeff Kent vs. Jason Isringhausen
Jim Edmonds vs. Dan Miceli
Games 5 and 6 2004 NLCS Houston Astros vs. St. Louis Cardinals
In Game 5 of the 2004 NLCS Houston pitcher Brandon Backe was pitching a perfect game through five innings and ends up allowing just one hit but like much of the past couple of seasons the Astros had a hard time giving him any run support. It wasn’t until the bottom of the ninth that Jeff Kent finally came through with a three run homerun to end the game.
The series returned to St. Louis for Game 6. This time around the teams scored early as Houston scored in the top of the first inning and the Cards came back with two runs in the bottom of the inning on a Albert Pujols homerun. The Astros score in the third on a double by Jeff Bagwell but the Cardinals again counter with two runs in the bottom half of the inning. The Astros score again in the fourth but enter the ninth inning down 4 – 3. Jeff Bagwell comes through with a single to tie the game and go into extra innings but in the bottom of the twelfth Jim Edmonds hits the game winning homerun.
Chris Burke vs. Joey Devine
Game 4 2005 NLDS Houston Astros vs. Atlanta Braves
Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS would be one of the classic playoff games. In the third inning the Braves’ Adam Laroche would hit a grand slam to take a 4 – 0 lead and the Braves would increase the lead to 6 – 1. It seemed like the Astros were done but in the bottom of the eighth the Astros loaded the bases for their best player Lance Berkman and he delivered with a grand slam to make the score 6 – 5. But in the bottom of the ninth the Astros would still need some more heroics and it came from an unlikely source. Brad Ausmus, who had only hit three homeruns all year, delivered with a solo homerun to tie the game and go into extra innings, but the game was long from over. The Astros and Cardinals would play another whole game, nine extra innings before Chris Burke hit a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the 18th inning.
Magglio Ordonez vs. Huston Street
Game 4 2006 ALCS Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland A’s
After being completely dominated in the first three games the Oakland A’s looked like they finally wanted win a game in the ALCS as they scored two runs in the very first inning. The A’s would score another run in the fourth to make it 3 – 0 but the Tigers would not go down without a fight. The Tigers would score two runs in the bottom of the fifth to cut the lead to 3 – 2 and in the bottom of the sixth Magglio Ordonez would deliver with the game tying homerun. It remained 3 – 3 until the ninth inning. With two runners on Magglio Ordonez would come to the plate again and just like in the sixth inning he would deliver with a homerun that won the game and sent the Tigers to the World Series for the first time since 1984.