Baseball fans, we know your pain. There’s nothing worse than the offseason – the sight of 30 MLB ballparks all shut down for the winter. Even less than a week in, it sucks.
But it’s okay. We’re here to provide a remedy to your baseball withdrawals, with a trip down not-so-long ago memory lane. With the 2016 postseason and the curse of the billy goat now behind us, we’re going to take a look back at some of the most thrilling moments from the diamond this October.
There were a lot of memorable occruances, but in the end we felt that these 10 moments were stood above all else. We used impact, clutchness, drama, and sheer memorability for judging criteria, so tell us whether or not you agree with our final countdown.
10. The error
Facing elimination, the Cubs struck early in game six of the World Series, and never looked back as they won the contest 9-2. But the biggest play, and arguably a series altering play, occurred in the first inning with two outs. With two runners on, the Cubs hit into what would have been a routine inning-ending pop up to center field, but the ball was misplayed by Indians’ outfielders Lonnie Chisenhall and Tyler Naquin, dropping between the two of them. Two runs scored, and just like that, the Cubs led 3-0. The error put all the momentum on Chicago’s side, and you can only wonder what Cleveland could have accomplished if all the life hadn’t been sucked out of them before they even had a look at the plate. Long story short, the Cubs may have lost the series if this play didn’t happen.
9. Donaldson breaks for the plate
After the taking both games in Arlington to open up the best-of-five series, the Toronto Blue Jays found themselves tied 6-6 with the top-seeded Texas Rangers at the end of nine innings in game three, heading to extras. In the top of the 10th inning, the Jays found themselves in a one ount, runners on first and second situation, just needing to get Josh Donaldson home to win the game and series. With reliever Matt Bush pitching for Texas, Russell Martin hit a ground ball that looked like an inning-ending double play, but second baseman Rougned Odor’s throw to first was wide and was bobbled by Mitch Moreland. Having already taken off to third on the hit, Donaldson kept running towards home plate, and his speed combined with yet another erraneous throw gave Toronto the sweep, and their sixth straight playoff win against the Rangers.
8. Gillaspie to the rescue
The Giants may have ultimately ran out of even year magic in 2016, but we had to be teased with it for at least a little in yet another even year postseason run for the club. Facing a do-or-die wildcard date with the New York Mets in Queens, a duel between Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard remained scoreless into the 9th. Though Bumgarner was kept in, the Mets opted to bring in normally-reliable closer Juerys Familia to preserve the tie into the bottom of the ninth. Instead, he surrendered a lead-off double to shortstop Brandon Crawford before walking Joe Panik two batters later, putting two on with nobody out. Up the to the plate walked third baseman Conor Gillaspie, whom the Giants had recently re-signed after a previous stint with the team, and was only playing because starter Eduardo Nunez was hurt. So of course, he launched a fastball over the left field wall for a go-ahead 3-run homer. Bumgarner retired the side for another wildcard game shutout, as the Giants moved on and won their 10th straight elimination game.
7. Big Papi says farewell
Not exactly a play, but you can’t fail to acknowledge the end of one of the greatest careers by any player in recent history. David Ortiz’s long journey with the Boston Red Sox came to an end in a rather anticlimactic fashion, as Boston was swept out of the ALDS by the Cleveland Indians, but it was straight chills when he walked off the field and saluted the Fenway crowd one final time. Truly a legend.
6. Kershaw saves the series
Coming off three straight disappointing playoff exits dating back to the 2013, the Los Angeles Dodgers appeared to be doomed once again with a premature exit when they trailed the Washington Nationals 2-1 in the NLDS. Los Angeles however was able to force a game five back in the Nation’s captial with some late-game heroics in game four. Though Max Scherzer stifled the Dodgers’ bats through six as the the Nats led 1-0, things unravled for Washington in the 7th, as Scherzer allowed a game-tying homer to Joc Pederson before the bullpen allowed 3 more runs to make it a 4-1 LA lead. The Nats responded with a two-run Chris Heisey homer in the bottom of the inning however, and trailing 4-3 in the 9th, they were able to get two runners on with 1 out against closer Kenley Jasen. So who did manager Dave Roberts turn to? Clayton Kershaw, who had just gone seven innings two days earlier in game four. With the series on the line, he recorded a pop-up and strikeout, sending the Dodgers on to Chicago with one of the most memorable saves in MLB history.
5. The comeback
*Resident Giants fan vomits before writing about this
After going up 2-0 on the San Francisco Giants and letting the sweep get away with an Aroldis Chapman blown save in game 3, it looked like the Curse of the Billy Goat/Even Year Magic was alive and well when the Cubs trailed 5-2 entering the ninth inning. You could all but sense the Cubs were going to blow a 2-0 lead in a 5 game series for the second time in franchise history while the Giants were going to advance after facing such a deficit for the 2nd time in four years. In a shocking turn of events though, Bruce Boch pulled starting pitcher Matt Moore at 122 pitches, and handed the save-attempt over to a San Francisco bullpen that blew 32 saves in the regular season and a 33rd one night earlier in game three. Sure enough, the Cubs rallied for three runs before recording an out to tie it. Two batters later after a botched double play attempt, Wilson Contreras added another base-hit to put Chicago on top. Chapman stuck out the side as Chicago won the series, avoiding what could have been one of the worst collapses in MLB history.
4. Chicago has a pennant
You might be surprised this is four. While it was an incredible celebration and one of two moment we thought we might never see happen, the Cubs first pennant in 71 years wasn’t exactly dramatic. Chicago never let up as they won the contest 5-0 over the Los Angeles Dodgers, crushing ace Clayton Kershaw as he added another chapter to his playoff woes. Nontheless, we will never forget the sight of Yasiel Puig hitting into that double playoff off Aroldis Chapman as Wrigley Field exploded into pandimonium will be seen for years to come. It was the first major step in the Cubs breaking the longest drought in pro-sports history, and it should be celebrated.
3. Davis ties it
Admit it. You thought the Cubs were going to do it again at this rate. This wasn’t the first time they blew a 3-0 lead in the 8th inning of a playoff clincher after all. And how perfect would it have been that the man who the Cubs spent everything on to save their season, Aroldis Chapman, cost them the title? Anyhow, that doesn’t change the fact that Indians’ outfielder Rajai Davis hit one of the most clutch home runs in baseball history when he hit a two run dinger off Chapman, Cleveland just four outs away from defeat, to tie-the ball game at 6-6. The game would go into extra innings and experience a rain delay, but we all know that happend after that. Still, an incredible moment, and bonus points for hitting the TV camera dead on.
2. Edwin’s wild(card) walk-off bomb
A an extra-inning, series-winning walk-off home run – it’s every baseball player’s (and fan’s) dream. In one of the most thrilling games in recent playoff-history, the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles found themselves heading to extra innings of the American League Wildcard Game, tied at two. When the 11th inning came around, the Jays managed to put runners on the corners, bringing hot-hitting Edwin Encarnacion to the plate for Toronto. All the Oriole’s needed was to induce a double play to end the inning and move on, but stunnignly, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter stuck with reliever Ubaldo Jimenez rather than bringing in closer Zach Britton, who did not allow an earned run from May until the end of the season. The managerial move was costly, as Encarnacion obliterated Jiminez’s first pitch over the left-field wall for a game-winning walk-off homer. Shades of Joe Carter, as Toronto advanced.
1. The Cubs win the World Series
It happened. The Curse of the Billy Goat is dead at last. Down 3-1 in the World Series, the Chicago Cubs found a way past all the adversity, all the series deficits, all the blown saves, all the unfortunate bounces….all their gut-wrenching moments of their tortured history. They came rallying back, and they never looked behind (well maybe here and there, but you get it). The curse was broken on that November night in Cleveland, and Kris Bryant’s smile tells the whole story. 108 years of suffering is all over, Chicago. Let the celebration continue.