This is the second part to a post that I did last year: For Part I, click here
As we stare down the final chapter of this decade in baseball, Let’s continue to take a look at some of the most epic non-World Series moments in recent postseason baseball history. Since 2010, 11 teams have made the world series, but 26 have made the postseason at some point or another (Only the Marlins, White Sox, Mariners, and and Padres haven’t punched their ticket this decade). For those teams, these memories are the most impactful in their recent memory, and deserve their own place. Let’s look at a few more.
2018 NLDS Game 3: The Arrival
Entering the 2018 season, the Atlanta Braves were written off as another rebuilding team, rudderless thanks to the loss of their General Manager thanks to a cheating scandal, and lacking of any true established stand out player. Sure they had a lot of young, promising talent, but they would need time to adjust to playing big league ball. Eh, not so much. Instead, the Braves would ride their young stars like Dansby Swanson, Mike Foltynewicz, and Ozzie Albies to a 90-72 record, taking the National League East crown, and the league by storm. The brightest of these stars, however, was their 20 year old electric left fielder, Ronald Acuna Jr. He had already established himself as a force to be reckoned with, hitting 26 home runs, with an impressive .917 OPS over 111 games, and was being noticed around baseball for his lightning speed and prodigious power at the plate. Behind him, the Braves stormed into the postseason, and drew a date with the defending National League Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. Many wondered how the young players would handle the postseason stage against such an experienced team. The first two games didn’t go so great, the Dodgers shut out the Braves in both games 1 and 2, and seemed ready to sweep the new baby Braves right out of the playoffs. It didn’t help that young fireballer Walker Buehler would take the mound, hoping to put a nail in Atlanta’s coffin. It was the second inning when the wheels would start to come off, when Buehler lost the strike zone, throwing seven consecutive balls to the pitcher, Sean Newcomb, and to Ronald Acuna. The count 3-0, the young slugger dropped his bat as soon as the eighth pitch left his hand, the ball clearly sailing high.
“STRIKE” declared umpire Gary Sederstrom. The entire stadium paused to process what just happened. Everyone seemed caught off guard by the call. Acuna stepped back into the box, and what happened next was.. fantastic.
2014 ALDS Game 5: The Shot Heard ‘Round the World, Reloaded.
There’s nothing worse than when they take a great story, re cast it, and then make a sequel. In this case though, I would call for an exception to be made. First, we need to know the original “shot heard ’round the world”. In 1952, The (then) New York Giants were squaring off against the Brooklyn Dodgers in a deciding game of a three game series to determine the winner of the National League pennant. Drama was high, both teams starving for relevancy against their American League big brother, the Yankees, and looking to advance to the World Series. In the bottom of the 9th, Ralph Branca came on to face Bobby Thompson with 2 men aboard, and then this happened:
It defined the Giants franchise, and became an immortal memory for fans in New York, for just a few years later, both teams would depart for the West Coast. The Dodgers took up residence in Chavez Ravine, and the Giants went to San Fransisco. Fast forward to 2014. The Giants have won two titles in three years, but are facing elimination at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals, down two games to none in a best of five Divisional series. They would come storming back to force a fifth game, and that game was tied as we turned over to the bottom of the ninth inning. Journeyman outfielder Travis Ishikawa, who had contemplated retirement earlier that season, stepped to the plate against St. Louis’s workhorse Michael Wacha. with two men on base, What happened next, was all too familiar…
It was over. Just like that. The Giants would move on to defend their title, and as Ishikawa fought his way through his own jubilated teammates to finally touch home plate, the air still seemed to resonate with Joe Buck’s simple tribute to that infamous moment in 1952: “The Giants Win the Pennant!”
This was a sequel worth watching.
2011 NLDS, Game 5: Tony Plush, AKA Mr. Clutch:
SPOILER ALERT: If you look up and down the Milwaukee Brewers 2011 playoff roster, you won’t find anyone named “Tony Plush”. You will, however, find a colorful character named Nyger Morgan. In the literal sense, the man is 5 feet 10 inches. In terms of swagger? 20 feet tall. Morgan’s statistical resume isn’t exactly impressive, with a career OPS just peaking over .700, and only really producing one season of above average production, which leads us to his 2011 season with the Brewers. A speedster who only tallied 13 swipes that season, a glove-first guy who graded out as about as average as could be in the outfield. Heck, even the series of his life he only managed 3 hits in 16 at bats, while striking out 7 times. On the stat sheets, he was a modest journeyman who wasn’t much to look at. On the field though? He was Tony Plush, and it was all eyes on him.
When he flashed his signature “T” to the crowd, you knew that a man with a Rickey sized ego had arrived, and he demanded your attention. The lights were brightest during the 2011 NLDS, when the Milwaukee Brewers squared off against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Tony was ready. Had the series been a heavily contested between to major market teams, it would have gone down as one of the more memorable series in recent memory. The home team won every game of the series up to the deciding fifth game, so the stakes were high and the crowd in Miller Park was wired for Game 5. The Game was tied as the ninth inning came to a close, and the Brewers closer John Axford managed to set the snakes down in order in the top of the 10th, setting the table for the Brewers to walk off in to the Championship Series. With one out and Carlos Gomez on second base, Tony Plush strode to the plate. It was time.
Tony finally had his moment. Laying on his back in front of the pitchers mound, arms raised, teammates piling on him, the man of mediocre performance but massive presentation had done it. He had lived up to the name he had created.