Ranking the top 10 MLB postseason series of all time originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
There’s the Fall Classic, and then there are Fall CLASSICS.
October baseball has led to some hits, pitching performances and games that are etched into immortality. There have also been some special series along the way that have gone the distance to determine a champion. But which matchups were the most memorable?
Here are the top 10 postseason series in MLB history:
10. 2016 World Series: Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Indians
It’s the series that ended a 108-year drought on the North Side.
The 2016 World Series is remembered for its end result, but the series itself was filled with excitement. The Cubs and Indians split Games 1 and 2 in Cleveland before a pitcher’s duel took place under the lights of Wrigley Field in Game 3. Cleveland won Games 3 and 4 to take a 3-1 series lead, but Chicago clawed back into the series with a one-run win in Game 5.
A decisive Game 6 win for the Cubs led to an all-time Game 7 at Progressive Field. The Cubs held a lead going into the eighth inning before Rajai Davis hit a game-tying home run off Aroldis Chapman.
With the game tied at 6 following nine innings, the contest was halted due to a 17-minute rain delay where Jason Heyward famously rallied the Cubs in the clubhouse. Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero drove in runs in the top of the 10th to give Chicago an 8-6 lead. Despite allowing a run in the bottom half of the inning, Kris Bryant fielded a ground ball, slipped and delivered a throw to Anthony Rizzo at first to clinch the first World Series title for the Cubs since 1908.
9. 2011 World Series: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Texas Rangers
The Cardinals were famously down to their final strike in Game 6 before David Freese etched his name into St. Louis lore.
The third baseman hit a two-run triple over the head of a jumping Nelson Cruz in right field to tie the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Freese stepped into the box once again in the 11th inning and sent Busch Stadium into a frenzy with a walk-off home run to dead center field. Freese added two more RBIs the next day in Game 7 to earn the Cardinals their 11th World Series trophy.
The series is mostly remembered for Freese’s heroics, but there was also drama sprinkled in at the beginning of the 2011 Fall Classic with Games 1 and 2 being decided by one run.
8. 1995 ALDS: Seattle Mariners vs. New York Yankees
If you’re a Yankees fan, this is about the point in the list where you can open up YouTube and look up “27 rings” or fire up a “Yankees Classic,” because it goes downhill from here.
The 1995 ALDS is the only five-game series to claim a spot among the top 10 playoff series of all time because it packed in so many lead changes and extra-innings games. The trailing team tied the score or took the lead 14 times across 53 innings, while two contests went to extras.
New York took a 2-0 series lead with a walk-off, two-run homer from Jim Leyritz in the 15th inning of Game 2. The Mariners stormed back and won Games 3 and 4 to force a decisive Game 5 at the Kingdome. The Yankees took a 5-4 lead in the top of the 11th inning before Edgar Martinez sent the Mariners to the ALCS with a walk-off, two-run double.
7. 1999 NLCS: Atlanta Braves vs. New York Mets
The 1999 NLCS is the only series on this list to not reach a winner-take-all contest. Still, the series was historically close throughout its six games.
Following a 4-2 Atlanta win in Game 1, the five remaining matchups were all decided by one run. Atlanta’s pitching was on point early in the series, holding New York to just five runs across the first three games to take a 3-0 series lead. The Mets came up clutch to keep the series going, rallying in the eighth inning of Game 4 and winning Game 5 in the 15th inning thanks to Robin Ventura’s famous “grand slam single.”
The Braves had some walk-off magic of their own, though. Andruw Jones took an outside 3-2 pitch from Kenny Rogers with the bases loaded in the 11th inning of Game 6 to give the Braves a 10-9 win and send them to the World Series.
6. 1924 World Series: Washington Senators vs. New York Giants
The 1924 World Series featured four one-run games, a 12-inning Game 7 and zero off days.
The Senators and Giants traded wins in each of the first six games of the series. The first game was won by the Giants in 12 innings before Roger Peckinpaugh hit a walk-off double for the Senators in Game 2. New York took a 3-2 series lead in Game 5 and the Senators forced Game 7 with a 2-1 Game 6 victory.
Game 7 could have ended several times before reaching the 12th inning as both sides left men on base throughout the later innings. The Giants had a pair of errors in the bottom of the 12th, which set the stage for Earl McNeely to rip a walk-off double for the Senators’ first World Series triumph.
5. 2001 World Series: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. New York Yankees
Winners of three straight World Series, the Yankees seemed destined to be crowned champions once again during the 2001 Fall Classic. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the team reached the postseason once again and knocked off the 116-win Mariners in the ALCS.
President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch prior to Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, where the Yankees eked out a crucial 2-1 win. The next game, Derek Jeter became “Mr. November” with a walk-off home run in the 10th inning. Alfonso Soriano then gave the Yankees a 3-2 series lead with a walk-off single in the 12th inning of Game 5.
The Diamondbacks kept their season going with an emphatic 15-2 win at home in Game 6, setting up one of the most memorable Game 7s in MLB history. Down 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, the D-backs had to face Yankee closer Mariano Rivera with their backs against the wall. Following Tony Womack’s game-tying double, Luis Gonzalez walked it off with a bloop single to center field.
Despite two series losses for the Yankees on this list so far, it still gets worse for the Bronx Bombers.
4. 1986 World Series: New York Mets vs. Boston Red Sox
The 1986 Mets season was something even Hollywood couldn’t script. With so many wild storylines off the field, the Mets were equally enticing on the diamond in the postseason.
It began with an iconic 1986 NLCS that has its own case for a top-10 spot in postseason series history. All six games between the Mets and Houston Astros were decided by two runs or fewer, with four of the tilts being settled by one run. With the series tied 2-2, the Mets gained the edge with a walk-off victory in the 12th inning of Game 5. Game 6 went even longer, with the Mets outlasting the Astros 7-6 in a 16-inning marathon.
In the World Series, the Mets dropped the first two games at Fenway Park before evening the series with wins in Games 3 and 4. The Red Sox took Game 5 and were on the verge of winning the series in Game 6 before the ball went through the wickets of Bill Buckner. With two outs in the 10th inning, Mookie Wilson hit a dribbler to the right side and in between Buckner’s legs, allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run.
The Buckner play itself did not end the series since there was still a Game 7 to be played at Shea Stadium. After being held scoreless in the first five innings, the Mets’ offense erupted for eight runs from the sixth inning on and cemented an 8-5 win to earn one of the most memorable World Series titles in history.
3. 1991 World Series: Minnesota Twins vs. Atlanta Braves
Through two games, it looked like the 1991 World Series might be a Twins sweep. However, 30 years later, it stands as one of the most even and exciting series in MLB history.
Minnesota won the first two games at home before the series moved to Atlanta. The Braves got their first win with a walk-off victory in Game 3, which was the first of three extra-inning games in the series. The Braves captured two more wins at home to take a 3-2 series lead.
Back at home, the Twins needed two extra-inning walk-offs to take home the World Series trophy. Kirby Puckett played the hero in Game 6 with a game-winning home run in the 11th inning to send the series to Game 7.
The series concluded with a hard-fought Game 7 at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Jack Morris delivered one of the best pitching performances in postseason history, throwing 10 shutout innings on 126 pitches. Gene Larkin put the game and series to an end in the bottom of the 10th with a walk-off single that plated the game’s only run..
2. 1975 World Series: Cincinnati Reds vs. Boston Red Sox
The best World Series of all time featured one of the most iconic baseball images of all time.
Before the Reds and Red Sox reached their unforgettable Game 6, the two sides played three one-run games, including an extra-inning victory for Cincinnati in Game 3. The Reds later took Game 5 and had a chance to clinch the title at Fenway Park in Game 6.
The Reds’ victory celebration had to wait thanks to Carlton Fisk. The Red Sox catcher launched a fly ball down the left field line in the bottom of the 12th inning, prompting him to wave the ball fair as he sidestepped toward first base. The ball stayed fair for a walk-off homer, keeping the Red Sox’s season alive and forcing a Game 7.
While Game 7 isn’t featured in as many highlight reels as Game 6, it was still a tense, tightly contested matchup. The Red Sox took a 3-0 lead into the sixth inning before the Reds ended the game on a 4-0 run. Joe Morgan gave Cincinnati the lead in the ninth inning with an RBI single and Will McEnaney earned a save with a 1-2-3 inning to cap off the best World Series of all time.
1. 2004 ALCS: Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees
The greatest comeback in MLB postseason history took place in a series between the sport’s biggest rivals.
The Yankees’ dominance over the Red Sox is well-documented. Just one year earlier, Aaron Boone sent the Yankees to the World Series with a walk-off home run off Tim Wakefield in Game 7 of the ALCS. The Bronx Bombers appeared well on their way to another World Series appearance after they took a convincing 3-0 series lead in the 2004 ALCS.
And then “The Idiots” fought back.
David Ortiz. Dave Roberts. A bloody sock. A slap in the basepaths. The Red Sox combined clutch hitting, gutsy pitching and a dominant Game 7 win on the road to pull off the most improbable series win in baseball history.
The Red Sox went on to win their first World Series in 86 years with a sweep over the Cardinals, who beat the Astros in another riveting championship series. However, it’s Boston’s unforgettable and unlikely comeback against their arch-rivals that comes in at No. 1 among the greatest postseason series of all time.