Sully Baseball Presents THE BEST AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES GAMES OF THE 2000s

The American League Division Series provided some of the most memorable highlights of the decade… some of the best comebacks… some of the most dramatic home runs… walk off homers and walk off bunts… a swarm of bugs… and possibly the most famous baseball image of the decade.

Now people who grumble about East Coast bias may grind their teeth reading this post.

But what am I supposed to do? The Yankees played in nine Division Series this decade and the Red Sox played in six. So there are bound to be a bunch of Yankee and Red Sox highlights here.

But there are also lots of games featuring the small market A’s and Twins as well as the Angels, Mariners and White Sox.

As started in the Best of 2000s Post Season Home Page, I have picked two for each best game. Two best Game 1s, two best Game 2s etc…

And a few honorable mentions when need be.

Best Game 1s of the American League Division Series for the 2000s
2003 – A’s 5 Red Sox 4 (12 innings)


The Red Sox behind Pedro Martinez seemed ready to take a 1-0 series lead. But the A’s rally off of the Boston bullpen, sending the game into extra innings.

With the bases loaded and 2 outs in the 12th, Ramon Hernandez, not exactly a speed demon, lay down a bunt scoring Eric Chavez with the winning run.


The Twins were favored to win Game 1 with ace Johan Santana on the mound. But Barry Zito out pitched the eventual Cy Young winner, not allowing a hit until the 5th inning.

Frank Thomas returned to his MVP form with a pair of homers and the A’s were on their way to a surprising sweep.

Honorable mentions for Game 1 of the American League Division Series

2000 – Mariners 7 White Sox 4 (10 innings)

The White Sox leave the winning run in scoring position in the 9th inning. The Mariners take the lead in the 10th as Edgar Martinez and John Olerud smacked back to back homers off of Keith Foulke.

The heavily favored A’s take a 5-1 lead in the second and the game looked like Men versus Boys. Then the Twins came back in the 6th, highlighted by Doug Mientkiewicz’s homer and Jacques Jones’ double. The Twins stunned the A’s in the game and eventually the series.

Best Game 2s of the American League Division Series for the 2000s
2007 – Indians 2 Yankees 1 (11 innings)


The Midges game! A swarm of bugs descend onto Jacobs Field (or whatever they are calling it now) and gets Joba Chamberlain off sync, eventually allowing the tying run to score on a wild pitch.

Fausto Carmona wasn’t as affected as he struck out Alex Rodriguez to send the game into extra innings.

Eventually Ryan Garko singled home the winning run in the 11th, giving the Indians a 2-0 series lead.

2009 – Yankees 4 Twins 3 (11 innings)


The Twins took a 2 run lead into the 9th with All Star closer Joe Nathan on the mound and seemed poised to tie the series at 1 going back to Minnesota. But Alex Rodriguez slammed a 2 run game tying shot in the 9th to send it to extra innings.

The Twins blew a bases loaded no out opportunity in the 11th (the same inning a Joe Mauer double was called foul by the left field line umpire.) In the bottom of the 11th Mark Teixeira homered to end the game.


Honorable mentions for Game 2 of the American League Division Series

2004 – Yankees 7 Twins 6 (12 innings)

The Twins rally off of Mariano Rivera to send the game into extra innings and Torii Hunter homered in the 12th. But the Yankees rally against an exhausted Joe Nathan with an RBI double by Alex Rodriguez and a game ending sacrifice fly by Hideki Matsui.

The seemingly over matched Tigers rally off of Mike Mussina, highlighted by an RBI triple by Curtis Granderson. Joel Zumaya overwhelmed the Yankees bats and closer Todd Jones gets Posada, Cano and Damon out with the tying run on base in the 9th.

Manny Ramirez hit a 3 run, 2 out walk off homer in the bottom of the 9th against Francisco Rodriguez that probably hasn’t landed yet. Manny’s pose at home was the most memorable image of the Red Sox’ 2007 World Championship run.

Best Game 3s of the American League Division Series for the 2000s

The 3 time defending Champion Yankees were on the verge of being swept by the younger A’s. And Barry Zito did his job, holding the Yankees to 2 hits, including a solo shot by Jorge Posada.

The A’s rallied off of Mussina in the 7th when Terrence Long doubled to right sending Jeremy Giambi home. The relay throw home was wild but somehow Derek Jeter intercepted it and flipped to Posada where he tagged out Giambi standing.

The A’s had a chance to win the series in the 9th but Mariano Rivera pitched around a Jermaine Dye double. The Jeter flip has become one of the most famous sports images of the decade. The Yankees went on to win the next three games.

2004 – Red Sox 8 Angels 6 (10 innings)


The Red Sox seemed ready to complete a three game sweep of the Angels when they took a 6-1 lead late into the game. But the Angels tied the game, thanks in large part to a grand slam by Vladimir Guerrero that silenced Fenway Park.

Derek Lowe got out of a 10th inning jam and David Ortiz hit a walk off, series winning homer off of Jarrod Washburn that sent Fenway into delirium.


Honorable mentions for Game 3 of the American League Division Series

The White Sox, looking to avoid a sweep, cling to life with a 1-1 tie going into the 9th. But Olerud got on base and Piniella brought in Rickey Henderson to pinch run for him. Not a bad option off of the bench.

With runners on the corners, Carlos Guillen pushed a bunt past Keith Foulke, scoring Henderson and clinching the series for Seattle.

2003 – Red Sox 3 A’s 1 (11 innings)

The game played during my wedding. The A’s, looking to sweep the Red Sox, made a pair of base running blunders rounding third base that helped send the game into extra innings. Trot Nixon homered off of Rich Harden to win the game and I had my first dance with my wife.

In the 6th inning, with the White Sox up by only a run, Boston loaded the bases with nobody out. Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen called in Boston nemesis (and 1999 ALCS MVP) El Duque Hernandez to put out the fire. He got Jason Varitek to pop up. Then Tony Graffanino had a 10 pitch at bat that ended with a pop up. Then Johnny Damon had his full count check swing called strike three, to end the inning.

The White Sox would tack on an insurance run, eliminate the champs and win their first post season series since 1917.

The Red Sox saw an early 5-1 lead dwindle down to 5-4… but they were up 6-4 in the 9th with Papelbon on the mound, 2 outs, nobody on and the bottom of the Angels order coming up. They were in good shape.

But the Angels rallied highlighted by a full count walk to Chone Figgins, a 2 strike RBI single by Bobby Abreu and a 2 run go ahead single by Vlad Guerrero. The Angels shut down the Red Sox 1-2-3 in the 9th and finally vanquished their tormentors.


Best Game 4s of the American League Division Series for the 2000s


The day after the Trot Nixon homer (and my wedding), the A’s looked to close out the Red Sox. Jermaine Dye’s 2 run homer gave the A’s the lead, which they carried into the 8th inning.

With 2 outs and 2 on in the 8th, David Ortiz hit a 2 run double off of A’s closer Keith Foulke to give Boston the lead.

Scott Williamson got the A’s 1-2-3 to send the series to a Game 5 showdown.

2004 – Yankees 6 Twins 5 (11 innings)


With Johan Santana starting Game 4, the Twins were in good shape to force a deciding Game 5. And they seemed even more ready to when they took a 5-1 lead into the 8th inning.

But the Yankees rallied, highlighted by a 3 run homer by Ruben Sierra.

In the 11th, Alex Rodriguez doubled, stole third and scored on a wild pitch. Rivera would shut the Twins down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 11th, clinching the series and setting up a Red Sox/Yankees showdown.

Honorable mentions for Game 4s of the American League Division Series

The Indians were looking to stun the 116 win Mariners and win the series in 4. Bartolo Colon, who had shut down the Mariners in Game 1, took a 1-0 lead into the 7th, thanks to a Juan Gonzalez homer.

But the Mariners rallied for 3 runs in the 7th to take the lead and put it away with a 2 run homer by Edgar Martinez in the 9th to send the series back to Seattle, where the Mariners clinched.

The Angels avoided being swept with a 12 inning victory in Game 3. In Game 4, Torii Hunter hit a 2 out, 2 strike 2 run game tying single in the 8th, giving the Angels life. A botched squeeze play by the Angels helped kill a 9th inning rally. In the bottom of the 9th, Jason Bay dropped a ground rule double over the head of right fielder Reggie Willits. He would score the series ending run on Jew Lowrie’s 2 out single.

Best Game 5s American League Division Series for the 2000s


One of the most thrilling games I have ever seen… granted I am partial as a Red Sox fan.

Barry Zito took a 1-0 lead against Pedro Martinez into the 6th. But Varitek homered to tie the game and Manny Ramirez hit a 3 run shot (and styled at home plate) to give the Red Sox the lead.

The A’s crept back and put the tying and series winning runs on base with one out in the bottom of the 9th. Derek Lowe was pressed into closing duties and got pinch hitter Adam Melhuse out looking. Then with the bases loaded caught Terrence Long looking, gave an interesting gesture to the A’s dugout and celebrated with his teammates.


A classic winner take all series finale. Eventual Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon couldn’t pitch past the 1st inning and the Yankees scored 2 off of reliever Ervin Santana.

But Santana settled down and the Angels rallied off of Mike Mussina. The high light of the Angels come back was the collision in right field between Yankee center fielder Bubba Crosby and right fielder Gary Sheffield that turned Adam Kennedy’s fly ball into a come from behind triple.

In the 9th A-Rod hit into a critical double play and Francisco Rodriguez got Hideki Matsui to ground out and end the series.

Honorable mentions for Game 5 of the American League Division Series

Game 5 looked like a laugher for the Yankees as they scored 6 runs before the A’s even came to bat. But Kevin Appier and two other relievers held the Yankees to 1 run the rest of the way as the A’s mounted a come back.

They cut the lead to 2 and many times had the tying run at the plate, but the Yankee bullpen would not let the tying runs score.

With the Yankees eliminated, the A’s seemed to have a clear path to the World Series, provided they could eliminate the upstart Twins. In Game 5, the Twins jumped off to an early 2-0 lead that Oakland’s Ray Durham cut to 2-1 with a homer.

The score stayed 2-1 into the 9th when A. J. Pierzynski homered and David Ortiz doubled to make the score 5-1. But the A’s fought back when Mark Ellis hit a three run homer in the 9th to make it a 1 run game. However the comeback fell a run short as Ray Durham popped up to end the game and the A’s best shot as a pennant.

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Sully Baseball Presents THE BEST NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES GAMES OF THE 2000s


The National League may not have had a marquee franchise like the Yankees or Red Sox this decade, but they certainly had their share of drama in the post season.

From walk off homers to outrageous plays at the plate… from memorable pitchers duels to dropped fly balls and the first post season celebration for the Cubs since 1908… the National League Division Series had its share of memorable moments in the 2000s.

But a note to my dad: There are quite a few games listed here that were heart breakers for Giants fans. You’ve been warned.

As started in the Best of 2000s Post Season Home Page, I have picked two for each best game. Two best Game 1s, two best Game 2s etc…

And a few honorable mentions when need be.

Best Game 1s of the National League Division Series for the 2000s

Matt Morris and Curt Schilling locked horns in a classic pitchers duel.

Morris was terrific, holding the Diamondbacks to 6 hits and 1 run over 7 innings. His only blemish was a 2 out RBI single in the 5th inning.

This night, that was all Schilling needed. He went the distance, letting up only 3 hits and one walk while striking out 9. Schilling gave Arizona the early lead and a glimpse of the great pitching to come the rest of the post season.

The underdog Dodgers wanted to be aggressive early to make a stand against the heavily favored Mets. They showed their fearlessness on the bases when Jeff Kent tried to score from second on a Russell Martin single.

He was thrown out at home.

But then the aggressiveness got surreal when J. D. Drew tried to score on the same play. Mets catcher Paul LoDuca already had the ball and he got them both in one of the strangest double plays in history.

The game was a back and forth affair with the Dodgers scoring first, the Mets taking the lead, the Dodgers tying it late until the Mets took the lead for good on Carlos Delgado’s RBI single.

When the Dodgers lost by one, you had to wonder how the game could have unfolded differently had Kent AND Drew hadn’t tried to score early in the game.


Honorable mentions for
Game 1 of the National League Division Series

The Astros took a lead into the 8th inning but Marcus Giles tied the game with a single off of Mike Jackson. Two batters later, Chipper Jones launched a three run homer to give Atlanta the lead for good.

Brandon Webb and Carlos Zambrano were locked in a tense 1-1 pitchers duel through 6 innings. Then Lou Piniella made one of the strangest managerial moves in recent memory. He pulled Zambrano after 6 innings and only 85 pitches, supposedly to make sure he was fresh for Game 4.

The plan blew up in Sweet Lou’s face as reliever Carlos Marmol let up a lead off homer to Mark Reynolds and let up an insurance run later in the inning.

The Diamondbacks swept the Cubs and Zambrano was well rested for spring training.

Best Game 2s National League Division Series for the 2000s

The Cardinals were picked by many to go all the way to the World Series on the strength of their two aces, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. The Dodgers won game 1 but Wainwright dominated Game 2, with a little help from a home run by Matt Holliday.

In the 9th with 2 outs, closer Ryan Franklin got James Loney to fly out to Matt Holliday to end the game… except of course Holliday dropped the ball.

Now if Franklin got either of the next two batters (Casey Blake and Ronnie Belliard) out, then Holliday’s dropped fly ball would have been laughed off.

Instead the Dodgers rallied with Belliard tying the game with a single and pincher hitter Mark Loretta delivered the walk off hit.

The demoralized Cardnals were swept a few days later.

2000 – Mets 5 Giants 4 (10 innings)


Down 0-1 in the series, the Mets handed Armando Benitez a three run 9th inning lead in Game 2. You would think that would be a big enough lead.

Bonds and Kent got on and with one out J. T. Snow hit a three run game tying homer that sent Pac Bell Park into delirium.

The joy was short lived as the Mets came right back in the 10th with Jay Payton’s 2 out RBI single.

When Benitez again let the lead off man on, John Franco was called in. With two outs and a runner on, Franco got Bonds on a questionable called third strike to end the game.


Honorable mentions for Game 2 National League Division Series

Curt Schilling was terrific against the Cardinals but Arizona trailed 1-0 into the 8th inning. Quinton McCracken doubled home the tying run with 2 outs in the 8th to get Schilling off the hook. But Miguel Cairo hit an RBI single in the 9th to give the Cardinals the win and a 2-0 series lead.

2004 – Braves 4 Astros 2 (11 innings)

Roy Oswalt had the lead over former teammate Mike Hampton but Brad Lidge let up a game tying RBI double to Adam LaRoche in the 8th inning. John Smoltz worked around a pair of walks in the 10th and Rafael Furcal ended the game with a 2 out 2 run walk off homer in the 11th.

Best Game 3 National League Division Series for the 2000s
2003 – Marlins 4 Giants 3 (11 innings)

The Giants and the Marlins both blew several scoring chances throughout Game 3, allowing the game to go into extra innings.

Marquis Grissom was caught trying to steal third base.

Lenny Harris of the Marlins popped up to end the 10th with the bases loaded.

The Giants broke the tie with a run in the 11th but left the bases loaded.

In the bottom of the 11th, supposed Gold Glove right fielder Jose Cruz Jr dropped an easy fly ball by Jeff Conine to lead off the inning. Eventually the Marlins loaded the bases with two outs. With 2 strikes, Pudge Rodriguez singled home the tying and winning runs.

2000 – Mets 3 Giants 2 (13 innings)


The Giants were 4 outs away from taking a 2-1 series lead. But Edgardo Alfonzo doubled home the tying run in the 8th inning off of Robb Nen, sending the second straight game into extra innings.

The Giants blew scoring opportunities in the 10th, the 12th and the 13th while the Mets blew a bases loaded chance in the 11th.

Finally Benny Agbayani homered in the 13th inning to give the Mets the win. They would win the series the next day on Bobby Jones’ 1 hitter.


Honorable mentions for Game 3 National League Division Series

An unlikely pitchers duel unfolded at Coors Field between Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies and Jamie Moyer of the Phillies. The Rockies took a 1-0 lead into the 7th before Shane Victorino homered to tie the game and keep the Phillies hope alive. But Jeff Baker hit a 2 out RBI single in the bottom of the 8th to give Colorado the lead.

The Rockies would shut Philadelphia down in the 9th and keep their unlikely winning streak going into the NLCS.

A wild back and forth game saw the two teams tied going into the 9th. A controversial non call helped put Phillies on first and third with only 1 out, setting up Ryan Howard’s go ahead sacrifice fly.

Charlie Manuel brought in struggling closer Brad Lidge who proceeded to put the tying and winning runs on base before getting Troy Tulowitski to pop up and end the game.

Best Game 4 of the National League Division Series for the 2000s
2005 – Astros 7 Braves 6 (18 innings)

One of the great Division Series games of all time.

Early on it looked like the Braves were going to cruise to an easy win and force a Game 5 in Atlanta. Adam LaRoche hit a grand slam and the Braves took a 6-1 lead into the 8th inning.

But Lance Berkman hit a grand slam off of Kyle Farnsworth to bring Houston to within 1.

Then Brad Ausmus hit a 2 out game tying homer in the bottom of the 9th to send the game into extra innings.

Actually, it would take the equivalent of another GAME to decide this one.

Luke Scott missed a series ending homer by a few feet.

The Braves had men in scoring position in the 10th, 11th, 12th, 14th and 17th.

The Astros ran out of pinch hitters and Roger Clemens had to come in as a pinch hitter AND a reliever.

Finally Chris Burke homered off of Joey Devine, sending Minute Maid Park into a frenzy.

It also ended the Braves magnificent playoff run.

The Giants seemed demoralized after their shocking Game 3 loss and quickly fell behind 5-1 in Game 4. Dontrelle Willis was dominating with his arm and with a 3 for 3 performance at the plate.

But the Giants tied the game with a 4 run 6th inning.

Pudge Rodriguez scored the go ahead run when he scored on a collision at the plate in the 8th. In the 9th with 2 outs, Jeffrey Hammonds singled to left sending J. T. Snow home trying to tie the game. But Snow was thrown out as Rodriguez held onto the ball after another collision at the plate.

After listening to that game, I drove to my wedding.

Honorable mentions for Game 4 National League Division Series

The Astros scored 5 in the second inning and looked like they were going to cruise to their first ever post season series win.

But Adam LaRoche hit a three run homer in the 6th to tie the game. Astros manager Phil Garner made a pair of strange managerial decisions including lifting Roger Clemens after only 5 innings and pulling Brad Lidge after only 2 batters. The Braves rallied with 2 outs in the 9th to take the lead on J. D. Drew’s single.

With the series winning runs on board for Houston, Smoltz got Jeff Kent to hit into a game ending double play.

Cliff Lee, who threw a devastating complete game victory in Game 1, had the Rockies on the ropes going into the 8th inning. But a walk and an error in the 8th knocked him out and Ryan Madson allowed the Rockies to take the lead.

With 2 outs in the 9th and the Rockies in line to tie the series, Ryan Howard hit a game tying double and Jayson Werth singled him home.

Reliever Scott Eyre put the tying and winning runs aboard for the Rockies, but Brad Lidge got Troy Tulowitski out again to clinch the series.

Best Game 5 National League Division Series for the 2000s


Possibly the most underrated game of the decade.

The Schilling vs. Morris rematch looked like it was going to be a repeat of Game 1 as Schilling took a 1-0 lead into the 8th inning. But J. D. Drew homered to deadlock the game and send the decisive game tied into the 9th.

Schilling worked around an Edmonds single in the 9th and the D’Backs looked to end the series in the bottom of the 9th.

With 1 out and pinch runner Midre Cummings at third, manager Bob Brenly called for a squeeze play to end the series. But Tony Womack couldn’t put the bat on the ball and Cummings was out at home.

Womack made up for it by getting an RBI single scoring Danny Bautista and winning the series.

The Giants avoided elimination in Game 4 and took a lead in the decisive Game 5 thanks in part to a Barry Bonds home run.

But the Braves kept threatening and in the bottom of the ninth had the tying runs aboard, nobody out and Gary Sheffield and Chipper Jones coming up.

One swing of the bat and the Braves would win the series.

But Robb Nen struck out Sheffield and got Jones to ground into an awkward but effective double play that ended the game and won the series for the Giants.

(I needed to have ONE good Giants game in here!)

Honorable mentions for Game 5 National League Division Series

After a pair of back and forth games at Wrigley, the Braves and Cubs played a winner take all Game 5 in Atlanta.

Behind Kerry Wood, the Cubs shut the Braves offense down to a single run over 8 innings. The Cubs sent Atlanta down 1-2-3 in the 9th.

It is, as of this writing, the only post season series victory of any kind for the Cubs since 1908.

The Braves and Astros went into the 7th inning of the deciding Game 5 with the score a tight 4-2 in Houston’s favor. Then the Braves bullpen collapsed as the Astros scored 5 in the 7th and 3 in the 8th to cruise to a 12-3 victory. This was the first playoff series win in Houston’s history.

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A scenario for Yankee Haters

The Yankees put the Red Sox away with a humiliating sweep and went on a stampede to the Division Title.

The stampede was under Jeter’s leadership not A-Rod (who put up subpar stats) and Jeter accumulated MVP stats (although the award will probably end up in Minnesota.)
The Yankees pitching staff looks solid and deep and as they lined themselves up waiting for a Division Series match up with an overmatched Tigers.
What team am I talking about?
This year’s Yankees?
Or the 2006 Yankees?
Remember how stacked that team was? Remember how deep their line up? Melky, Damon and Abreu started and Matsui and Bernie were still hitting. Giambi was still good for 37 homers, Cano looked like a batting champ, Posada was 23 homer guy and A-Rod’s sub par season still had him hitting 35 homers and 121 RBI with a .290 average.
And Jeter should have won the MVP over Morneau.
Plus Chein Ming Wang looked like an ace, Mussina had a comeback season and Rivera was still dominate. And they went into the post season as prohibitive favorites. (Only the Twins with Johan Santana had any shot of eliminating them… and Oakland swept them in the Division Series.)
And the Tigers, stumbling into the post season on a 5 game losing streak, lost the first game against the Yankees… and then won the next three ending their season.
OK, that was 2006. And that team was wound tighter than a drum (and frankly Torre should have retired then because it was clear managing the Yankees had become root canal for him.).
But let’s take a look at the 2009 scenario.
The Yankees and Tigers are certain to meet in the Division Series and the Yankees will be about 15 games better.
Game 1 will also almost certainly be a CC Sabathia vs. Justin Verlander showdown. 
And from where I am sitting, the Tigers might have an advantage there.
Verlander has been dominant, so has Sabathia… but Sabathia has not exactly been a sure fire post season performer. And I am not going back that far to make that statement.
In 2007 he won the Cy Young and in 2008 he almost single handedly won the Wild Card for the Brewers… yet his post season record the last two seasons have been 1-3 and he let up 20 runs in 19 innings for a 9.47 ERA.
Even his one win was an unimpressive 5 inning showing in Game 1 of the 2007 Division Series where Chein Ming Wang got rocked.
So let’s say Verlander out duels Sabathia in Game 1… that means the Yankees would hand the ball in either game 2 or 3 to A. J. Burnett.
In other words A. J. Burnett, who in each of his most recent starts is showing that he is a talented yet inconsistent .500 pitcher, will pitch a game that if he loses, the Yankees would be on the brink of elimination.
And Justin Verlander would pitch a potential elimination game.
I know I am getting ahead of myself here… but this isn’t 1998. Win loss record or not, this is not an invincible team.
It all hinges on Game 1.
Tell you what, let’s just eliminate September and get right to October!

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