Post Season Innings to Redo

Well the World Series is over. Going into October the Yankees sure looked like the best team and they never faced an elimination game the entire post season.

But what about the other teams?

Each of the other seven playoff teams (and the one game playoff runner up) go into the off season wondering what might have been. And each team has one blatantly obvious inning they’d love to have back as each closer NOT named Mariano Rivera coughed one up.

But each team also had a less obvious inning that I am sure they’d like to do over.

An inning that might have turned around a game earlier…an inning that might have killed the other team’s momentum… an inning that might have actually changed the outcome of the post season.

This is Sully Baseball and listing is what we do best. So the staff has compiled a list of the obvious innings and the not so obvious innings the also rans must be grinding their teeth over… and wish that Superman could turn the world backwards and fix.


Obvious Inning To Redo.
GAME 4, Top 9.

The Phillies had shockingly tied the game in the 8th on Pedro Feliz’s 2 out 2 strike homer. And every Phillies fan and Yankee hater had the same thought in their head… make it through the 9th scoreless and the top of the Phillies lineup could score a run… the series would be tied and a rested Cliff Lee would pitch Game 5!

And Brad Lidge got two quick outs and had two strikes on Damon… and suddenly the roof caved in.

Damon fouled off 38,211 pitches, plunked one into left, stole second and took third because nobody was covering… and before you could say “TAKE LIDGE OUT!” the Yankees were up 7-4 and the end of the series was a mere formality.

Less Obvious Inning To Redo
GAME 2, Top 8.

Manuel left Pedro in too long and a 2-1 game became 3-1… but the Phillies got 2 on with only one out off of Mariano Rivera… with Utley and Howard coming up. Tim “Nostradamus” McCarver kept saying the Phillies runners should be in motion. Utley, representing the go ahead run, smacked into a double play (although replays showed he was safe at first) preventing a potential Howard vs. Rivera showdown.

Had the Phillies tied or taken the lead in that inning, the chances of going to Philadelphia up 2-0 would have been great… and the tone of the series would have been totally different.


Obvious Inning To Redo
GAME 2, Bottom 11.

The Angels were three outs from stealing a game in the Bronx and sending the series back to Anaheim tied. Closer Brian Fuentes needed to get past Alex Rodriguez and then would face easy outs in Freddy Guzman, Bret Gardner and slumping Robinson Cano.

With two strikes on A-Rod and a steady rain, he somehow willed a homer over the right field wall, tying the game.

Fuentes got the next three outs, but the game was tied and the Yankees won in 13.

Less Obvious Inning To Redo

GAME 2, Top 13th.

The Angels put two on with only one out and had sluggers Torii Hunter and Vlad Guerrero facing David Robertson. Chances are a base hit would have driven in 1… and with the rain and weak outfield arms, a hit into the outfield would probably be extra bases.

And neither Hunter nor Guerrero hit it out of the infield. The Yankees would score the next inning on an error.


Obvious Inning To Redo
GAME 4, Bottom 9

The Dodgers seemed poised to tie the series at 2 games apiece with closer Jonathan Broxton on the mound, 1out and nobody on. But a walk to Matt Stairs and a hit by pitch on Carlos Ruiz gave the Phillies life.

Pinch hitter Greg Dobbs lined out but Jimmy Rollins hit a 1-1 pitch into the gap, scoring 2, winning the game for the Phillies and effectively sinking the Dodgers.

Less Obvious Inning To Redo
GAME 1, Top 8

The Dodgers and Phillies game 1 was supposed to be a pitchers duel between Clayton Kershaw and Cole Hamels. Instead it became a slugfest with neither pitcher making it through the 6th.

George Sherrill was brought in to keep the game close as the Dodgers trailed 5-4 in the 8th. Instead he faced 5 batters and retired only 1, giving up a three run homer to Raul Ibanez in the process.

The Phillies had a 4 run cushion and were able to survive an 8th inning rally by the Dodgers.


Obvious Inning to Redo
GAME 4, Top 9

The Rockies had rallied off of Cliff Lee and reliever Ryan Madson to take the lead going into the 9th inning. Colorado had a chance to tie the series and have a deciding game against struggling Cole Hamels.

With 2 outs and 1 on, Huston Street walked Chase Utley. Then Howard hit a game tying double. Jayson Werth then drove home Howard for the go ahead run.

The Rockies tried to rally in the 9th but Tulowitzki struck out with the tying and winning runs aboard, eliminating Colorado.

Less Obvious Inning to Redo
GAME 3, Top 9

With the game tied, Rollins led off with a single. Victorino sacrificed him to second and then Utley hit a slow chopper.

The batted ball appeared to have hit him, making it a foul ball. But the umps didn’t call it that way and because these are just the playoff games, nothing important… ergo couldn’t be reviewed even though everyone on the planet saw the clip of him being hit by the batted ball.

That put runners at the corners with 1 out and Ryan Howard got Rollins to score on a sacrifice fly. Lidge would somehow hang on for the win.


Obvious Inning to Redo
GAME 2, Bottom 9

The Cardinals, picked by many including yours truly to go to the World Series, had two outs and nobody on and seemed ready to send the series back to St. Louis tied at 1.

Closer Ryan Franklin faced James Loney who hit a short fly to Matt Holliday… and… GAG! Holliday let the ball hit off his body to become a 2 base error.

A few walks and a pair of singles, the Dodgers won the game and the demoralized Cardinals were blown out in Game 3.

Less Obvious Inning to Redo

GAME 1, Top 1

The Cardinals, despite opening on the road, were considered to be the team to beat. And they started the series against Dodgers starter Randy Wolf by loading the bases with nobody out. The Cardinals got a run out of it, but it looked like it was going to be disastrous opening frame and put the Dodgers on their heels.

The Dodgers would score 2 in the bottom of the frame and win the game 5-3.


Obvious Inning to Redo
GAME 2, Bottom 9

The Twins basically threw their junior varsity pitching staff in Game 1, conceding to Sabathia. But in Game 2, Blackburn and company held the mighty Yankees to 1 run over 8 innings and had a chance to take the series back to the Metrodome tied 1-1. Gardenhire couldn’t ask for more than a 2 run lead in the 9th with Joe Nathan on the mound.

Well maybe he COULD ask for more… he could have asked for a few outs.

He let up a lead off single to Mark Teixeira and then wouldn’t throw a strike to A-Rod. With the count 3-1, he threw a meatball… and A-Rod crushed a game tying homer… erased his playoff choker image in one swing… and deflated the Twins.

Less Obvious Inning to Redo
GAME 2, Top 11

Even with the A-Rod homer, the Twins were still alive. A brilliant double play saved the Twins in the bottom of the 10th. And now with Rivera gone, they needed to rally against Damaso Marte.

Joe Mauer hit a double down the left field line. Anyone who watched the game saw he hit a ball that landed fair. That would include the umpire staring at the play.

So naturally it was called foul and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

These are playoff games… nothing important.

Mauer then singled and the Twins loaded the bases with nobody out. A winning rally would still do the trick of splitting the series.

Robertson got out of the inning without a run and Teixeira hit a walk off homer in the 11th. The Yankees would pull off the sweep two days later.


Obvious Inning to Redo
GAME 3, Top 9

The Red Sox, trying to stay alive, had a fat 5-1 lead… that became a less fat 5-2 lead… that became a nerve wrecking 5-4 lead… which then became a more manageable 6-4 lead in the 9th with 2 outs, nobody on an Papelbon pitching to 9th place hitter Erick Aybar.

Nothing to worry about…

Then Papelbon, who had never let up an earned run in the postseason, couldn’t retire another batter. Figgins walked on a 3-2 count. Abreu singled in a run with two strikes. Then Vlad Guerrero singled home the tying and series winning runs, silencing Fenway and making the Red Sox faithful do the unthinkable: Boo Papelbon.

Less Obvious Inning to Redo
GAME 2, Bottom 7

The Red Sox dropped game 1 but had a chance to come back to Boston with a split. The game was tied in the 7th 1-1 with Beckett and Weaver dueling. Maicer Izturis hit a 2 out RBI single off of Josh Beckett. The Angels would score two more to take a 4-1 lead, which would be the final score… and the Angels were in control.


Obvious Inning to Redo
TIE BREAKER, Bottom 10

The Tigers were 3 outs away from making the playoffs and having a Justin Verlander start the opener.

But Michael Cuddyer tripled past Don Kelly in left field. Reliever Fernando Rodney got one out but couldn’t prevent the Twins from tying the game.

Only a brilliant and redeeming throw to home by Kelly kept the Twins from clinching in the 10th.

Less Obvious Inning to Redo

The infamous Brandon Inge inning.

The Tiger loaded the bases off of Bobby Keppel with one out and the Tigers looked like they were in great shape.

Then Keppel hit Inge with a pitch forcing in the go ahead run.

Except of course that it wasn’t called a hit by pitch… even though every replay showed it hit him.

Not that this game was important.

But that being said, the Tigers should be able to score a run off of Bobby Keppel. But they didn’t. And when the Twins scored in the bottom of the 12th, Keppel got his first ever big league victory.

So there you have a bunch of teams grinding their teeth.

Would any of them have been able to beat the Yankees?

Probably not.

But if these innings had turned out differently, who knows? Maybe all of October would have too.

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No one National League team dominated the decade the way the Braves did in the 1990s. So almost every year the NL Pennant was up for grabs.

Only one National League team, the 2004 Cardinals, had the league’s best record in the regular season and went on to the World Series. So the only thing predictable in the NLCS for the 2000s was unpredictability.

One series had teams exchanging walk off homers in back to back games… some series had outstanding pitching… other games were brutal slugfests.

In one series, one of the most reliable closers in the league had a potential pennant clinching pitch crushed out of the park.

The next year one of the least experience closers in playoff history froze a superstar with a series ending called third strike.

There were walk off hits and extra inning showdowns… there were base runners tagged out when they didn’t know they were originally called safe… and over managing in big situations.

And there was one poor guy sitting along the left field line at Wrigley Field who did what anyone on the planet Earth would have done… and got blamed for a teams collapse while the players themselves got off Scot Free.

As started in the Best of 2000s Post Season Home Page, I am picking the best game for each game of the series… Best Game 1, Best Game 2… etc.

And when need be, I’ll have some honorable mentions.

Best Game 1 of the National League Championship Series for the 2000s
2003 – Marlins 9 Cubs 8 (11 innings)

In a creepy foreshadowing of pain to come, a Wrigley celebration was silenced by Florida heroics and a lot of “what just happened?” headshaking by Cubs fans.

The Cubs jumped all over Josh Beckett for 4 first inning runs and the rout seemed to be on.

But Pudge Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera and Juan Encarnacion all homered in a 5 run third, giving the lead to the fish. The Cubs would tie the game but Rodriguez came through with a 2 run single in the 9th.

In the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs and down by 2, Sammy Sosa hit a game tying homer that seemed to be destined to live in Cubs lore forever.

Mike Lowell and the Marlins had the last laugh. Lowell hit a lead off homer in the 11th and reliever Braden Looper held off the Cubs in the 11th. How would this series had played out differently if the Cubs could have pulled it out?

Honorable mentions for Game 1 of the National League Championship Series for the 2000s

One of the best pitching matchups of recent history did not disappoint in Game 1. Greg Maddux, winner of 4 Cy Youngs, went up against Randy Johnson, who would win 5.

Reggie Sanders hit an RBI single in the first and Luis Gonzalez hit a 2 out RBI single in the 5th.
That was the extent of the damage off of Maddux over 7 innings. But it was enough as Johnson went 9 innings, allowing 3 hits and 1 walk while striking out 11.

Best Game 2 National League Championship Series for the 2000s

The Rockies had won 17 of their last 18 games going into Game 2 of the ALCS. The Diamondbacks were the last team to beat them in a game, which clinched the NL West.

Colorado’s winning streak was continuing in the post season and they took a 2-1 lead into the 9th in Phoenix.

With one out, Eric Byrnes hit into what looked like a potential game ending double play. But the throw to second base went wide, pulling Troy Tulowitski off of the bag and letting the tying run score. The trouble was Stephen Drew of the D’Backs didn’t know he was called safe and wandered off of second where he was tagged out.

Instead of the winning run being in scoring position with 1 out, there were 2 outs and a runner on first. The Diamondbacks couldn’t win it and it went into extra innings.

In the 11th, Jose Valverde walked 3 batters including walking Willy Tavares on 4 pitches with 2 outs to force in the go ahead (and eventual winning run.) Arizona lost the next two and the Rockies swept their way into the World Series.

Honorable mentions for Game 2 of the National League Championship Series for the 2000s

The Mets broke a 3-3 tie in the 8th but Mike Piazza was thrown out at third to end the inning. The Cardinals turned around and tied it back up in the 8th on a wild pitch and a double. But Bobby Valentine pitched around Mark McGwire and got out of the inning.

Robin Ventura reached on a Will Cark error and scored on Jay Payton’s single. Then Armando Benitez did the impossible: He held the lead.

The Mets were 4-0 in the post season going into Game 2 after a sweep of the Dodgers and a Game 1 win over the Cardinals. They seemed like they were going to steamroll into the World Series, especially after Carlos Delgado hit a 3 run homer in the first and homered again in the 5th.

But the Cardinals kept fighting back and the game was tied going into the top of the 9th. So Taguchi led off the 9th with a homer and St. Louis added 2 more to get the win and show that the road to the World Series was going to be a little tougher than the Mets thought.

Pedro Martinez vs Vincente Padilla was not supposed to be a great pitching match up in 2009. But Pedro was magnificent throwing 7 shutout innings. Padilla was amazing himself, letting up 1 run over 7 1/3 innings (a Ryan Howard homer.)

Pedro only threw 87 pitches, but Charlie Manuel took him out. It backfired as 5 pitchers labored through the 8th where the tying run scored on a wild throw by the second baseman and the winning run scored on a bases loaded walk.

It was a collapse that can only be described as a team effort, wasting what might have been Pedro Martinez’s last great start.

Best Game 3 National League Championship Series for the 2000s
2003 – Cubs 5 Marlins 4 (11 innings)

This was probably the best played game of the Cubs Marlins series… if not the most remembered.

Kerry Wood, who dominated the Braves in the Division Series, was given an early 2 run lead, thanks in part to his own RBI sacrifice fly. But Pudge Rodriguez knocked him out with a go head single in the 7th.

Randall Simon gave the Cubs the lead in the next inning with a homer, but the Marlins tied it on a Todd Hollandsworth single. Joe Borowski wiggled out of a bases loaded jam in the 9th, sending the game to extras.

In the 11th, Doug Glanville tripled home Kenny Lofton and Cubs reliever Mike Remlinger made the lead stick. The Cubs seemed like a team of destiny. They were… just not in the way they wanted to be.

Honorable mention for Game 3 of the National League Championship Series for the 2000s

Roger Clemens and Matt Morris pitched to a 2-2 tie into the 6th inning when Houston took the lead on Jason Lane’s RBI single.

The Cardinals would rally in the 9th inning cutting the Astros lead to 1 on John Mabry’s 2 out RBI double. But Brad Lidge got David Eckstein to fly out and end the threat, giving Housin a 2-1 series lead.

Best Game 4 National League Championship Series for the 2000s
2009 – Phillies 5 Dodgers 4

The Dodgers took the lead in Game 4 on Matt Kemp’s homer and seemed ready to tie the series at 2 and force a Game 6 in Los Angeles.

In the 9th, closer Jonathan Broxton got Raul Ibanez out to lead off the inning and it seemed like he was going to cruise to the save, facing the bottom of the order.

But pinch hitter (and Dodger killer from 2008) Matt Stairs coaxed a walk and Carlos Ruiz was hit by a pitch. With 2 outs, slumping former MVP Jimmy Rollins laced a double into the gap that was so well placed that catcher Ruiz scored all the way from first base for the winning run.

The demoralized Dodgers lost the next game and the Phillies were on to their second straight World Series.

Honorable mentions for Game 4 of the National League Championship Series for the 2000s

The Cardinals, looking to tie the series at 2, jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first. Andy Benes would hold the lead into the 6th when LaRussa, possibly over managing, pulled his pitcher and Rick White let up a game tying double to J. T. Snow.

With 2 outs and nobody on in the 8th inning, LaRussa walked Bonds intentionally. Benito Santiago responded with a go ahead homer. Nen would wiggle out of trouble in the 9th to hold on to the win.

Behind Albert Pujols’s 2 run first inning homer and a Jim Edmonds RBI in the third, the Cardinals jumped ahead to a 4-1 lead and looked ready to take a 3-1 series lead. But the Astros came fighting back, tying the game in the 6th and taking the lead on Carlos Beltran’s 7th inning homer. Brad Lidge would record a 2 inning save including getting Albert Pujols out in the 9th.

An error by Cardinals pitcher Jason Marquis set up a tie breaking rally for the Astros in the 7th. But the Cardinals looked to rally in the 9th when they put runners on the corners with nobody out. The Astros threw out Albert Pujols at home for the first out. John Mabry grounded out but seemed to have scored the tying run. But Adam Everett and Eric Bruntlett completed a lightning fast double play to end the game.

Best Game 5 National League Championship Series for the 2000s

In the grand scheme of things, Albert Pujols massive and mind boggingly clutch homer off of Brad Lidge didn’t matter that much.

The Astros would win the Series in 6 games instead of 5.

And while Brad Lidge would have a disastrous World Series, he made up for is with a brilliant 2008 season and World Series.

But the titanic blast remains one of the enduring images of any sporting event of this decade.

When it happened I was listening to the Astros radio broadcast on my XM because I wanted to hear how excited the home town announcers would get over the first ever Houston pennant. Milo Hamilton was so depressed after Albert’s blast that at first I didn’t even realize what happened.

The guy to feel badly for is Lance Berkman, whose three run homer gave Houston a late lead and would have been able to celebrate a pennant in front of the home town crowd.

Both Albert Pujols and Brad Lidge have gone on to win World Series rings since then. But they will always be linked together.

Honorable mentions for Game 5 of the National League Championship Series for the 2000s

If LaRussa over managed Game 4, he UNDER managed Game 5. I guess there is no pleasing some people.

The Cardinals took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the 8th behind Matt Morris’ brilliant pitching. But he loaded the bases in the 8th and faced Bonds with only 1 out. LaRussa left him in and Bonds tied the game with a sacrifice fly.

With Tino Martinez on the bench and Morris clearly out of gas, LaRussa had Morris bat in the 9th inning.

In the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs, Morris let up back to back singles forcing LaRussa to bring in Steve Kline. Kline let up a pennant winning, series ending, walk off single to Kenny Lofton.

For 8 innings, this was one of the best pitchers duels you will ever see in a post season game. Cardinals’ starter Woody Williams let up a single to Jeff Bagwell in the 1st and that was it for his 7 innings of shutout ball.

Not to be outdone, Astros starter Brandon Backe held the Cardinals to 1 hit over 8.

Neither would get a decision as Jeff Kent hit a towering 3 run homer with 1 out in the 9th to end the game.

Best Game 6 National League Championship Series for the 2000s

In some ways it is desperately unfair to call Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS “The Steve Bartman Game.”

Bartman went for a foul pop up just like anyone would. The catch would have been a terrific one for Alou and no sure thing.

And yes, Bartman did interfere with the catch, the point would have been moot if Mark Prior got Luis Castillo out on the next pitch.

Bartman didn’t let up 8 runs that inning.

Bartman didn’t boot an easy grounder like Alex Gonzalez did.

Bartman didn’t let up a huge 3 run bases clearing double to light hitting pinch hitter Mike Mordecai.

But watching the game again on iTunes made me realize calling it “The Steve Bartman Game” might be cruel but kind of accurate.

Before that fly ball, Wrigley Field had an aura of Mardi Gras. It was a generational celebration.

After the fly ball… there was an uneasy murmur. And then the most incredible thing about watching the rest of that inning was how fast it was.

Right after Bartman, Prior walked Castillo with a wild pitch, sending Pierre to third.
Then on an 0-2 count Pudge Rodriguez singled home the first run.
On the very next pitch, Cabrera hit the grounder that Gonzalez booted.
On the very next pitch, Lee hit the game tying double.

After a pitching change, Lowell was walked intentionally and Conine drove home the go ahead run with a sacrifice fly.

Think about that for a second. 10 pitches were thrown after the Bartman fly ball (4 of which were intentional balls) and in those 10 pitches, the game went from a celebration with the Ace on the mound to a surrendered lead and doom.

When Mordecai cleared the bases, the game went from certain joy to a blow out loss.

I don’t blame Bartman… but the game turned ugly faster than any event since Carrie’s prom.

Honorable mention for Game 6 of the National League Championship Series for the 2000s

The Cardinals were 1 out away from tying the series at 3 games a piece when Jeff Bagwell tied the game with an RBI single. The Astros pushed Brad Lidge for 3 shutout innings while trying to push a go ahead run in extra innings. But the Cardinals bullpen shut Houston down. Finally Dan Miceli took over for an exhausted Lidge and served up a walk off, series tying homer to Jim Edmonds.

Best Game 7 National League Championship Series for the 2000s

For pure baseball excitement, the decade didn’t offer much better than Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

The matchup of Oliver Perez and Jeff Suppan was supposed to yield a slug fest. But through 5 the score was 1-1.

In the top of the 6th, Perez looked vulnerable with 1 on and 1 out. Scott Rolen hit a tremendous fly ball to left field that was heading for the bullpen when Endy Chavez made one of the single greatest catches you will see anyone make ever. He caught the ball at the apex of his leap at the tip of his glove. And for good measure threw to first to double up Jim Edmonds, who like everyone else on the planet Earth, thought the ball was long gone.

The Mets couldn’t cash in in the bottom of the 6th when they blew a bases loaded 1 out chance.

The score remained 1-1 into the 9th when Yadier Molina, who at that point was the Zeppo of the Molina brothers, hit a 2 run shot to give the Cardinals the lead.

The Mets rallied in the 9th, putting the first two runners on against Adam Wainwright. Why Cliff Floyd didn’t bunt them over will be a mystery that future historians will try to solve.

With the bases loaded and 2 outs, Wainwright faced Cardinals killer Carlos Beltran.

With Shea going nuts and the chance for the Mets to steal the baseball attention away from the Yankees one swing away, Wainwright threw a devastating curve. Beltran didn’t swing and it was a called third strike and the Mets have yet to recover.

Honorable mentions for Game 7 of the National League Championship Series for the 2000s

Steve Bartman could have been reduced to a strange footnote had the Cubs won Game 7. And even though they fell behind 3-0 in the first, the team looked like they might come back.

Kerry Wood himself hit a game tying homer in the second inning. Moises Alou gave the Cubs the lead with a 3rd inning homer.

But this was the Marlins’ year. They took the lead in the 5th thanks in part to another Pudge Rodriguez double and pulled away in the 6th and 7th. When the Marlins clinched the pennant, Wrigley Field was silent save for the Marlins players cheering.

Craig Biggio led off the game with a homer and Roger Clemens took a lead (and a potential Houston pennant) into the 6th inning. But Albert Pujols tied the game with a double and Scott Rolen’s homer game St. Louis the lead. St. Louis held on to win a series that was underrated for thrills.


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This was almost a great series… but not quite

We’ve had 4 Division Series and 2 League Championship Series finished… and no great series yet.

Oh we’ve had some great games. In fact each series has included one heart stopping finish… and yet we haven’t had that series where you look up and think “Man, this could go either way.”

If the Angels forced a seventh game, I would call this a great series. Instead it is just a darn good one

Now we have the Phillies/Yankees… and the possibility of a great World Series (something we haven’t had in years.)

Now before anyone writes in saying that I am saying only 7 game series could be called great, let me say three of the greatest World Series I ever saw were 6 game series.

The 1992 World Series where the Blue Jays beat the Braves was a great series… as was the bizarre 1993 Series between the Jays and the Phillies.

And the Yankees 1996 come from behind win against the Braves was one of the most startling turn arounds in October history.

But from the moment that pop fly dropped between Aybar and Figgins in Game 1, the Yankees were in control of this series.

We haven’t had a memorable World Series since 2003… We haven’t had a great one since 2001.

It’s up to the Phillies/Yankees.

Let’s have a classic. And while we are at it, let’s have the Yankees lose.

(Sorry… I can only stand so much Yankee happiness.)

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