14 Greatest Walk-Off Home Runs in MLB Playoff History
The American League wild-card game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles ended with a bang, as Edwin Encarnacion lined the first pitch he saw from Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez deep into the left-field seats for a walk-off, three-run homer. While we had many reasons to believe the San Francisco Giants would win the National League wild-card game, the Jays and O’s left us guessing all the way into the 11th inning. Here are 14 other historic MLB playoff moments where players hit massive walk-off home runs in the postseason.
1. Magglio Ordonez
The Detroit Tigers made it into the postseason as the wild-card team in 2006, working their way into the ALCS to take on the Oakland Athletics. Detroit took a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, but the A’s took a lead early in Game 4 with the intent of keeping their World Series hopes alive. Then, the Tigers tied the score at three. In the bottom of the ninth, outfielder Magglio Ordonez came up with two runners on and a chance to sweep Oakland and send Detroit to the World Series.
2. Scott Podsednik
The Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros competed in the 2005 World Series, with Chicago leading 1-0 at U.S. Cellular Field. Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, the score was tied at six apiece. With one out, the Sox leadoff man Scott Podsednik came to the plate. He had not hit a single home run all season long. However, Podsednik sent the crowd home happy that night and pushed the White Sox to a 2-0 series lead.
3. Kirby Puckett
In the 1991 World Series, the Minnesota Twins trailed the Atlanta Braves 3-2. The game was tied at three when Twins center fielder Kirby Puckett stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the 11th inning. He lined a pitch out to center field, sending the Twins into a celebration that continued the following day when they scored the walk-off run in the bottom of the 10th to clinch the championship.
4. David Freese
St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese played a massive role in their 2011 World Series victory over the Texas Rangers. In Game 6, with the Cards down 7-5 and trailing in the series 3-2, Freese hit a fly ball to right field, which Nelson Cruz misplayed, leading to a triple and two runs scoring to tie the game. Then, with the scored still tied in the bottom of the 11th, Freese hit one deep to center field to extend the series to Game 7.
5. Ozzie Smith
Speaking of big home runs hit by the Cardinals in the postseason, few were bigger than Ozzie Smith’s in the 1985 NLCS. In Game 5, after falling 0-2, the Cardinals won two straight games and tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the series. At two runs each, Smith stepped up to bat with nobody on and one out in the bottom of the ninth. After hitting a career-best six home runs in the regular season, he treated the fans to the most famous long ball of his career.
6. Bill Mazeroski
Another one of the most memorable World Series-winning home runs is Bill Mazeroski‘s 1960 game-winner against the New York Yankees. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Yanks were tied in the series at three games each, with Game 7 taking place in Pittsburgh. It was a wild one, with the Pirates going up 4-0, then down 7-4, then up 9-7, and then tied at nine going into the bottom of the ninth inning. But Mazeroski was first up, and he ended the series with one swing.
7. Manny Ramirez
The Boston Red Sox entered Game 2 of the 2007 ALDS against the Anaheim Angels up 1-0 in the series. The Angels played the Sox to a tie heading into the bottom of the ninth inning. Francisco Rodriguez tried to get the final out to send the game to the top of the 10th. Manny Ramirez, however, had other plans. He lined a fastball from Rodriguez over the green monster in left field for a three-run bomb, ending the game.
8. Derek Jeter
After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, everything on the Major League Baseball schedule was pushed back a week. This meant that Game 4 of the World Series ran long enough to play briefly into November. Derek Jeter came to bat in the bottom of the 10th inning just after the clock struck midnight. Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Byung-Hyun Kim tossed a fastball that Jeter lined the opposite way, hitting it out of the park to right field, tying the series, and earning himself the title of Mr. November.
9. Aaron Boone
Another memorable Yankees postseason walk-off involves third baseman Aaron Boone, just two seasons following Jeter’s heroics. The Boston Red Sox boasted a 5-2 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth inning in Game 7, looking to advance to the World Series for the first time since 1986. However, they couldn’t hold that lead, giving up three runs and sending it into extra innings. Boone came up to bat in the bottom of the 11th, up against Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. The rest is history.
10. Alex Gonzalez
After Boone’s walk-off homer against the Red Sox in 2003, the Yankees got a bit of their own medicine in the World Series. They led the series 2-1 heading into Game 4 against the Florida Marlins. Two runs by New York in the top of the ninth tied the ballgame and sent it into extra innings. But Marlins shortstop Alex Gonzalez came to bat in the bottom of the 12th and sent everyone in South Florida home happy.
11. Jim Edmonds
After Houston Astros second baseman Jeff Kent hit a walk-off home run in Game 5 of the 2004 NLCS, the St. Louis Cardinals needed a victory to reach Game 7 of the series and keep their World Series hopes alive. The Cards went into the top of the ninth leading by one run, but Houston scored to tie the game and send it into extra innings. With a runner on in the bottom of the 12th, Cardinals outfielder Jim Edmonds faced Astros reliever Dan Miceli, drilling one deep to right field and sending the series to Game 7.
12. David Ortiz
The Red Sox were down 3-0 in the ALCS to the Yankees the following season. Things looked grim as they went into the bottom of the ninth trailing by a run and staring at closer Mariano Rivera. But Boston scratched out a run, tying the game at four and sending it into extra innings. The matchup stayed tied all the way until the 12th inning, when designated hitter David Ortiz came up with a man on against Yankees reliever Paul Quantrill.
13. Kirk Gibson
In the first game of the 1988 World Series, featuring the Oakland A’s against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the A’s took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. Star closer Dennis Eckersley got the first two outs before walking pinch-hitter Mike Davis. This brought up injured slugger Kirk Gibson, who LA declared unable to pinch-hit earlier in the evening. But he certainly did the opposite; it only took him one swing to end the game for the Dodgers.
14. Joe Carter
Possibly one of the most well-known walk-off home runs in postseason history belongs to Blue Jays outfielder Joe Carter. In Game 6 of the 1993 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, Carter stepped into the batter’s box with the tying run on base, trailing 6-5. The Phillies were two outs away from sending the series to Game 7 the following night, but it didn’t get there. Carter lined a three-run homer out to left field, just over the wall.