Every fan of any of a club knows the heartbreak of having the epic moment go against their favorite nine. Sometimes the moment comes during a regular season which can be brushed off by winning the game the next night, but the moments which truly stick with us tend to be the ones that swing a playoff series or kill the chances of making the postseason for our guys. As the season is rapidly coming to an end, fans of all teams will have to confront the reality that only one team can win it all and probably won’t be the one we are rooting for. No team is immune from crushing losses and bad moments. Let’s call this a bit of group therapy and think back on a moment for each team over the past couple of decades. None of us were around for Merkle’s Boner (This is a baseball reference, trust me.), which happened in 1908.
One thing which is useful the more successful a team is, means there are more moments to pick from as they are playing on the biggest stages most consistently. This also means fans of teams might have other moments which stick out more in their mind, but I am going with some which I can vividly recall for various reasons. Let us go one division at a time, in the interest of keeping things in some sort of order. Plus, it makes it easier to find our divisional foes to soothe our wounds.
The Boston Red Sox have an easy moment with the ball rolling through the legs of Bill Buckner in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, but I will refer to former manager Grady Little leaving Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the ALCS in 2003 against their archrival New York Yankees. The Red Sox were winning 5-2 in the eighth inning and a few short moments later they weren’t. The night ended with an Aaron Boone home run to send the Yankees to the World Series. The New York Yankees have had their moments as well. Their moment came in the 2001 World Series when Luis Gonzalez snatched the championship away for the Arizona Diamondback. Given the events of the prior month, the baseball world was rooting for the Yankees for once but wanting a good story doesn’t make it so. There was consideration for Dave Roberts with the most famous stolen base in baseball history, but Luis Gonzalez decided the title. The Baltimore Orioles have had an unfruitful past few seasons. Who knew the home run Edwin Encarnacion hit off Ubaldo Jimenez (Remember him?) in the 2016 American League Wild Card Game would be the beginning of a downward spiral which would lead them on a path of five straight losing seasons? Three straight 100-loss seasons; fans of this once-proud franchise deserve better. The Toronto Blue Jays had to suffer Eric Hosmer (!) hitting a home run off of Roberto Osuna to send the 2015 Kansas City Royals to the World Series. I can’t say I am mad about this one as having Osuna get all the bad things on a baseball field are just fine with me. The 2008 World Series Game 3 ended on an infield single by Carlos Ruiz (Yes, the catcher). This was the pivotal game that swung the series that the Tampa Bay Rays would lose to the Philadelphia Phillies. People might remember the visual of Eric Hinske striking out to end the series, but the damage had already been done.
The second home run by Melvin Upton Jr. (Formerly known as B.J.) put the light out on the Chicago White Sox in the 2008 ALDS. This series ended the Ozzie Guillen salad days in Chicago. It didn’t end much better for the Rays that postseason, but the White Sox got it first. Speaking of unexpected two homer games, the 2017 Cleveland (soon to be) Guardians got done by that dark knight Sir Didi Gregorious. He popped a pair as a member of the Yankees and that was the beginning of the end for the last best chance of a world series title landing in Cleveland. The Detroit Tigers opened the 2014 ALDS with Max Scherzer, but this was before he went full Mad Max. This War Boy was…Mediocre, to quote Immortan Joe. The right-hander allowed 5 earned runs in 7.1 innings on the way to a 12-3 victory for the Baltimore Orioles, who swept the series. The Kansas City Royals in the 2014 World Series were victimized by maybe the best one-man pitching performance ever in a postseason. Madison Bumgarner throwing five innings in relief in Game 7, after pitching a complete game three days prior, could not have gone down too well. The Minnesota Twins have one of the ultimate indignities in baseball as they have lost 18 straight playoff games. The 2004 ALDS Game 4 performance must be the one that is a killer, as they blew a 5-1 eighth inning. Ruben Sierra with the home run for the coup de grace.
The Houston Astros don’t garner much sympathy. Before their sign-stealing days, the 2005 NLCS offered up perhaps the most iconic home run in the career of Albert Pujols. In the 9th inning of Game 5, Pujols took a slider from Astros closer, Brad Lidge, and hit the ball practically out of the Lonestar State. One could hear a pin drop once the ball hit the bat. The Oakland A’s wound was self-inflicted. Jeremy Giambi’s failure to slide into home in the 7th inning of Game 3 of the ALDS changed the entire series. The A’s led the New York Yankees 2-0 in the series, but after the play, the Yankees won the game 1-0 and the remaining two games of the series. It also gave us Derek Jeter’s signature defensive moment. The Los Angeles Angels tragic moment wasn’t tragic at the time. It is the 1st inning home run for Mike Trout off James Shields during the 2014 ALDS. The source of angst for Angels fans is that is his only postseason hit in his entire career; he was 1 for 12 in the series and the Angels haven’t sniffed the playoffs since 2014. Texas Rangers had their one World Series appearance in 2011. However, the name David Freese is not to be spoken in the greater Dallas area. During Game 6 of the World Series Freese tripled to tie the game in with two outs in the 9th inning to tie the game, and then homered in the 11th to win it for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Seattle Mariners would love to simply play this game, as they have not reached the playoffs since 2001. All one needs to know is 2001 was the rookie year for Ichiro Suzuki, and Wander Franco was born March 1 of that year.
The Atlanta Braves can point to having the Los Angeles Dodgers on the ropes last year in the NLCS, but I want to go back to a forgotten piece of baseball history. In the 8th inning of the 2012 National League Wild Card Game, with runners on first and second, and one out, Andrelton Simmons hit a fly ball into short left field. The ball landed between the St. Louis Cardinals shortstop, Pete Kozma, and leftfielder Matt Holliday to apparently load the bases. However, the popup was ruled an infield fly, and Simmons was called out even though the ball landed in front of the leftfielder. The Cardinals went on to win 6-3, eliminating the Braves. Philadelphia Phillies fans know about the problems of defensive shifts. With the score tied 4-4 in the 9th inning of Game 4 of the 2009 World Series, after reaching on a single, Johnny Damon stole second and third on the same play when third base was left uncovered due to the defensive alignment. This play set up a three-run rally which allowed the New York Yankees to grab a 3-1 lead in a series they would win in six games. The New York Mets have seen their share of misfortune. The 2015 World Series swung on a decision by manager Terry Collins to leave Matt Harvey in the 9th inning of Game 5. Collins allowed Harvey to take the mound up 2-0 in the game as the Mets faced elimination, rather than go to his established closer Jeurys Familia. Like clockwork, the Kansas City Royals tied the score on an error by first baseman Lucas Duda. The Royals then won the title in extra innings. The Washington Nationals’ pain comes from someone who wasn’t there. The team decided to shut down rookie ace Stephen Strasburg before the 2012 season ended. The Nationals faithful had to wonder if Strasburg could have helped as they were eliminated in 3-2 in the National League Divisional Series. The Miami Marlins is another case of the people who weren’t there. After the death of Jose Fernandez in 2016, the team started a tear down which led to the departures of Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton. This fanbase, like those in Baltimore, deserves so much more.
The Milwaukee Brewers have been close, but not quite for a few seasons now. The crusher had to be the 2019 Wild Card Game. Leading 3-1 with relief standout Josh Hader on the mound, Juan Soto hit a line drive to a defensive replacement, Trent Grisham, who overran the ball for a single and a two-base error. The Brewers went from winning by two to losing by a run. They lost 4-3 and were eliminated. Grisham must have lost his Milwaukee privileges as he is now a member of the San Diego Padres. The failure of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2009 NLDS is a bit personal for me. Game 2 ended when Matt Holliday dropped a Mark Loretta liner in left field to allow the Dodgers to walk off 3-2 winners. This was the last playoff year my father was alive to see. The Cincinnati Reds were on the receiving end of one of the best pitching performances in playoff history when they were no-hit by Roy Halladay in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS. They were one walk from having a perfect game thrown against them. The no-hitter was a precursor of things to come as they were swept by the Philadelphia Phillies in three games. The Chicago Cubs have one name here…Bartman. Their fans like to blame him, but he wasn’t on the field as they allowed 8 runs to score in the 8th inning of Game 6 of the NLCS. Bartman reaching up for a foul ball is what any fan would have done. Alex Gonzalez did more to dash their World Series dreams with his critical error than Bartman could have ever done from the stands. The Pittsburgh Pirates were sunk by a Brandon Crawford grand slam in the 4th inning of the 2014 National Wild Card game. Once the blast off Edinson Volquez landed, the Pirates began a rebuild which we still have not seen to completion.
San Francisco Giants fans remember Game 6 of the 2002 World Series for what might have been. It was all looking so good when manager Dusty Baker lifted his starter, Russ Ortiz, in the seventh inning while leading 5-0. He allowed Ortiz to walk off with the baseball, to allow Ortiz to have the series-winning ball. Unfortunately for Dusty, he angered the baseball gods and Scott Spiezio happened. Dusty is still looking for his World Series title as a manager. For the Giants nemesis, the Los Angeles Dodger, I will pick Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS. The was the game that really cemented in the minds of a lot of Dodgers fans there is a postseason problem with Clayton Kershaw. Leading 2-0 in a must-win game, Kershaw allowed a three-run homer to Matt Adams (who really couldn’t hit lefties), which clinched the series for the St. Louis Cardinals. This series was on the back of a spotty performance by Kershaw the year before in the playoffs. His legacy is secure, but playoff Kershaw still makes Dodgers fans nervous. The San Diego Padres hadn’t been anywhere near the playoffs since 2007 until making it last year. Their pain is real as they lost Mike Clevinger to Tommy John surgery after he had to leave Game 1 of the 2020 NLDS. The Clevinger injury meant the Padres had to start Adrian Morejon in Game 3, which was part of nobody’s plan needless to say no one can be shocked they were swept by the Dodgers. The Colorado Rockies did make it to the World Series once upon a time. They were obliterated by the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the 2007 Fall Classic by a score of 13-1. We all knew right then, the NLCS victory they enjoyed would be the high-water mark for the club. The Arizona Diamondbacks allowed Nyjer Morgan to have his finest moment on a Major League Baseball field. A walk of single off J.J. Putz in the 10th inning of an elimination game is the stuff dreams are made off. Somewhere out there the player known a T-Plush is smiling thinking back on the good old days.
So every fan base has something to live down. It was fun who review some old games. What are some moments I should have considered?