Unlikely Postseason Heroes
Second baseman Marco Scutaro was a midseason acquisition for the Giants, and boy, were they happy to have him in the NLCS. He delivered a two-run single in Game 2 to help the Giants win 7-1 before leaving the game with a hip injury after a takeout slide by the Cardinals' Matt Holliday. He had six multi-hit games, the most in an LCS since Kevin Youkilis in 2007. He finished the NLCS with a .500 average, four RBI, and six runs. His 14 hits tied an LCS record held by Hideki Matsui (2004 ALCS), Kevin Youkilis (2007 ALCS) and Albert Pujols (2004 NLCS). The Giants rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to advance to the World Series.
Chipping away at 6-0 deficit, Daniel Descalso's solo homer in the eighth inning made it a 6-5 game. He returned to the plate in the ninth, with two outs, bases loaded and the Cardinals down 7-5. He hit a sharp ground ball that went off the glove of Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond, allowing two runs to score to tie the game. The next batter drove home two more runs and the Cardinals made the biggest comeback ever in an elimination game in postseason history.
Rangers rookie Mitch Moreland, called up a couple of weeks after top prospect Justin Smoak was sent to Seattle in the Cliff Lee trade, battled through a nine-pitch at-bat and finished it with a three-run home run that was the difference in Texas' 4-2 victory over San Francisco in Game 3 of the World Series.
The Marlins gave away Ross to the Giants on waivers in August, and the Giants may not have even wanted him. Many say they claimed Ross to keep the Padres from nabbing him. Either way, he paid big dividends in the NLCS, hitting .350 with three home runs -- two in Game 1 alone -- to earn MVP honors against the Phillies.
Labeled as scrappy throughout his 10 year MLB career, David Eckstein was ferocious in the 2006 World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals. The pesky shortstop gave Tigers pitchers fits, going 7 for 11 in the final three games en route to being named World Series MVP. He was especially explosive during Game 4, when Eckstein notched three doubles amid a four for five effort at the plate.
A journeyman throughout his 12 year MLB career, Chicago third baseman Geoff Blum hit just one home run for the White Sox since being acquired midway through the 2005 season. He made his presence felt in the World Series, though, when his 14th inning solo shot off Astros pitcher Ezequiel Astacio propelled the Southsiders to a Game 3 victory and a 3-0 series lead. The White Sox would emerge victorious in Game 4 as well, clinching their first title in 88 years.
With Boston down to their final three outs in the 2004 ALCS, Kevin Millar drew a five-pitch walk from Yankees' closer Mariano Rivera to give the Red Sox the base runner they desperately needed. That set the stage for Dave Roberts, Boston's seldom-utilized outfielder, to pinch run and swipe one of the most remarkable stolen bases in baseball history. Roberts would go on to score, and Boston would rally from an 0-3 deficit to earn their first trip to the World Series since 1986.
Acquired at the 2003 trading deadline for pitching prospect Brandon Claussen, Aaron Boone was supposed to be the answer to the Yankees lack of third base production. He was anything but, hitting a pedestrian .254 during his 54 regular season games in pinstripes. Boone's name will be forever hallowed in New York, though, as the unlikely hitter smashed an 11th inning, walk-off home run against Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, sending Red Sox fans into another heartbreaking offseason, and the Yankees to the World Series.
The Atlanta Braves seemed primed to take a controlling 3-1 lead in the 1996 World Series after jumping in front of the Yankees 6-0 early in Game 4. After scrapping for three runs in the top of the 6th though, the Yankees sent pinch-hitting catcher Jim Leyritz to face the flame-throwing Mark Wohlers with two on in the top of the 8th. Leyritz, who hit just .264 with 7 HRs during the regular season, uncorked a clutch three-run homer to left field, tying the game at six. New York would defeat the Braves in extra innings and go on to win the series in six games.
Relatively quiet throughout the 1992 Toronto Blue Jays season, backup infielder Ed Sprague amassed just 47 at-bats during 22 games played. He created quite a stir during the World Series, however, when the second-year player whacked an unlikely two-run homer in the top of the ninth to lead the Jays to an incredible 5-4 victory in Game 2. Sprague and Co. would ride that momentum for the rest of the series, taking out the Atlanta Braves four games to two.
The poster boy of unlikely heroes, Francisco Cabrera had compiled a mere 10 at-bats throughout the 1992 season prior to trotting to the plate in the 9th inning of Game 7 of the NLCS. With his Braves trailing 2-1, the bases loaded and two outs, Cabrera slapped a single into left field, sending David Justice home to tie the game at two. Sid Bream barreled around third and beat Pirates outfielder Barry Bonds' throw just in time, giving the Braves a miraculous 3-2 victory.
In a lineup with Barry Larkin, Paul O'Neill and Eric Davis, Cincinnati outfielder Billy Hatcher, a career .264 hitter, was the most consistent threat to the Oakland Athletics during the 1990 World Series. He totaled nine hits in twelve at-bats, including a World Series record seven in a row, to guide the Reds to an unlikely sweep of the defending champion A's.
It's rare when the National League MVP hits one of the most improbable home runs in baseball history, but that's exactly what happened when Kirk Gibson stepped to bat in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. Hobbled by knee and hamstring injuries, Gibson was summoned to pinch hit against A's dominant reliever Dennis Eckersley in the bottom of the 9th, with one on, two out and the Dodgers down 4-3. With a 3-2 count, Gibson connected, lofting a high fly ball that carried into the right field stands to give the Dodgers the unlikeliest of victories. The A's never recovered, as Los Angeles rolled to a 4-1 series win.
Known for his defensive prowess, catcher Jim Sundberg was offensively spectacular during Game 7 of the 1985 ALCS. The Royals' backstop went 2-4 with four RBIs, including a momentum-shifting, three-run triple to help lead Kansas City past the Toronto Blue Jays and into the World Series. Sundberg made his mark on Game 6 as well, scampering home to give the Royals a 3-2 lead in the 6th inning, an advantage that they'd never relinquish.
When Ozzie Smith settled into the batter's box in Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS, the switch-hitting shortstop had never hit a home run from the left side of the plate. That all changed when "The Wizard" drove Dodgers' pitcher Tom Niedenfuer's offering just over the right field wall in the bottom of the 9th, earning the Cardinals a dramatic 3-2 win. Even legendary announcer Jack Buck couldn't contain his excitement, coining the phrase "Go crazy, folks. Go crazy."
After erasing a seemingly insurmountable 14 1/2 game lead in the AL East earlier in the season, the Yankees trailed the Red Sox 2-0 during their one-game playoff and looked destined to fall just short of clinching the division in 1978. That was before the light-hitting Bucky Dent, who had just 40 home runs during his entire 12-year career, smacked a Green Monster clearing shot to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. The Yankees went on to win the game 5-4, securing the division title in the process. Stunned Red Sox fans would refer to the New York shortstop as "Bucky Bleeping Dent" for the rest of his playing days.
Catcher Gene Tenace flashed surprising power during the 1972 World Series, crushing four home runs for the Oakland Athletics during their showdown with the Cincinnati Reds. It was especially uncharacteristic of Tenace, who hit just five homers over the course of the entire regular season for the A's. Tenace added two hits, two RBIs and the game-winning run in Game 7, earning the backstop World Series MVP honors.
Middle infielder Al Weis was far from impressive during his MLB career, posting a meager .219 batting average, 7 HRs and 115 RBIs in 10 seasons with the White Sox and Mets. He sprung to life in the 1969 World Series, though, punishing Baltimore pitchers for a .455 mark, including a game-changing home run in the fifth and final game of the set. The unheralded Mets knocked off the favored Orioles four games to one.
In a 1960 World Series loaded with sluggers such as Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Roberto Clemente, few thought Bill Mazeroski would hit one of the most storied home runs in MLB postseason history. Yet, with the score knotted at nine in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7, it was Mazeroski who blasted a towering shot into the left field bleachers to give the Pirates a walk-off, World Series victory. Mazeroski's homer remains one of only two round-trippers to ever clinch the Fall Classic, the other being Joe Carter's in 1993.