What, did you really think we were going to head into the offseason without completing one of our favorite annual exercises? We've compiled the 10 best moments of the previous four postseasons that Big League Stew has been in business (here's 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008) and it's about time we added another set of highlights to our institutional memory bank.
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The 2012 postseason will mostly be remembered for two things: The San Francisco Giants becoming the first National League team since the Big Red Machine to win two World Series titles in three years or less and the postseason field expanding to a wild group of 10 teams. But there were plenty of little moments from different teams to make the story whole.
So without further delay, let's dig into another great October. A reminder: This is a list of great moments and plays, not necessarily performances or key team victories.
10. Jayson Werth's walkoff homer — NLDS Game 4
The Washington Nationals deserve a consolation prize for having the season end the way it did and here it is: They're the only one of the four LDS losers holding a spot on this top 10, but it's for a good reason. Jayson Werth's home run off reliever Lance Lynn to lead off the bottom of the ninth in NLDS Game 4 was the result of a 13-pitch, six-minute at-bat that sent the Nationals to a 2-1 win and a decisive Game 5. Though the DC area's first foray into the postseason in generations would not last much longer, it produced some iconic results like the picture above and this Jayson Werth cupcake.
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9. Giants relay gets Prince Fielder at the plate — World Series Game 2
Buster Posey couldn't quite explain what it's like to feel Prince Fielder bearing down on you at home plate. "You just have to be there to know what it's like," the Giants catcher said after successfully tagging out the Tigers big star in the second inning of San Francisco's 2-0 win in Game 2. It was easy, though, to see the lasting effects of the play. An oddly executed relay from left fielder Gregor Blanco to an alert Marco Scutaro to a swipe-tagging Posey made Detroit's third base coach Gene Lamont pay for his questionable decision to send Fielder home with no outs in the inning. It also stood as the key defensive play for the Giants in a defensive-minded series that saw back-to-back shutouts in Games 2 and 3.
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8. Hunter Pence's "triple-hit" double — NLCS Game 7
Only the ever-awkward Hunter Pence could have a broken-bat grounder turn into a double that eventually brought home three runs. And only Pence could somehow have that grounder be the result of three separate points of contact between bat and ball, as Fox's super slow-mo replay later showed. But there's no such thing as style points in baseball and Pence's play was the key at-bat for the Giants in their clinching 9-0 win over the Cardinals in Game 7 of the NLCS. The famous bat was later mistakenly sold in the team's game-used store for a piddly $400 but a generous season ticket holder returned what will end up being one of the franchise's oddest (and coolest) pieces of memorabilia.
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7. Phil Coke spikes glove after Tigers clinch sweep — ALCS Game 4
The Tigers are going to have a weird-looking scrapbook for a pennant winner because their appearance in the World Series was built on the strength of great starting performances, but not necessarily highlights that will make a must-watch DVD. (It's doubtful many Tigers fans are going to save room in their hearts for Delmon Young's big hits or Don Kelly's sacrifice fly like they did with Magglio Ordonez's big home run in the 2006 ALCS.)
So let's go with Phil Coke's triumphant celebration after completing a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees. The series victory marked the third time in seven postseasons that the Tigers have knocked the Yankees out of the playoffs.
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6. Derek Jeter fractures ankle to end his postseason — ALCS Game 1
Though our hunch wouldn't be confirmed until a few days later, the sight of Derek Jeter being helped off the field after fracturing his ankle in the 12th inning of ALCS Game 1 sure seemed like the unofficial end of the New York Yankees' season. The injury put a sudden halt to what had been a stellar season for the 38-year-old shortstop and ensured his offseason will be filled with more rehab than relaxation.
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5. Raul Ibanez pinch hits for A-Rod, hits two home runs — ALDS Game 3
Joe Girardi's decision to bench A-Rod in the ninth inning of a key playoff game against the Baltimore Orioles looked like it might fill every page in the next day's tabloids, but Raul Ibanez was able to collect some coverage for himself. The 40-year-old replaced A-Rod in the lineup by hitting a game-tying home run against Jim Johnson in the ninth and a walkoff winner against Brian Matusz in the 12th to lift the Yankees to a stunning 3-2 win. The homers turned the tide in a series New York could have easily lost to the Orioles and provided a career highlight for one of baseball's true good guys.
(Ibanez would also hit a big game-tying homer off Jose Valverde in Game 1 of the ALCS, though it won't be remembered as fondly as the Yankees would end up losing Jeter to the above injury in extra innings while also eventually losing the game.)
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4. Cardinals complete historic comeback against Nationals — NLDS Game 5
It still seems hard to believe this really happened. One year after roaring back to a World Series title, the cardiac Cards overcame an early six-run deficit in Washington to register a shocking 9-7 win over the Nationals. Though St. Louis was just one out away from an early end to its postseason, Daniel Descalsco and Pete Kozma each registered two-run singles off Nats closer Drew Storen to ignite an offseason's worth of "Told you they should have kept pitching Strasburg." It was history's biggest comeback in an elimination game.
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3. Pablo Sandoval joins rare list with third home run — World Series Game 1
There were plenty of signs the Giants were in the midst of another magical run to a title, but none were bigger or more improbable than Pablo Sandoval hitting three home runs — two off Justin Verlander — in the opening game of the World Series. The feat allowed the "Kung Fu Panda" to join Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only men to hit three home runs in one World Series game and eventually earned him the series MVP award.
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2. Cardinals benefit from infield fly rule call — NL wild-card game
If any play of this postseason has an opportunity to make a lasting impact on the nation's baseball memory, it's this one from what would end up being Chipper Jones' final game in baseball. Yes, a lot of the outrage would later be disproved by a voice-of-reason Harold Reynolds and/or softened by the fact that Atlanta's lineup just couldn't get it done against the Cardinals in the winner-take-all contest. But the play's real impact comes in the fact that we're all going to be shouting "infield fly!" anytime an infielder ranges way out into the outfield to make a catch in the seasons to come. "The Infield Fly Game" now only refers to one contest in baseball history and will spark plenty of instant recollections down the road.
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1. Giants clinch second title in three seasons — World Series Game 4
Buster Posey called for another slider. Sergio Romo took a risk with a fastball over the plate. A little over 60 feet later, the Giants had a 4-3 win in 10 innings, their second world title since 2010 and the first sweep in World Series since 2007. The ending was a fitting one as Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera registered the final out in a World Series where the Tigers' offense was ultimately rendered impotent by the Giants' great pitching staff.
Honorable mentions: Marco Scutaro's extra-inning RBI scores Ryan Theriot (World Series Game 4), Matt Holliday's slide into Marco Scutaro (NLCS Game 2), Giants clinch pennant in driving rain storm (NLCS Game 7), Buster Posey's grand slam (NLDS Game 5), Coco Crisp's key error (ALDS Game 2), Coco Crisp robs Prince Fielder (ALDS Game 3), Scott Rolen's big error (NLDS Game 3), Johnny Cueto's injury (NLDS Game 1), Hunter Pence's first speech (NLDS Game 3), A-Rod hits on girl (ALCS Game 1), Al Alburquerque kisses ball (ALDS Game 2), Jon Jay's great grab (NLDS Game 2), Angel Pagan secures country free tacos (World Series Game 2), Doug Fister stays in game after line drive hits head (WS Game 2), Pagan's strange double off bag (WS Game 1), The sorry-looking broom! (NLDS Game 3)
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