As teams make a last run for the top of the MLB standings, fans are preparing for postseason baseball and shot at a World Series championship. But those hopes can be snuffed out in the playoffs by improbable plays and blown calls by umpires.
Here are 10 recent playoff controversies to prepare you for the 2012 postseason:
Who's On Third? (Yankees 10, Angels 1, 2009 ALCS): With the game 5-0 and the Yankees' Jorge Posada on third and Robinson Cano on second with one out, Nick Swisher hit the ball to Angels pitcher Darren Oliver. Oliver's throw home caught Posada in a rundown. Cano moved to third but stepped off the bag as Posada moved back toward third. Catcher Mike Napoli tagged them both. A play that should have ended the inning saw umpire Tim McClelland call Cano safe.
"The Freak" Takes Advantage (Giants 1, Braves 0, 2010 NLDS): In a game featuring spectacular pitching by both Tim "The Freak" Lincecum and the Braves' Derek Lowe, it was a blown call that decided the game. Buster Posey appeared to have been thrown out by the Braves catcher in an attempted steal in the fourth. Called safe, he scored on a Cody Ross double. It was Posey's first steal of the season. After the game, he commented, "I guess it's a good thing we don't have instant replay right now."
Travis Fryman Inside the Baseline (Indians 4, Yankees 1, 1998 ALCS): Tied 1-1 in the 12th, Fryman put down a sacrifice bunt. The Yankees' Tino Martinez's throw hit Fryman, but no interference call was made. Instead of picking up the ball, Chuck Knoblauch argued with the umpire, allowing Enrique Wilson to score from first to break the tie.
Simply Bartman (Marlins 8, Cubs 3, 2003 NLCS): With the Cubs leading 3-0 and on the verge of their first World Series berth in over 50 years, the Marlins' Luis Castillo hit a drifting pop down the left field line. Moises Alou appeared to have a play on the ball at the edge of the stands, but Cubs fan Steve Bartman got in the way -- and Alou couldn't come up with the catch. The Marlins scored eight runs to win the game and came back to win the series.
Holliday's Home Plate "Touch" (Rockies 9, Padres 8, 2001 NL wild-card playoff): After tying the score with two runs in the bottom of the 13th, the Rockies' Jamey Carroll hit a shallow sacrifice to right. Brian Giles' throw and Matt Holliday met at home, but Michael Barrett couldn't handle the ball. Called safe by the plate umpire, it's still hard to tell if Holliday touched home. Asked if he touched the plate, Holliday replied, "The umpire called me safe so I must have touched the plate."
Pedro Martinez versus Don Zimmer (Yankees 4, Red Sox, 3, 2003 ALCS): In a game that saw numerous dust-ups, this game qualifies as one of the most bizarre. After the Yankees' Hideki Matsui broke a 2-2 tie in the fourth, Martinez hit Karim Garcia. A hard slide into second by Garcia later in the inning stirred the pot. In the bottom of the inning, Manny Ramirez felt Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens had pitched him high-and-tight, clearing the dugouts. Inexplicably, 72-year-old Yankees coach Don Zimmer ran straight toward Pedro, who grabbed his head and threw him to the ground.
The A-Rod Slap (Red Sox 4, Yankees 2, 2004 ALCS): In this crucial game in the Red Sox's comeback from an 3-0 deficit, the Yankees trailed by two runs in the eighth. With Jeter on first, Rodriguez hit a roller down the first base line that pitcher Bronson Arroyo fielded. As Arroyo applied the tag, A-Rod slapped the ball loose allowing Jeter to score. Initially called safe, the umpires convened and called him out. The Red Sox completed their historic comeback en route to their first World Series championship in 86 years.
Jeter Gets a Little Help From a Fan (Yankees 5, Orioles 4, 1996 ALCS): Trailing the Orioles 4-3, Derek Jeter hit a fly ball deep to right field. As Orioles outfielder Tony Tarasco went back to the wall to attempt the catch, 12-year-old fan Jeffrey Maier reached into the field of play and deflected the ball into stands. Although interference might have been called, the right field umpire deemed it a home run, which tied the game. The Yanks went on the win the game in the 12th.
Strike 3 in the Dirt?(White Sox 2, Angels 1, 2005 ALCS): With two outs and two strikes on the White Sox's A.J. Pierzynski, reliever Kelvim Escobar delivered a pitch for a swing-and-a-miss. Angels catcher Josh Paul felt he had picked the ball out of the dirt, so he rolled it toward the mound. An alert Pierzynski -- not hearing a call from the umpire -- made it to first. The Angels protested, but the play stood. The White Sox won the game on a double later in the inning.
The Phantom Tag (Yankees 9, Red Sox 2,1999 ALCS): Trying to rally back from a one-run deficit in the eighth, the Red Sox's Jose Offerman was on his way to second on a ground ball toward second base. Chuck Knoblauch fielded the ball and reached for a tag but clearly missed Offerman before throwing to first for the out. The ump missed the miss, and the double play killed a potential Sox rally.
"The Giants win the Pennant! The Giants win the Pennant!" Honorable Mention ( Giants 5, Dodgers 4, 1951 NL playoff): The shot heard 'round the world is still controversial 60 years after the event. Bobby Thomson's home run at the Polo Grounds has always been somewhat tainted based on alleged sign-stealing by the Giants. Many feel Thompson knew he was going to get a fastball from Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca.
So what controversial MLB playoff moments do you recall?
The Author is a Red Sox fans and was in the bleachers with his son at Fenway when Zimmer charged Pedro. Anybody remember "Cowboy Up?"
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