MLB: Best Games of the Decade

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Looking back upon the last 10 years, there have been a lot of great games.  It was very tough to narrow it down to the list below.  As you will no doubt notice, most of the games had a potentially huge impact on the postseason and changed the outlook of the entire year.  This list is far from complete so please feel free to add your own in the comments section below.  Also, these are posted in chronological order so don’t read too much into it. 

And now, on to the best games of the decade:

November 4, 2001 – New York Yankees @ Arizona Diamondbacks – World Series Game 7

On a list of best games of the decade, there had to be a World Series game on here, right?  How about one of only two Game 7’s played in the decade?  This one was a fun one to watch.  It also has the distinction of being the only game on this list that didn’t go into extra innings.

After Arizona handily won the first two games of the series at home, 9-1 and 4-0, the Yankees took charge on the East Coast by sweeping all three games (by one run each – 2-1, 4-3, 3-2) and giving them the advantage heading back to Arizona.  Arizona lashed out in game 6, pounding the Yankees with 15 runs in the first four innings.  They wouldn’t need any more and went on to win 15-2 and forcing a game 7. 

In a match-up of greats, Roger Clemens toed the mound for the Yankees against a determined Curt Schilling.  The game lived up to the hype as the pitchers dueled for 7 strong innings each with each ace only giving up a lone RBI single.  After 7, the game was tied 1-1.  Schilling went out to face the Yankees in the 8th and ran into trouble, giving up a solo homerun to Alfonso Soriano.  The previous night’s winner, Randy Johnson was brought in to get the last out of the inning.  Johnson would pitch a 1-2-3 top of the 9th and the Diamondbacks stepped up to the plate with only three outs left, trailing by a run. 

Mariano Rivera took the mound in the 9th after striking out the side in the 8th and looked in position to lock down yet another World Series title for the New York Yankees.  After a lead-off single, an error would put runners at first and second for the Diamondbacks.  The next batter tried to advance the runners, but the lead runner was cut down at third by a heads-up play from Rivera.  It wouldn’t matter as Tony Womack came to the plate and drove a game tying double down the right field line.  The double also put the winning run 90-feet away with only one out. 

After a hit batter loaded the bases, Luis Gonzalez stepped to the plate and delivered a bloop single over short stop Derek Jeter’s outstretched glove to plate the winning run and give the Diamondbacks a World Series title. 

October 16th, 2003 – Boston Red Sox @ New York Yankees – ALCS Game 7

The Red Sox and Yankees rivalry is unmatched in professional sports.  This epic game 7 between the two with everything on the line can be described is one of the best games of all time.  After trading blows throughout the first six games of the series, no one could really guess what would happen.  A matchup of Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez, perhaps two of the greatest starting pitchers of all time (all steroids talk aside), had the crowd primed for something special.  The two had last faced each other in game 3 when Clemens walked away with the win 4-3. 

Boston got the scoring off to a start early with a 3-run 2nd inning.  After a one-out single, Trot Nixon took Clemens deep to right-center field.  A double and an error later, Boston had added another run.  In the top of the 4th, they added to their lead with a solo homerun by Kevin Millar, making it 4-0 Boston.  Martinez continued to mow down hitters until Jason Giambi connected with a solo homerun of his own in the bottom of the 5th inning, chipping away at the Red Sox lead.  Giambi connected again off of Martinez, providing the only offense the Yankees could muster in the bottom of the 7th, cutting the deficit to 2 runs.  Then things went south for the Red Sox.

The bottom of the 8th inning included perhaps one of the most second-guessed managerial decisions of all-time.  After David Ortiz added another solo homerun in the top of the 8th, giving Boston a 5-2 cushion, Martinez took the mound in the bottom of the inning.  After a double by Jeter and an RBI single by Bernie Williams, the Boston manager Grady Little went to the mound to talk to his pitcher.  Martinez remained in the game and gave up back-to-back doubles before getting pulled, plating two more runs for the Yankees and tying the game at 5-5.  The feeling in the air was electric.  The Yankees had managed to rally for 3 runs in the bottom of the 8th to tie the crucial game 7.  Momentum was on their side.

The 9th and 10th innings passed by fairly uneventfully with no one putting up a real threat.  It was in the bottom of the  11th that Yankees fans got to see what they had come for.  On the first pitch of the inning, Aaron Boone lifted a deep fly ball down the left field line that carried over the fence to give the Yankees a stunning victory, sending them onto the World Series. 

The Yankees would go on to lose the World Series to the Florida Marlins, but this game and series in particular was one of the most electrifying sports matchups of all time.  The Red Sox would get their revenge, but it would have to wait a year.

October 17th, 2004 – New York Yankees @ Boston Red Sox – ALCS Game 4

Just like their meeting in the ALCS a year before, this entire series could go down as one of the best in the history of the game.  One game stood out as the momentum changer that would allow Boston to win four straight games after losing the first three to secure a trip to the World Series and do what their nemesis could not finish off the year prior: bring home a trophy.

After being absolutely thrashed by the Yankees in game 3, 19-8, the Red Sox were on the verge of elimination.  One more loss and they would be packing up and heading home for the long winter while the Yankee would be heading toward their second straight appearance in the World Series. 

Alex Rodriguez started the scoring off in the 3rd inning with a monstrous two-run shot to give the Yankees the early lead.  Boston battled back in the bottom of the 5th with a couple of walks and RBI singles to put up three runs and take the lead.  It wouldn’t last long though as the Yankees came right back with two runs in the 6th with a couple of RBI singles of their own.  After six innings, the Red Sox remained behind 4-3.  It would remain that way until the bottom of the ninth.  Enter Sandman.  Mariano Rivera, arguably the most dominant closer of all time came in, to the dismay of Red Sox fans, to close the door.  A lead-off walk gave Boston new life and a steal of second base by Dave Roberts, a pinch-runner, put the tying run in scoring position with nobody out. 

Bill Mueller came through in the clutch and delivered a single to bring the run home, forcing the game into extra-innings.  In the bottom of the 12th, Boston had the heart of their order coming up.  Manny Ramirez led off with a solid line-drive single to begin the inning and then Big Papi came to the plate.  After working the count into his favor at 2-1, he deposited the next Paul Quantrill pitch into the seats giving the Red Sox a come-from behind, walk-off win that would set the pace for the rest of the series and into the World Series.  Boston would not lose another game the rest of the year, finishing off the Yankees by winning the last three games of the ALCS and then sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series to give Boston it’s first title in 86 years. 

October 1st, 2007 – San Diego Padres @ Colorado Rockies – Game 163

This (nearly) five-hour gem of a game took place after the last day of the 2007 season.  A one-game playoff was needed to determine who would be going home and who would be playing more October baseball. 

The contest got off to a fast start with the two teams combining to score nine runs in the first three innings.  After a sacrifice fly in the 6th inning gave the home team Rockies a 6-5 edge, the Padres were on their heels.  With two outs and a runner on second base, Brian Giles mashed a game-tying double to left field.  The fans groaned as the game continued on in a stalemate deep into extra innings.  The 13th inning is what put this game on this list and etched it into the memories of Rockies and Padres fans that made it through to the end. 

The Padres took a devastating two-run lead with one swing of Scott Hairston’s bat off of Jorge Julio.  The Rockies were three outs away from elimination.  It turns out that the Rockies would only need one of them.  The Padres brought in one of the best closers in the game in Trevor Hoffman to lock down the win.  The Rockies greeted him with back-to-back doubles by Kazuo Matsui and Troy Tulowitzki.  Matt Holiday came to the plate with the tying run on second.  He launched a triple to tie the game and put himself into scoring position with still nobody out in the inning. 

Only three batters and the tables had so suddenly turned that Hoffman was beside himself.  He opted to intentionally walk Todd Helton to face the less dangerous Jamey Carroll.  Hoffman got Carroll to lift a shallow fly ball to right field.  Holliday took a chance and tagged on the out.  The throw was on time, but Holiday slid under the tag, giving the Rockies a walk-off win that they would parlay into a World Series appearance. 

The play at the plate is much debated even today about whether or not Holliday actually tagged the plate as he slid by, but regardless this is still one of the greatest games of the decade. 

October 6th, 2009 – Detroit Tigers @ Minnesota Twins – Game 163

Less than 24 hours after Brett Favre made his first start against his former Green Bay Packers in a Minnesota Vikings uniform, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome was transformed back into a baseball field to host a winner-take-all one game play-in.  One team would face the Yankees in New York the next night; the other would be packing up their things and getting ready for the off-season. 

The action began in the 3rd inning when Miguel Cabrera followed up a Magglio Ordonez RBI single with a shot to straight away center, quieting the chants of “Al-co-hol-ic” from the raucous Twins fans.  Tigers 3, Minnesota 0.  A fielding error in the bottom of the third gave the Twins a run back.  In the 6th inning, Jason Kubel connected for a solo shot to bring the Twins to within one run.  Then, in the 7th inning this game began it’s ascent to one of the greatest games of the decade.

With one on and one out, Orlando Cabrera, a late pick-up for the Twins and not exactly known for his power (114 career HRs in 6618 ABs), connected and sent a ball into the first row in left field.  The Dome rocked as the Twins took a one-run lead into the 8th.  The crowd was on its feet as Ordonez stepped up to the plate as the lead-off hitter in the 8th.  He promptly sent a shot over the left field wall, tying the game and quieting the crowd.

After a quiet 9th inning, the game went into extras knotted at 4-4.  In the top of the 10th, a hit-by-pitch allowed the go-ahead run to reach first with one out for the Tigers. A double by Brandon Inge a batter later gave the Tigers an important one-run lead heading into the bottom of the inning.  Michael Cuddyer got the crowd back on their feet after the let down in the top of the inning when a misplayed ball resulted in a dome triple.  Two batters later, a single tied the game back up and put the winning run on third with only one out.  A shallow fly ball looked like it could end the game when Alexi Casilla tagged on the putout, but the fans were quieted again when he was thrown out at home to end the inning.

The 11th inning was fairly uneventful, but the 12th got the crowd humming again.  In the top half of the inning, Detroit put together a one-out rally, eventually loading the bases.  A groundball to the infield got the force at home and the next batter struck out swinging to end the threat.  In the bottom of the 12th, a lead-off single by Carlos Gomez set the table.  A fielder’s choice allowed him to move to second and after an intentional walk to Delmon Young to fill first base, Casilla stepped to the plate.  Two innings after being cut down at home, Casilla delivered with a walk-off single to right field with Gomez sliding home well ahead of the throw.  The Dome erupted and the Twins went wild, celebrating their division title.

The elation didn’t last long though as within a few hours they were on a plane to New York for a best of five with the dreaded Yankees.  While the Twins didn’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs and the Tigers fell just one game short of their first AL Central Division Championship, this game will be remembered as one of the best games of the decade.