The leaves are beginning to change color, the air is feeling a bit crisper, and the Christmas music (for some reason) is starting to show up on the radio. It's October.
What this month also brings is the thrill of postseason baseball and there's no better way to start it all off than with two single-game elimination matchups. Starting in 2012, the MLB implemented a pair of Wild Card play-in games, adding an extra layer to the playoffs, with the winner taking on on the best squad in their respective league.
Helping to add a touch of March Madness to October this year are the Milwaukee Brewers, Washington Nationals, Tampa Bay Rays, and Oakland Athletics. Each hope to use the Wild Card as a springboard to the World Series, and although it's tough to win this game and then three straight series, it has been done before. The San Francisco Giants fee-fi-fo-fummed through the 2014 postseason starting with an 8-0 Wild Card victory on the road in Pittsburgh, but how does that victory compare to the best in the Wild Card Games' brief, but unforgettable, history? Well, let's find out.
14. 2013: Rays defeat Indians, 4-0
Although it led to a win, you won't be sitting with your grandkids on your lap telling them the story of how Alex Cobb threw 6 2/3 shutout innings and five K's shutting out a decent Cleveland team.
13. 2014: Giants defeat Pirates, 8-0
Eventually winning the World Series with this game as the catalyst, Madison Bumgarner was the workhorse for the Giants pitching a four-hitter with 10 strikeouts.
He was incredible. The Pirates...less so.
12. 2015: Astros defeat Yankees, 3-0
Another 0-fer for the losing team and a dominant pitching performance (see the similarities so far?), Houston's Dallas Keuchel allowed only three hits in six innings in the Astros' first postseason appearance—and victory—as an AL team.
11. 2015: Cubs defeat Pirates, 4-0
The game was fine and all, but let's talk about this home run.
Out of the goddamn park. I had this game ranked lower originally, but after watching this shot for the 20th time, I had to move Schwarber and the Cubs up at least a few spots.
10. 2012: Orioles defeat Rangers, 5-1
In Baltimore's first postseason appearance since 1997, Joe Saunders showed up Yu Darvish and the Orioles advanced on. This was the inaugural year for the "winner-take-all" format and it started off quite well for the league with the bases loaded for the Rangers in the bottom of the ninth. Texas's David Murphy flew out to end the team's hopes.
9. 2017: Yankees defeat Twins, 8-4
The first of two Yankees' Wild Card wins, this contest started strong with a three-run Didi Gregorius bomb to tie it up in the first inning after an embarrassing start by Luis Severino.
Aaron Judge and the rest of the New York batters pulled the game out at home in one of the higher scoring Wild Card matchups.
8. 2018: Yankees defeat Athletics, 7-2
Another year, another Yankees' Wild Card victory. This one against Oakland was a matchup of two of the three best home-run hitting teams in the league and it was Aaron Judge's two-run dinger in the first that set the tone for New York.
I'm sick of talking about the Yankees. Let's move on.
7. 2012: Cardinals defeat Braves, 6-3
I'm not a Braves fan, but I would've quit baseball after this game had I been. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Andrelton Simmons hit a fly ball to left field that dropped in-between the shortstop and left fielder. What should have been a single with the bases loaded and one out was nixed, due to umpire Sam Holbrook citing the infield fly rule. What this means is that if the umpire believes the catch is a sure thing, he can call the play as an infield fly and declare the batter out, even if the ball isn't caught. Honestly, I'm not sure why this rule is even a thing. But, who am I to say?
This goes so high in the rankings strictly due to how memorable this all was. But at least baseball fanatics online took the call in stride...
Yup, everyone's definitely okay with the call.
6. 2017: D-backs defeat Rockies, 11-8
What started as an early Zack Greinke-led 6-0 rout for Arizona quickly turned after a chaotic four-run fourth for Colorado. And then late-inning reliever Archie Bradley hit a triple—the first extra-base hit of his career and the first triple by a reliever in postseason history—just to up the drama.
Here's the clip with Celine Dion crooning "My Heart Will Go On" from The Titanic for some reason.
5. 2016: Giants defeat Mets, 3-0
With Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner pitching, we were surely in for a pitching duel, yet, I doubt anyone was expecting a 0-0 score heading into the ninth. Bumgarner didn't allow a hit until the sixth and Syndergaard struck out 10 over seven shutout innings.
It was Jeurys Familia that let up the first runs to outfielder Conor Gillaspie (who?) on a three-run homer that was never not going to happen to the Mets.
4. 2018: Rockies defeat Cubs, 2-1
As great as the Wrigley Field ivy looks, it was equally irritating in this NL Wild Card matchup just a year ago. The ball just disappeared in the shrubbery in an event that can only occur professionally during a baseball game.
It looks like Chicago had some fun with it though.
If you can beleaf it, Colorado still went on to win in 13 innings.
3. 2013: Pirates defeat Reds, 6-2
This is this high strictly for how hyped Pittsburgh was to make it back to the playoffs after 21 years. Before this game, there were men and women who could legally drink without ever seeing a second of their team in the playoffs. With that prolonged stretch of mediocrity, they probably were making a good use of being drinking age.
Also, I love a good fan chant and it doesn't get much better than this one.
2. 2016: Blue Jays defeat Orioles, 5-2
Walk-off three run homer by Edwin Encarnación. That's it. That's why this game is ranked No. 2.
The normal MLB footage is great, but I always prefer seeing an incredible highlight from an inebriated fan's point of view.
Encarnación became only the fourth player to end a winner-take-all postseason game with a walk-off home run.
1. 2014: Royals defeat Athletics, 9-8
This is easily the best the Wild Card has to offer. Late drama, many a stolen base, a walk-off hit down the left-field line.
The A's led 7-3 in the sixth inning, yet could never put the game firmly out of reach for Kansas City, which kept on chugging along despite their long-suffering baseball history.
Let's see how Royals' legend George Brett reacted.
I think this gif says it all. For this game in particular and for just how great the MLB Wild Card games can be.