The 10 Best Games From the 2019 Postseason
Despite only being less than two weeks removed from the 2019 World Series, a lot has happened in Major League Baseball. From teams hiring managers to player movement, the offseason is underway. However, before this past season gets too far in the rearview mirror, let’s take a look at the ten best moments from the 2019 MLB postseason.
October 1st: A Wild Finish in DC
This year’s postseason began with the NL Wild Card Game, where the Milwaukee Brewers traveled to the nation’s capital to take on the Washington Nationals. Though Washington sent 3-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer to the bump, the NL Central runner-ups wasted no time putting up the offense. A two-run homer by Yasmani Grandal in the first inning, followed by an Eric Thames bomb in the second put the Brewers up 3-0 before Scherzer could record the fourth out of the game.
Two bounce-back innings by the Nationals starter, three shutout innings from Stephen Strasburg in relief, and a Trea Turner homer set the win-or-go-home game at 3-1 Milwaukee headed to the bottom of the eighth inning.
In stepped Brewers southpaw Josh Hader, the NL reliever of the year, to face the bottom of the Nationals order. Nevertheless, with one out in the inning, Hader hit Michael A. Taylor with a full-count pitch. After striking out Trea Turner, the lefty would allow a single to Ryan Zimmerman and walk Anthony Rendon.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the inning, Washington outfielder Juan Soto cleared the bases with a line drive to right field that got past Brewers rookie Trent Grisham. The Nats hadn’t led until Soto’s hit. Daniel Hudson came on to close out Milwaukee in the ninth inning. Washington advances with the 4-3 win, and the Nationals postseason run was off and running.
October 7th: Yadi’s Sacrifice
For the first time since 2015, the St. Louis Cardinals won the NL Central. Next, they hoped to win their first playoff series since 2014. However, the Cards found themselves trailing 2-1 to the NL East Champion Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.
On the shoulders of three solo HR, two by Marcell Ozuna, St. Louis held the lead in Game 4 by a 3-1 tally. Nonetheless, the fifth inning was a nightmare for the NL Central champs. After an error allowed Dansby Swanson to score, the Braves took the lead on an Ozzie Albies two-run shot.
The mantra of the 2019 MLB season was “Let the Kids Play.” However, it was the longest-tenured Cardinal that made the biggest impact. Catcher Yadier Molina, who made his Cardinal debut in 2004, singled in the tying run in the bottom of the eighth which sent Game 4 to extra innings.
Then, in the bottom of the 10th, Molina would hit a deep fly to left field that would be far enough into the outfield to score Kolten Wong from third base. The sacrifice fly would give St. Louis the 5-4 victory. The Cardinals would punch their ticket to their first NLCS in five seasons two days later, defeating the Braves 13-1 in Game 5.
October 9th: Howie A Hero
Just as they had a week earlier, Washington found themselves with their backs against the wall. This time, it was in Los Angeles against the 106-win NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLDS. After two innings and two HR, Los Angeles was out in front by a 3-0 score. On the other side, Dodgers hurler Walker Buehler was dominant, striking out seven batters in 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball.
However, in the seventh inning, Buehler allowed two Nationals to reach base. In came Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw in relief, hoping to close out Washington like he had three seasons prior in Game 5 of the 2016 NLDS. Kershaw’s outing began like 2016, where he recorded his first career save. The lefty struck out Adam Eaton to get out of the jam.
Kershaw returned to the mound in the eighth but was not nearly as successful. The inning opened with an Anthony Rendon solo shot to close the Dodgers lead to 3-2. On the very next pitch, Juan Soto, the hero from the Wild Card Game, went deep as well. The game was now tied at three runs apiece.
In extra innings, Dodgers reliever, and 2018 World Series champion with the Boston Red Sox, Joe Kelly would return to the mound in the 10th after pitching a flawless ninth inning. Kelly would walk Adam Eaton, give up a ground-rule double to Anthony Rendon, then load the bases by issuing Juan Soto an intentional pass.
With the bases loaded, former Dodger Howie Kendrick stepped into the batter’s box for the Nationals. After taking a first-pitch strike, Kendrick hit a rocket to deep center field for his first career postseason grand slam. Nationals southpaw Sean Doolittle would take the mound in the bottom of the 10th and record the final three outs. The Nationals would advance to their first NLCS on the heels of the 7-3 victory in Game 5.
October 10th: Cole Dominates
Gerrit Cole‘s 2019 season was nothing short of incredible. The Houston Astros righty went 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA and 326 strikeouts. After losing to the White Sox on May 22nd, he wouldn’t lose again in the regular season.
It was Cole who would take the mound against the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5 of the ALDS. Backed by a 4-0 lead, Cole would give up a solo homer to Rays infielder Eric Sogard. That was the only blemish on a dominant night on the hill for Cole. The Cy Young hopeful would pitch eighth innings, allowing one run and striking out 10 batters.
After a Ji-Man Choi single in the fourth, Cole would retire the next 15 Rays in order. Roberto Osuna would come on in relief in the ninth and retire the side in order to give the Astros the 6-1 win and send them to third consecutive ALCS.
October 11th: Anibal Holds the Cards
With names like Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in the Nationals rotation, one wouldn’t expect Anibal Sanchez to be the one to toss a lights out performance in the postseason. However, that’s just what Sanchez did in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Cardinals.
The 35-year old Nationals starter, just a few seasons removed from having a 6.41 ERA, retired the first 10 St. Louis batters in order. Despite the fact that he allowed a walk and a hit batsman, Sanchez got through six innings without allowing a hit.
It wouldn’t be until the bottom of the eighth inning, via a Jose Martinez single, that Sanchez would allow a hit. His final line would be 7 2/3 innings, allowing a hit, a walk and striking out five Cardinals. In the meantime, the Nationals offense would score a pair of runs on hits from Yan Gomes and Howie Kendrick.
The dominant performance from Sanchez not only set the tone for Game 1, a game in which the Nationals would win 2-0, but also the NLCS, in which Washington would sweep the Cardinals.
October 13th: The Astros Walk-Off the Yankees
For the second time in three seasons, the Astros and New York Yankees squared off in the ALCS. After a 7-0 win in Game 1, the Yankees were hoping to fare better than they did a couple of seasons prior. Astros shortstop Carlos Correa would be the hero in this game. Due to injuries that plagued Correa in 2019, the infielder only played in 75 games, a career-worst.
Nevertheless, he opened the scoring with a RBI double in the bottom of the second inning. However, the run didn’t hold up, as Aaron Judge clubbed a two-run homer in the fourth. The score was made even in the fifth inning when Astros outfielder George Springer went deep. The score would remain at two runs apiece until the 11th inning.
Again, Carlos Correa came to the plate with a chance to put the Astros ahead. Just like he did in the second inning, he did not disappoint. Correa drove a solo homer to right field giving the Astros the 3-2 walk-off win to even the series.
October 19th: The Astros Walk-Off the Yankees, Again
Heading into Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS, the Houston Astros commanded a 3-2 series lead. A win over the Yankees would send them to their second World Series in three seasons. Things started according to plan. In the bottom of the first, Yuli Gurriel launched a three-run homer into the Texas night to give Houston the lead.
Nevertheless, the Yankees clawed back. A Gary Sanchez RBI single in the second, and a Gio Urshela homer in the fourth cut the lead to 3-2 Astros. Despite the cushion that an Alex Bregman insurance RBI provided, a two-run shot from Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu tied the game at four heading into the bottom of the ninth inning.
In the Houston half of the ninth, the Yankees sent closer Aroldis Chapman to the mound. He retired the first two batters of the inning before walking George Springer. Then second baseman Jose Altuve stepped up to the plate with his four postseason home runs. After working the count to 2-1, Altuve launched a two-run bomb to left-center to give the Astros the 6-4 win and send them to the World Series.
October 22: The Nats Set the Tone
The 2019 World Series saw the Houston Astros square off against the Washington Nationals. The Nationals were looking for their first title in franchise history. Houston was gunning for their second title in three seasons.
Much like he did in Game 6 of the ALCS, Yuli Gurriel got the offense started. His two-run double off of Nationals ace Max Scherzer gave Houston a 2-0 lead. A Ryan Zimmerman homer in the top of the second and a Juan Soto bomb in the top of the fourth tied the game at two runs apiece.
Despite Houston having Gerrit Cole on the mound, who hadn’t lost a game since May, the Nationals got to the righty in the fifth inning. An Adam Eaton single drove in Kurt Suzuki. Two batters later, Juan Soto, having a postseason to remember, hit a two-run double to center field, giving Washington a 5-2 lead. Houston would score runs in the seventh and eighth inning. Nevertheless, Washington would set the tone for the series, winning Game 1 by a 5-4 score.
October 29th: Washington Stays Alive
The wackiest thing about this year’s World Series was that through five games, the road team had won every game. After dropping the first two games in Houston, the Astros took all three in the nation’s capital to take a 3-2 series lead. Houston stood one win away from a title, all they had to do is hold serve at Minute Maid Park.
Game 6 got off to a fast start. In the first inning, Anthony Rendon drove in Trea Turner to give the Nationals the lead. However, Washington would give the lead back in the bottom of the inning, on a Jose Altuve sac fly and an Alex Bregman homer.
As they have all season, the Nationals fought back. With former AL Cy Young winner and MVP, Justin Verlander on the mound Adam Eaton and Juan Soto homered to give Washington the lead. Anthony Rendon would drive in four more runs, two on a home run and two on a double. The offensive explosion, coupled with Stephen Strasburg’s 8 1/3 innings of two-run ball and seven strikeouts, gave the Nationals the 7-2 win. The World Series was headed to a decisive Game 7.
October 30th: Fight Finished
There are two words that would excite any sports fan. Game 7. Zack Greinke, who tossed 4 2/3 innings in Game 3, allowing one run and striking out six, took the ball for the Astros. Max Scherzer, who had his Game 5 start skipped due to neck spasms, took the ball for Washington. For the first six innings, it was all Greinke. It was all Houston.
Greinke started the game with six shutout innings on the mound. A Yuli Gurriel solo shot started the scoring in the second inning. The Astros tacked on a run via Carlos Correa in the fifth. On the other side, Max Scherzer weathered five innings on the mound before turning the ball over to lefty Patrick Corbin.
Washington would punch their way off the ropes in the seventh inning. Anthony Rendon would crush a ball to left field off of Greinke. After walking Juan Soto, Astros manager AJ Hinch pulled his starter in favor of reliever Will Harris.
Howie Kendrick, who’s NLDS grand slam in Game 5 sent the Nationals to the NLCS, took Harris deep. The homer ricocheted off the foul pole and gave Washington a 3-2 lead. Juan Soto and Adam Eaton would drive in three more runs.
With a 6-2 lead, Daniel Hudson was called upon to close out the World Series. Hudson would retire the side in order, striking out the final two Astros. Despite facing elimination five times, facing some of the league’s best pitchers, the Washington Nationals won the World Series.
For the first time in any sport, a road team won all games in a best-of-seven series. Nevertheless, the Nationals won their first title in franchise history. Furthermore, Stephen Strasburg, the team’s first pick in the 2009 draft, won MVP honors.
The 2019 postseason was a wild ride. Here’s to more memorable moments in 2020.