7 of the greatest baseball games ever played in March
When you hear March Madness, you probably think of college basketball upsets featuring schools like North Aardvark University toppling Eastern State U as your bracket immediately falls to pieces.
Baseball has its own share of memorable March moments. Though the season usually starts in April, here are seven notable March games.
Red Sox at Yankees - March 29, 1948
Most Spring Training games are played and soon forgotten, but not this one. On March 29, 1948, the Yankees and Red Sox got together to play a 17-inning, four-hour and two-minute game that is still remembered today.
It was a pretty sterling example of messy Spring Training baseball, too. The Red Sox scored the first run in the top of the ninth thanks to a Vern Stephens triple on a Yankees error. New York then tied the game in the bottom half thanks to a Sherman Lollar single.
The game would remain tied at two runs each until the umpire called the game so the Red Sox could catch their bus back home.
White Sox at Mariners - March 31, 1996
Entering 1996, Alex Rodriguez was not the 696-home run A-Rod that caused pitchers to tremble. Instead, he was a 20-year-old prospect with a .609 OPS to his name, but this was his very first Opening Day.
Randy Johnson was in fine form, striking out 14 batters in seven innings. But, when the Big Unit faced the Big Hurt, it was Johnson who came up short. Sure, Frank Thomas was late on the pitch, and sure he had to clear the Kingdome's fence, but you don't earn a nickname like his without having plenty of strength:
The White Sox would hold the lead until the bottom of the ninth when Edgar Martinez knotted the game at 2 with an RBI double. And then, in the bottom of the 12th, Rodriguez made everyone forget about his 0-for-5 performance with the game-winning hit.
Red Sox at A's (in Japan) - March 25, 2008
U.S. fans that woke up at 6 a.m. to watch the Red Sox and A's start the 2008 season in Japan were handsomely rewarded. With only two outs to go to secure victory, the A's were met with a problem: Brandon Moss was there, and he was ready to hit his first career home run:
With runners on first and second following an intentional walk to David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez strolled to the plate in the 10th. He blasted Huston Street's offering deep to center field and, Manny being Manny, stood motionless at home, taking it all in.
This one didn't have quite enough distance and Ramirez was forced to hustle into second for a two-run double.
The A's nearly pulled off the comeback, though. Emil Brown doubled in a run in the bottom half, but was erased from the basepaths after trying to reach third. That would prove costly as Bobby Crosby and Jack Hannahan followed with singles that would have driven in the tying run -- before Jonathan Papelbon finally closed the door.
Pirates at Braves - March 31, 2008
If dozens of runs and improbable comebacks are what you look for on Opening Day, then this was the game for you. Just look at the win probability chart:
Trailing 4-2 going into the sixth inning, the Pirates took control as they scored seven runs over the next four innings. Those runs were thanks to two homers and plenty of small ball in the form of a single, an error and a Jose Bautista sacrifice bunt. Yes, it was the same dinger-crushing Bautista that has one sacrifice since 2010.
Their 9-4 lead would not hold, though. The ninth inning began with a strikeout sandwiched between four walks, before Chipper Jones hit an RBI single to cut the lead to 9-7. Then, with two outs and runners on the corners, Brian McCann hit a shallow fly to left field. Surely this was the end of the game, with new Pirates manager John Russell getting his first win ... right? Whoops.
Nevertheless, the Pirates took the lead again when Xavier Nady hit his second home run of the game in the 12th.
But the Braves were still not dead. Jeff Francoeur homered, and Matt Diaz hit an RBI single before Corky Miller flew out to finally end this one.
As Nate McLouth said after the game, "It was ... I don't ... it was tough to describe, honestly. It was a circus."
Dominican Republic at Netherlands - March 10, 2009
In the 11 years since the World Baseball Classic started in 2006, the Netherlands has asserted itself as one of the strongest baseballing nations in the world.
In 2009, the Netherlands escaped pool play for the first time by defeating the heavy hitters of the Dominican Republic twice. The Dutch won the first game, 3-2, after catching Willy Taveras trying to steal third for the final out. Notice who was behind the dish making that toss -- future Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen:
The Netherlands proved they were for real in the rematch. Despite being dominated at the plate by pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez and Pedro Martinez, the Netherlands held firm with its less heralded arms, like Tom Stuifbergen. Despite the Dominican Republic boasting a bonafide All-Star lineup filled with hitters like David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez and Robinson Cano, the game would remain scoreless until the 11th.
When the Dominican Republic did score, however, it didn't come from a massive, sky-scraping blast, though. Rather, it was thanks to some curious defense by right fielder Gene Kingsale:
He would make amends in the bottom half. After hitting a bloop single to tie the game, Kingsale moved to third after an errant pickoff attempt. The Dutch Kingdom would win after Willy Aybar couldn't corral Yurrendel De Caster's line drive at first.
Puerto Rico at USA - March 17, 2009
David Wright will go down as one of USA Baseball's greatest players thanks to his bacon-saving hits in the World Baseball Classic. Long before his grand slam defeated Team Italy in 2013, Wright became Captain America in 2009.
A loss to Puerto Rico would have ended Team USA's hopes, while a win would see the team go through to the Championship round. Trailing, 5-4, the U.S. loaded the bases. Wright then lifted J.C. Romero's 2-1 offering and dropped it just inside the right-field line for the game-winning single. Just like the comic book character, a timeless legend was born.
Giants at Dodgers - March 31, 2011
Lincecum vs. Kershaw will go down as one of the greatest pitching matchups of the 21st century. Not only have the two both won Cy Young Awards, but they were natural rivals as part of the great California Divide.
Though they faced off many times, their lone March meeting was a classic. They matched each other for seven innings, Lincecum allowing one unearned run following an error by Miguel Tejada, while Kershaw shut out the Dodgers for seven of his own frames and struck out nine.
The Dodgers -- and Kershaw -- would go on to win thanks to a James Loney double in the bottom of the eighth to provide the needed insurance run in the 2-1 victory.