Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

The biggest home-field advantage moments in recent postseason history

Playing at home in the postseason means players can sleep in their own beds, play on a familiar field and have the crowd on their side more often than not in a series.
In recent years, we've seen the advantage of playing at home -- which is often expressed subtly -- show up in some obvious ways in October. Here's how home-field advantage has helped other teams.
The Jeffrey Maier Home Run -- Game 1, 1996 ALCS
With the Yankees trailing the division-rival Orioles, 4-3, in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, Derek Jeter hit a fly ball to right field of Yankee Stadium. Just as right fielder Tony Tarasco appeared to settle under the ball, a young fan in the stands caught it in his glove.
The umpire immediately ruled the play a home run and, despite, Tarasco's spirited objections, the call stood and the game was tied.

The Yankees went on to win not only that particular game, but also the 1996 World Series -- in part because of Maier.
Bugs attack Joba Chamberlain -- Game 2, 2007 ALDS
Playing on the road is hard enough with the travel and the unfriendly crowds, but it gets even harder when the natural environment seems to piggyback on those other factors. That's what happened to Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain when he visited Jacobs Field (now Progressive Field) in 2007 when, in the eighth inning, a swarm of bugs seemed to cause a walk and a wild pitch that allowed the Indians to tie the game.

You can see how this might have been distracting:

As fate would have it, the bugs were not around to impact the Indians pitchers and fielders when they took the field.
The Rally Squirrel -- Game 4, 2011 NLDS
The Phillies entered the 2011 postseason with the best regular-season record in baseball and a pitching rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. On paper, the team seemed a lock to ensure a long run in October.
And, until Game 4 of the 2011 NLDS, all was going to plan. The Phillies entered the matchup against the Cardinals with a 2-1 lead in the series and Oswalt taking the mound. But then, in the fifth inning, a squirrel changed the course of history.

The Cardinals -- inspired by the Rally Squirrel -- went on to win Game 4, 5-3. They followed that up with a 1-0 win in Philadelphia in Game 5 and an eventual World Series title. None of that would have happened -- so the story goes -- if a squirrel didn't run across home plate at Busch Stadium.

Pittsburgh shakes PNC Park with "Cueto" chant -- 2013 NL Wild Card Game
When the Pirates hosted the 2013 NL Wild Card Game against the Reds, it marked the first Pirates postseason game in 21 years. It was no surprise, then, that the fans were pumped up for the occasion.
In perhaps the purest display of home-field advantage, the sheer intensity and volume of the crowd's chants of "CUE-TO" caused the Reds' starter to drop the baseball.

When you listen to the crowd, it's no wonder Cueto got a little rattled.

Cueto lasted only 3 1/3 innings and gave up four runs to the Pirates. Thanks to PNC Park's home-fan-fueled advantage, the Pirates won, 6-2, marking the team's first postseason win since 1992.
Alcides Escobar hits an inside-the-park homer -- Game 1, 2015 World Series
Part of the advantage of playing at home is that the opposing team isn't as familiar with the dimensions of your ballpark. That advantage came into play on the very first pitch the Mets threw at Kauffman Stadium in the 2015 World Series.

It appeared that Cespedes anticipated the wall being a bit closer than it was, making him tentative in his pursuit. Escobar's heightened awareness of the home field gave him and the Royals an early lead on their way to the 2015 World Series title.

Which teams will benefit from playing at home in the 2017 postseason? Only time will tell.