Relive Burke's epic walk-off in '05 NLDS thriller

May 10th, 2020

HOUSTON -- Trailing by five runs in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the 2005 National League Division Series at Minute Maid Park, the Astros appeared destined to be heading to a winner-take-all Game 5 in Atlanta. The last thing anyone in Houston wanted was to head to Turner Field with the season on the line.

gave the Astros hope when he hit an eighth-inning grand slam off Kyle Farnsworth, and catcher came up with the biggest hit of his career with an improbable two-out solo homer in the ninth inning, also off Farnsworth, to tie the game at 6. That set the stage for a long afternoon of baseball.

The Astros wound up winning, 7-6, in 18 innings on a walk-off homer in one of the longest playoff games in history.

“I felt we got off to a slow start,” Burke said. “The Braves came out with more edge, obviously. The big blow was Lance hitting the grand slam to get us within striking distance, and then Ausmus comes up with the biggest swing of his life, certainly the most timely. From there, it was a war of attrition.”

Berkman was worried his grand slam would actually kill the momentum considering it cleared the bases and would allow Farnsworth to regroup.

“They still have a lead, and sort of the worst thing that can happen has happened and you survived it,” he said. “It gives the other team a mental edge. Sure enough, we get out of that inning and then we come to the ninth down a run, and that’s when Brad hit the homer.”

The game remained tied at 6 for the next eight innings as pitching ruled the day. dramatically came out of the bullpen and threw three scoreless innings in relief for Houston. The Rocket was Houston’s eighth pitcher, as , , , , and combined to allow one run in 10 2/3 innings in relief of starter .

The Astros, meanwhile, got shut down for eight innings by Chris Reitsma, John Thomson, Jim Brower and Joey Devine, a rookie who threw a scoreless 17th inning. Devine struck out Clemens to start the 18th before facing Burke, who entered the game as a pinch-runner for Berkman in the 10th inning. Burke thought about bunting the first pitch of the at-bat to test Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, who had been “playing third base for six hours.”

But Devine missed with a ball. The next pitch was inside and Burke, who likes to pull the ball, was hoping to get another inside pitch so he could turn on it. That’s exactly what happened. Devine threw a 2-0 pitch that Burke lined over the left-field wall for a game-winning, walk-off homer to clinch the series.

“Because I was looking at that spot, I was able to get the barrel in there -- and from a hitter’s standpoint, that’s one of those rare moments when you’re looking to drive a ball,” Burke said. “I put the right swing on it and got it up and over the wall. From there, it was all fun and games.”

Burke was mobbed at home plate as the Astros celebrated a return trip to the NL Championship Series. They went on to beat the Cardinals in six games in the NLCS before getting swept by the White Sox in the World Series.

The ball Burke hit into the Crawford Boxes was sent to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, along with his jersey. He kept the bat and the batting gloves and has a signed picture hanging in his office of Clemens giving him a piggyback ride during the celebration.

“Your team is jumping up and down, and it was a pretty big deal,” Burke said. “From there it was a lot of hugs and screaming and hooting and hollering.”