Game 6 in a League Championship Series always means the stage is set for a thriller. One team being so close to a pennant and a trip to the World Series, the other battling to stave off elimination and force a winner-take-all Game 7, is a recipe for must-see October
Game 6 in a League Championship Series always means the stage is set for a thriller. One team being so close to a pennant and a trip to the World Series, the other battling to stave off elimination and force a winner-take-all Game 7, is a recipe for must-see October baseball.
Even though the LCS has only been played in a best-of-seven format since 1985, there have been plenty of classics in Game 6. Here are 12 that won't be forgotten, beginning with the most recent.
2020 ALCS: Astros vs. Rays
The Astros found themselves in a 3-0 ALCS hole and on the verge of being eliminated by the Rays. But not only did Houston keep its season alive with a 4-3 win in Game 4, it won another 4-3 contest in Game 5 on a Carlos Correa walk-off home run before making history in Game 6. Houston defeated Tampa Bay, 7-4, to become the second team in MLB history to force a Game 7 after trailing a postseason series 3-0 (also the 2004 Red Sox).
George Springer delivered a two-run single to center field, Jose Altuve lined an RBI double to left, and Correa added an RBI single in a four-run Astros fifth, which proved to be the difference.
2019 ALCS: Astros 6, Yankees 4
This series was a rematch of a thrilling 2017 American League Championship Series (won by the Astros in Game 7), as well as a clash between two talented clubs that combined for 210 regular-season victories. After the Yankees won Game 5 at home to extend the series, it shifted back to Houston for Game 6, which was a bullpen game for both sides. The Astros took a 3-0 lead in the first inning and held an advantage until the top of the ninth, when DJ LeMahieu lifted a game-tying two-run shot just over the right-field wall. That set the stage for José Altuve. George Springer’s two-out walk off Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman gave the second baseman a shot, and he took advantage by pounding a hanging slider for a two-run shot that unleashed a celebration and clinched series MVP honors.
2016 NLCS: Cubs 5, Dodgers 0
Entering the 2016 postseason, not only had the Cubs not won a World Series in 108 years, they hadn't even been to the World Series in 71 years. To clinch their first National League pennant since 1945, they had to go through Clayton Kershaw. And they did in the series-clinching Game 6 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field. Kristopher Bryant opened the scoring with a single off Kershaw just two batters into the first, and Anthony Rizzo capped Chicago's five-run effort against the Dodgers' ace with a home run to right-center field in the fifth. All the while, Kyle Hendricks was masterful, pitching 7 1/3 brilliant innings of two-hit baseball before Chapman closed out the series.
2015 ALCS: Royals 4, Blue Jays 3
En route to their first World Series title since 1985, the Royals prevailed in a hard-fought ALCS Game 6 clincher to take the pennant against the Blue Jays. Jose Bautista's big game kept Toronto in it -- he homered twice, including a game-tying shot in the eighth. But Kansas City struck back in the bottom of the eighth, with Eric Hosmer lining the go-ahead single off Roberto Osuna. Wade Davis then escaped a major ninth-inning jam -- the Blue Jays had the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on first with no outs -- getting back-to-back strikeouts of Dioner Navarro and Ben Revere and a series-ending groundout from American League MVP Award winner Josh Donaldson.
2004 ALCS: Red Sox 4, Yankees 2
The Bloody Sock Game. The image of the blood seeping through Curt Schilling's sock as he stood on the mound is one of the most memorable in MLB postseason history. With the Red Sox facing elimination -- and pitching through a bad ankle injury -- Schilling delivered one of the gutsiest performances in recent history. He threw seven dominant innings to beat the Yankees, allowing just one run. Boston forced a Game 7, where they completed their historic comeback after being down 3-0 to their rivals, then they swept the Cardinals in the World Series to shatter the Curse of the Bambino.
2004 NLCS: Cardinals 6, Astros 4 (12 innings)
The enduring image from this thriller: Jim Edmonds standing in the batter's box, triumphantly pumping both fists, after launching a walk-off home run to deep right-center field in the 12th inning at Busch Stadium to force a Game 7 against the Astros. Edmonds raised his arms in the air as he rounded the bases before leaping into the dogpile of his Cardinals teammates waiting for him at home plate. Edmonds' homer was the second straight walk-off in the series after Jeff Kent's three-run shot for Houston won Game 5. St. Louis would ride the momentum of Edmonds' blast and take the series in Game 7.
2003 NLCS: Marlins 8, Cubs 3
Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS -- the Bartman game -- tormented Cubs fans until the team finally shattered its century-plus-long World Series championship drought in '16. Steve Bartman reaching out for Luis Castillo's eighth-inning foul ball down the left-field line at Wrigley Field and stopping Moises Alou from catching it is, of course, the most infamous moment from the game. But it only became so because of the incredible Marlins comeback that ensued. Mark Prior took a shutout into the eighth, putting Chicago just six outs from the Fall Classic, but Florida erupted for eight runs in the inning -- all after the incident -- off Prior and the Cubs' bullpen. They won the series the next day and the World Series after that.
1999 NLCS: Braves 10, Mets 9 (11 innings)
The Mets needed a tiebreaking Game 163 just to get into the postseason, but they got their chance to supplant the NL East champion Braves in that year's NLCS. But things didn't start strong, as New York fell into a 3-0 hole before bouncing back to win Games 4 and 5. Game 6 was as back and forth as either club had seen all season. With a home crowd behind them, the Braves took a 5-0 lead in the first only to watch the Mets roar back and tie it, 7-7, in the seventh. The teams each added runs in the eighth and 10th innings before Andruw Jones drew a bases-loaded walk from Kenny Rogers in the 11th to secure the NL pennant for Atlanta.
1997 ALCS: Indians 1, Orioles 0 (11 innings)
The end result of a brilliant pitchers' duel at Camden Yards in Game 6 of the 1997 ALCS was the Indians clinching a World Series berth at the expense of the Orioles. Charles Nagy was spotless for the Tribe over 7 1/3 innings -- but Mike Mussina was even more masterful for the O's, allowing just one hit in eight shutout innings while striking out 10. But in the 11th inning of a scoreless game, Tony Fernandez finally came up with the big hit for the Indians -- a two-out homer to right field off Armando Benitez. Jose Mesa sealed the series in the bottom of the 11th by striking out Roberto Alomar with the tying run aboard.
1991 NLCS: Braves 1, Pirates 0
Steve Avery and Doug Drabek dueled in one of the best pitching matchups in postseason history on a crisp night in front of 54,508 at Three Rivers Stadium. Going punch for punch, the game remained scoreless until the ninth, when Greg Olson lined a two-out double to left that scored Ron Gant. It proved to be all Atlanta needed to force Game 7, which the Braves won as well to become the first team in NL history to go from last place one year to the World Series the next. Avery finished the night with eight strikeouts to cap a 16 1/3-inning scoreless series, for which he won the NLCS MVP Award
1986 NLCS: Mets 7, Astros 6 (16 innings)
The Mets' NLCS clincher at the Astrodome set the stage for one of the most memorable Fall Classics of all time against the Red Sox. But for a while, it looked like the Astros would force a Game 7. Houston carried a 3-0 lead into the ninth inning, but New York rallied to tie the score. The extra innings were thrilling. Wally Backman knocked a go-ahead single for the Mets in the top of the 14th, only for the Astros to tie the game in the bottom of the 14th on Billy Hatcher's homer off Jesse Orosco. The Mets scored three more times in the top of the 16th; the Astros rallied for two in the bottom of the 16th, and had the tying run in scoring position with two outs. But Orosco struck out Kevin Bass to end the game -- joyously launching his glove into the air in celebration. It was one of the many memorable moments from the '86 Mets' amazing postseason.
1985 NLCS: Cardinals 7, Dodgers 5
The first Game 6 in NLCS history -- this was the first year of the best-of-seven format -- was one of the best. The Cardinals held a 3-2 series lead over the Dodgers, but Los Angeles held a 5-4 lead in Game 6 with two outs in the ninth inning. With St. Louis down to its last out and the Dodgers on the verge of forcing a winner-take-all Game 7, Jack Clark crushed a go-ahead three-run homer to deep left field off Tom Niedenfuer. The Cards advanced to the World Series.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.
Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.