Five craziest, most magical games of 2018

September 6th, 2018

When you win a game like the Red Sox won vs. the Braves on Wednesday afternoon, you might see it as something bigger. Can you have a magical season without a little real magic along the way? Besides, you just might draw upon this game again and again down the stretch.

If you're down in the eighth inning -- even if you're down by six runs, as Boston was Wednesday -- you remind one another that anything can happen, because anything has happened.

In the toughest times, Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa would remind his guys to stick to basics. Grind out the at-bats. Make good pitches. When there's a play to be made, make it. Don't overthink it. Which is what the Red Sox did Wednesday.

To rally from a 7-1 deficit in the eighth inning is one thing. Boston did that. To come back again, rallying from an 8-7 deficit in the ninth, makes it even more special.

No matter how this season plays out for the Red Sox, every single player will remember how they felt when they watched that two-run home run by sail out of the park in the top of the ninth inning for a 9-8 lead.

Brandon Phillips? Seriously? He was playing his first game for his new team. He arrived not knowing what he'd have in terms of role or playing time. He's 37 years old and has played 1,894 games. He's a three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove Award winner.

At his best, he did breathtaking things on the diamond, made plays normal players couldn't make. He's still playing because he loves it, because he knows that nothing he ever does the rest of his life may not be as much fun as this. Also, joining a team on a pace to go 112-50 is pretty good, too.

Oddly enough, on May 20, Atlanta had a game almost exactly like the one it played against Boston on Wednesday. Only the Braves were the team coming back, the team kicking the door open just a bit, one at-bat at a time.

Atlanta scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth inning that day to rally past Miami, 10-9. The Braves were on top of the world that day. Maybe that experience will help Atlanta get up, dust off and move on from what happened Wednesday.

The Braves could have looked across the field on Wednesday and seen what their dugout looked like on May 20. It was a bunch of players, coaches and trainers on the top step of the dugout screaming and encouraging and treating the whole thing like Game 7 of the World Series.

Isn't that why we love it? Isn't that why we watch? Because you might just see something you've never seen before, something that's so improbable, so unexpected that it takes on a feel of a test of will and resilience.

This season has already delivered so many of these moments, so many days when we've been reminded that the sport without a clock lends itself to these crazy games.

Here are our top five.

1. Indians 10, Astros 9, 14 innings

May 27, Progressive Field

The Astros took an 8-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. Which is when it got interesting. The Indians scored five times in the ninth to tie it. Houston scored a run in the top of the 13th. Cleveland scored one in the bottom. Finally, in the bottom of the 14th inning, at the end of a four-hour, 53-minute game that had 15 pitchers and 451 pitches and 25 hits, 's homer ended it.

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"This is one of those games you hope gives your team some personality," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We found a way to win, and those are the types of wins that I think really propel your team down the road."

2. Cubs 4, Nationals 3

Aug. 12, Wrigley Field

This is why you don't leave early. You stay because you never know. The Nationals had a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Cubs had the bases loaded. Two outs.

That's when rookie infielder , an 18th-round Draft pick with 33 Major League games under his belt stepped to home plate. To quote Jack Buck, "Go crazy!"

Bote's grand slam ignited a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field and on the side streets and bars and restaurants throughout Wrigleyville.

"It's the thing that when you're a kid in the backyard and you're visualizing trying to win games," Cubs starter Cole Hamels said. "It's always bases loaded, you're down by three and trying to hit the grand slam."

3. Red Sox 9, Braves 8

Sept. 5, SunTrust Park

Phillips was in the starting lineup because Red Sox manager Alex Cora wanted to give some of his regulars a blow. So when he stepped to the plate in the top of the ninth with two outs and a runner on base, he did something he'll remember forever.

Phillips jumped on a first-pitch 95 mph fastball from Braves reliever and pummeled it. This was the big hit that finished the big comeback.

Until then, Boston had been smart, resourceful and patient. In scoring six runs in the eighth, the Red Sox did it with six singles and a double. In other words, they stayed calm. They kept fighting.

That's one of the defining signs of a great team. Do not try to hit a seven-run home run. Do not get careless. Cubs manager Joe Maddon has won a lot of baseball games with a really simple formula: Don't give a team extra outs, play hard, play defense.

4. Brewers 13, Reds 12 (10 innings)

Aug. 29, Great American Ball Park

You show up at the ballpark. You do not expect this. You go home having watched 36 hits, including 22 by the Brewers. You see collect six hits, including a cycle. You see Mike Moustakas get four for Milwaukee, four for Cincinnati. You see the Brewers come back from deficits of 3-2, 7-5 and 10-6. You see them blow a lead in the bottom of the eighth and almost let another slip away in the 10th. You hang in there for four hours, 16 minutes and tack on another 27-minute rain delay. You may have rooted for the Reds, but you leave knowing you've seen something you'll remember.

"It was one of those games where you just never knew what was going to happen," Yelich said. "It felt like no lead was safe. Hopefully, that's one of those wins during a season that you can look back on and go, 'Hey, that's where it all started.' Maybe it gets us on a roll."

5. Cardinals 7, Nationals 6

Aug. 13, Busch Stadium

The Cardinals trailed 4-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning when a little rally grew one at-bat at a time. led off the inning with a home run to make it 4-3. Then came two singles. Then it happened -- a three-run home run by Matt Carpenter and a 6-4 lead. Only St. Louis couldn't close it out, allowing two runs in the top of the ninth. And then ended it by hitting the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the ninth.

"We're a pretty tough group of SOBs," Cards pitcher said. "Things are good right now."