Did that just happen?! Relive Friday's 7 wildest postseason moments

October 22nd, 2023

This postseason has not (yet) had an extra-innings game. It has not (yet) had a winner-take-all game. All the Wild Card Series were sweeps, two of the Division Series were sweeps, and each of the League Championship Series began with a team going up 2-0.

It couldn’t go on like this. Baseball doesn’t work that way.

Sure enough, the LCS round came alive the past few nights, as the Astros and D-backs pulled themselves off the mat. And on Friday, we had not only the best single day of this postseason but one of the best single days of any postseason. The Astros came back to beat the Rangers thanks to Jose Altuve’s three-run homer in the ninth. The D-backs came back to beat the Phillies thanks to a three-run, eighth-inning rally against Craig Kimbrel.

How many times in previous postseason history had multiple teams won when trailing by multiple runs in the eighth inning or later?


So thanks to this frantic Friday, the 2023 postseason has officially hit its stride. Let’s rank the top seven moments (that’s our little way of sending a message to the baseball gods that we want both of these series to go seven games) from an epic October night.

1. Splashdown in Phoenix
Kimbrel might appear combustible in the present tense, but it’s nonetheless worth noting that, entering Game 4 of the NLCS, he had never blown a save in the postseason (he was 10-for-10) and had never surrendered a game-tying or go-ahead homer in the postseason.


On a night in which the D-backs taped “SNAKES ALIVE” signs on a bunch of seats in Chase Field to follow the lead of a Game 3 attendee whose homemade, low-budget, 8 1/2 x 11” beauty had made the rounds on social media (pretty sure the D-backs’ office printers are low on toner right about now), the Snakes really did come alive against Kimbrel. They entered the eighth trailing, 5-3, but Lourdes Gurriel Jr. ripped a double (much to the dismay of this Philly fan) and Evan Longoria made a long out to left to bring up Alek Thomas.

Thomas was Arizona’s hyped prospect who arrived prior to Corbin Carroll and who has not enjoyed the instant success that Carroll has. But he’s a Gold Glove finalist for his work in center field, and he had some clutch hits in the second half this season to help the D-backs shake off a calamitous midseason slump. And on this night, he had their hugest hit of the year, to date, connecting with Kimbrel’s 3-2 fastball to launch a game-tying home run that sent Chase Field into a tizzy.

What puts this one right at the top of this list is that Thomas somehow sent this swat directly into the ballpark’s famed swimming pool, forcing fans to plunge in pursuit of that special souvenir.

How can you not be romantic, er, aquatic about baseball?

2. Altuve, of course
One thing you have to love about this sport is that a guy who is listed at 5-foot-6, 166 pounds is among the all-time prominent postseason powerhouses. Jose Altuve ranks second in career postseason home runs, and his flair for the dramatic is unmatched.

In Game 5 of the ALCS, Altuve’s Astros trailed, 4-2, when acting manager Joe Espada (and we’ll get to that in just a sec) inserted Yainer Diaz as a pinch-hitter for the struggling Jeremy Peña against electric Rangers closer José Leclerc. Diaz responded with a leadoff single.

Then Espada sent Jon Singleton to the plate as a pinch-hitter for Maldonado. Singleton is quite the story, a former top Astros prospect who struggled in his first big league exposure, was slapped with multiple suspensions for marijuana use and flamed out of organized baseball. He worked himself back to the big leagues with the Brewers earlier this year, then wound up back with Houston on a Minor League deal. So what a moment for him to draw the walk that put two aboard for Altuve.

Well, you know what happened next. Altuve didn’t just hit the 26th homer of his postseason career, putting him only three shy of Manny Ramirez’s record. He hit his third go-ahead home run in the ninth inning or later in the postseason. NOBODY else has done that.

3. El Bombi’s bat spike
Entering the sixth inning of Game 5, the Rangers and Astros had played 41 innings of this ALCS without the home team taking a lead. That was unprecedented.

Also, it was unlikely to last.

Sure enough, after a one-out double from Corey Seager and single from Evan Carter, the man they call “El Bombi” arrived to end that oddity in emphatic fashion. Adolis García is a human home run machine, and he had never hit a bigger one than his first-pitch, 108 mph fly ball that lifted, lifted, lifted and landed in the first row of the seats beyond the left-center-field wall to give the Rangers the 4-2 lead.

García watched it fly as he slowly sauntered toward first, then he spiked his bat in celebration as the Globe Life Field crowd went bananas. It was quite a contrast for a Rangers franchise that, of course, was on the wrong end of Blue Jays slugger José Bautista’s epic bat flip in the decisive Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS. The Rangers were famously salty about that celebration, and Rougned Odor punched Bautista in the face during a brawl the following season.

This time, coarse retribution came a lot quicker…

4. The benches-clearing incident
The Lone Star Series had been an underrated rivalry prior to these two clubs running into each other in the ALCS. They’ve had their share of dust-ups in recent years since the Astros joined the AL, including a benches-clearing incident back in July. This year’s battle for the West, which came down to the season’s final day, only added fuel to the fire.

But never had the rivalry boiled over quite like it did in the bottom of the eighth. Astros reliever Bryan Abreu walked Evan Carter, then plunked García -- who you might remember had HIT A GAME-CHANGING HOMER AND SPIKED HIS BAT TWO INNINGS EARLIER -- in the left arm with a first-pitch, 98.9 mph fastball.

Putting a runner on base on purpose when you're already trailing by two runs would be colossally dumb, of course, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that wasn’t the case. We didn’t have access to a postgame lie detector test.

All we know for sure is what transpired after the fact. García turned directly toward Astros catcher Martín Maldonado, indicating that he felt it was the backstop who ordered the plunking. And then all heck broke loose. Both benches and bullpens cleared, García went after Maldonado, García and Abreu were ejected, Astros skipper Dusty Baker (who now had to bring in closer Ryan Pressley earlier than intended) was ejected for arguing about Abreu’s ejection … it was a Texas-sized mess, basically, and it raised the temperature of this tight tilt all the more.

5. Moreno’s moment
The D-backs and Blue Jays made one of the most interesting trades of the offseason when Toronto sent young catcher Gabriel Moreno and Gurriel to Arizona for outfielder Daulton Varsho. The results have been lopsided in the D-backs’ favor. Not only was Gurriel an All-Star this year, but Moreno is emerging as an absolute stud behind the plate.

Moreno was involved in a shaky sequence in the sixth inning of Game 4. The Phillies had the bases loaded when Alec Bohm hit a grounder up the third-base line. Emmanuel Rivera fielded it and threw home, and Moreno couldn’t corral the ball on the bounce. It kicked away, allowing Kyle Schwarber and Trea Turner to score to give the Phillies a 4-2 lead. But that messy inning only set up the dramatics that would come later, and Moreno would deliver big-time at the plate.

After the Thomas home run, the D-backs kept coming against Kimbrel. Ketel Marte singled, and Carroll was hit by a pitch with two outs. Phillies manager Rob Thomson finally pulled the plug on Kimbrel and brought in José Alvarado, who had thrown 7 2/3 scoreless innings in this postseason. After working the count to 3-1, Moreno lined a single to center to score Marte with the go-ahead run and add another check mark to a trade that looks better by the day.

6. Abreu … again
José Abreu is such a respected presence and a reliable run-producer that the disastrous start to his Astros tenure (he had a miserable .237/.296/.350 slash at the end of August) was one of the most jarring storylines of 2023. Had the 36-year-old slugger lost it all overnight, left with an inept ending to an otherwise splendid career in MLB and Cuba?

Uh, evidently not. Abreu heated up in September, and he’s been a vintage version of himself in this postseason. He came to the plate with runners on the corners in the top of the sixth inning of Game 5 and somehow reached down to connect with Montgomery’s low-and-outside curveball to hit a 96.7 mph cue shot that completely ate up Seager to make it 2-1, ‘Stros.

It was the 12th RBI of the postseason and the 40th RBI since the start of September for Abreu. He’s back, folks!

7. Nail-biting ninths
Neither the Phillies nor the Rangers, trailing by a run apiece, went down without a fight in their final at-bats.

Kyle Schwarber, whose postseason presence was terrifying enough to lead D-backs manager Torey Lovullo to yank Game 3 starter Brandon Pfaadt in the midst of a two-hit shutout bid, ripped a two-out double off Arizona closer Paul Sewald to give the Fightin’ Phils a fightin’ chance. But Sewald got Trea Turner swinging on a 2-2 fastball to even up a series that few of us thought the D-backs had any chance of evening just a few days ago.

In the ALCS game, the bottom of the ninth was partially decided by the top of the ninth. The Rangers put two aboard when Mitch Garver and Jonah Heim both singled off Pressly to open the bottom of the inning. But remember those pinch-hit decisions that had paid off for the Astros earlier? The pinch-hitter Singleton had been replaced on the bases after his walk by rookie Grae Kessinger, who then replaced Peña as shortstop for the bottom of the inning.

That substitution was meaningful. Because when Marcus Semien lined what could have been a game-tying RBI single to the left-hand side of the field, Kessinger made a leaping grab to snare it. Kessinger is listed at 6-foot-1; Peña is listed at 6-feet even. Baseball is a game of inches, and that extra inch just may have made all the difference for the Astros in that moment.

So … whaddaya say we do this two more times in each LCS?