The 13 walk-off HRs that clinched a postseason series

October 8th, 2022

There are few plays in baseball more dramatic than a walk-off home run. One of them is a walk-off home run to win a postseason series.

That occurred for the 13th time in MLB history in Game 2 of the 2022 American League Wild Card Series between the Rays and Guardians. Guardians rookie crushed a cutter from Rays right-hander deep to left-center field to lead off the bottom of the 15th, breaking a scoreless tie and ending a marathon game at Progressive Field.

Here’s a look at each rare roundtripper (winner-take-all games are marked with an asterisk).

Oscar Gonzalez, Guardians: 2022 AL Wild Card Series Game 2
After a 2-1 Cleveland win in Game 1 of the AL Wild Card Series, the Guardians and Rays remained scoreless into the 15th inning of Game 2, setting a record for the longest 0-0 game in postseason history. Gonzalez broke the tie in the bottom of the 15th, sending the Guardians to the ALDS with the second walk-off homer in franchise postseason history (Tony Pena in 1995).

Tampa Bay was close to taking the lead in the top of the 12th, putting runners on the corners with two outs, but José Ramírez made a fantastic backhand stop on Manuel Margot’s grounder down the third-base line and threw a one-hopper to first baseman Josh Naylor, who barely kept his foot on the bag while corralling Ramírez's throw for the inning-ending out, setting the stage for Gonzalez to play hero three innings later.

Gonzalez became the fourth rookie in postseason history to hit a walk-off homer, joining Kolten Wong (2014), Chris Burke (2005) and Alfonso Soriano (2001), and the second after Burke to hit a series-clinching walk-off.

* Chris Taylor, Dodgers: 2021 NL Wild Card Game
The Dodgers had won 106 regular-season games only to finish second in the NL West by one game behind the Giants, meaning they had to play in the winner-take-all Wild Card Game. And for the most of the night the Dodgers' offense was befuddled by Cardinals postseason ace Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis bullpen. Taylor took advantage of L.A.'s final turn at-bat, however, belting Alex Reyes' 2-1 slider with a 110.7 mph exit velocity -- matching the hardest-hit base hit of his career, per Statcast -- and sending it into the night to join Kirk Gibson, Justin Turner and Max Muncy on the very short list of Dodgers postseason walk-off homers. Taylor's clout sent the Dodgers on to their first postseason meeting against their biggest rival, the Giants.

José Altuve, Astros: 2019 ALCS Game 6
The Astros led 4-2 entering the ninth, but they found themselves in a tie game headed to the bottom of the inning after a DJ LeMahieu homer. Houston made two quick outs against Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman and it looked as if the game might be headed to extras, but then George Springer worked a five-pitch walk. Up next was Altuve, one of only two players in franchise history to win a regular-season MVP award. He sent the third pitch of the at-bat to left-center field, and with that, sent the Astros to the World Series. It was the 11th time in postseason history that a team clinched an LCS win and a trip to the World Series with a walk-off.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone watched the ball sail out of Minute Maid Park from the deflated visitors' dugout. He had a unique perspective on the moment, having been in Altuve’s shoes 16 years and three days earlier. Boone sent the Yankees to the World Series with a walk-off home run in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against the Red Sox. Boone is the only man to hit one as a player and lose on one as a manager.

* Edwin Encarnación, 2016 AL Wild Card Game
This was a low-scoring affair between AL East foes Toronto and Baltimore that was tied at 2 after the fifth inning and remained that way into the 11th at Rogers Centre. In the bottom of that frame, with lights-out Orioles closer Zack Britton still languishing in the bullpen, Ubaldo Jiménez gave up back-to-back one-out singles to Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson, putting runners at the corners. Encarnación then crushed a ball into the left-field seats, and the celebration began north of the border as Toronto headed toward its second straight berth in the ALCS.

Travis Ishikawa, Giants: 2014 NLCS Game 5
The Giants entered Game 5 up three games to one with a chance to clinch on their home field, with Madison Bumgarner on the mound. Bumgarner was good, but not infallible, pitching eight innings and allowing three runs. With San Francisco trailing St. Louis 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Pat Neshek allowed a game-tying solo homer to Mike Morse on the third pitch he threw. After a scoreless top of the ninth, Pablo Sandoval led off the bottom of the inning with a single off new pitcher Michael Wacha. Hunter Pence flew out, then Brandon Belt walked. Up to the plate stepped Travis Ishikawa -- whom the Giants drafted in 2002. He’d played for them in 2006, then in 2008-10 at the Major League level, before bouncing around to the Brewers, Orioles, Yankees, White Sox and Pirates via free agency and waivers. Pittsburgh released him in April 2014, and two days later he signed with San Francisco. Then, in the bottom of the ninth inning of a potential clincher, he sent the Giants to the World Series with one swing of the bat, knocking a walk-off three-run homer.

Magglio Ordóñez, Tigers: 2006 ALCS Game 4
Ordóñez sent the Tigers to their first World Series in 22 years when he launched a three-run walk-off homer off Athletics closer Huston Street in the bottom of the ninth inning to complete a sweep of Oakland. It was Ordóñez’s second home run of the game -- he also hit a solo shot off starter Dan Haren. In the end, Ordóñez had driven in four of Detroit’s six runs. Entering Game 4, Ordóñez was just 2-for-13 (.154) in the series with no extra-base hits.

Chris Burke, Astros: 2005 NLDS Game 4
Before Altuve’s home run in Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS, this was the only postseason series-clinching home run in Astros history. Burke’s line drive into the Crawford Boxes ended an 18-inning marathon against the Braves at Minute Maid Park. Burke had entered the game as a pinch-runner for Lance Berkman in the 10th and had walked and flied out to left prior to coming up in the 18th. The Astros were down to their final out in the ninth inning when Brad Ausmus launched a game-tying solo homer off Kyle Farnsworth to keep Houston alive another nine innings.

David Ortiz, Red Sox: 2004 ALDS Game 3
Little did he know it at the time, but this was the first of several walk-off hits Ortiz would deliver in the 2004 postseason for the Red Sox. The two-run homer came in the bottom of the 10th inning off Angels right-hander Jarrod Washburn, lifting Boston to an 8-6 victory and a sweep of Anaheim.

Of course, the rest is history -- the Red Sox fell into a 3-0 hole in the ALCS against the archrival Yankees, and trailing in the ninth inning of Game 4, came back to tie the game before Ortiz won it with a walk-off homer at 1:23 a.m. ET. The next night, Ortiz hit a walk-off single to center to stave off elimination again. Boston would go on to complete the greatest postseason comeback in baseball history, winning two more games at Yankee Stadium before sweeping the Cardinals for its first World Series championship in 86 years.

* Aaron Boone, Yankees: 2003 ALCS Game 7
The Yankees had traded for Boone from the Reds at the Trade Deadline in 2003. An All-Star for Cincinnati that year, he’d hit .273 with 18 homers in 106 games. In 54 regular-season games with the Yanks, the only Major League games he’d play for the Bronx Bombers in his career, he hit .254 with six homers. But that’s not what he’s remembered for in Yankees lore.

The Red Sox got out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning in Game 7, pushing it to 4-0 in the fourth. The Yankees narrowed the gap to 4-2 by the bottom of the seventh, but Ortiz hit a solo homer off David Wells to give Boston a three-run lead. Starter Pedro Martínez allowed three runs on a single and a double in the bottom of the eighth, and the game was tied. It headed to extras, and Tim Wakefield pitched a scoreless bottom of the 10th. But in the bottom of the next inning, Boone, who had entered the game as a pinch-runner for Ruben Sierra in the eighth, got his first plate appearance of the game. He sent Wakefield’s first pitch of the 11th out into the night, and the Yanks were headed to their fifth World Series in six years.

Todd Pratt, Mets: 1999 NLDS Game 4
The Mets had required an extra game to make the playoffs -- a Game 163 tiebreaker with the Reds for the National League Wild Card spot. But in the Division Series, they wouldn’t even require the maximum five games, clinching in four. After the D-backs took a 3-2 lead in the top of the eighth, the Mets came back and tied it on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning. Nobody scored in the ninth, and the game went to extras. With one out in the bottom of the 10th, Pratt, a backup catcher who had hit three regular-season homers that year, strode to the plate. He knocked a pitch from Matt Mantei over the wall at Shea Stadium, and suddenly the Mets were headed to the NLCS.

Joe Carter, Blue Jays: 1993 World Series Game 6
“Touch ’em all, Joe! You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life!”

That was Blue Jays announcer Tom Cheek’s call for Carter’s title-clinching homer off Phillies reliever Mitch Williams -- still an iconic moment north of the border. Toronto trailed Philadelphia, 6-5, in the bottom of the ninth and appeared to be heading toward a winner-take-all Game 7 before Carter joined Bill Mazeroski as the second player to end a World Series with a dinger.

* Chris Chambliss, Yankees: 1976 ALCS Game 5
The pinstripes hadn’t won a pennant in 12 years -- an eternity in the Bronx -- but Chambliss put that “drought” to rest with a dinger off Royals pitcher Mark Littell’s first pitch to begin the bottom of the ninth. It was a walk-off in a winner-take-all game against the Yankees’ bitter rival at the time, and it sent a sea of Yanks fans streaming onto the field. Chambliss wasn’t even able to make it through the crowd to home plate; he came back later to touch the spot where it would have been, as the plate was already removed from the Yankee Stadium diamond.

* Bill Mazeroski, Pirates: 1960 World Series Game 7
The Yankees outscored the Pirates in this Series, 55-27. New York’s three wins came by blowout scores of 16-3, 10-0 and 12-0. The World Series MVP went to Yanks second baseman Bobby Richardson. But Pittsburgh scratched and clawed its way to a 9-9 tie in the winner-take-all Game 7, when the defensive specialist Mazeroski stepped to the plate against Ralph Terry to lead off the bottom of the ninth.

Mazeroski had homered just 11 times over the regular season, and 138 times over his 17-year career, but he drove Terry’s 1-0 pitch over the left-field wall at Forbes Field (over the craning head of Yogi Berra) to deliver an improbable championship for the Pirates over the mighty Yankees. Maz’s homer was the first to end a World Series, and it would be 33 years before anyone else joined him on that list.