The phrase “Game 7” always resonates in baseball _ but now, the postseason offers all sorts of winner-take-all scenarios.
This year, two best-of-five division series have gone the distance. St. Louis hosted Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, and Oakland takes on Detroit on Thursday.
In those cases, Game 5 isn’t much different from Game 7. The winner advances and the loser waits for next year.
The best-of-five format has actually been around for a while. It was used for league championship series from 1969-84 and again for division series since the first postseason with wild cards in 1995. There were also four best-of-five division series in 1981, when the postseason format was altered because of a strike.
Here’s a look back at some of baseball’s most memorable Game 5s from these best-of-five matchups:
LOST CLASSICS?: We’ll get to some more famous moments shortly. First, a few Game 5s that are often forgotten.
The first winner-take-all Game 5 took place in the 1972 NL championship series between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Johnny Bench led off the bottom of the ninth with a tying homer, and the Reds scored again later that inning to win 4-3. The pennant-winning run came home on a wild pitch by Bob Moose.
Philadelphia played at Houston in Game 5 of the 1980 NLCS and prevailed 8-7 in 10 innings. The following season, Rick Monday sent the Los Angeles Dodgers to the World Series with a tiebreaking home run in the top of the ninth at Montreal.
Arizona won its NL division series against St. Louis in 2001 when Tony Womack hit a tiebreaking single in the bottom of the ninth. Ten years later, the Diamondbacks were on the other end of a finish like that. In Game 5 of the NL division series against Milwaukee, they tied it in the top of the ninth, only to lose 3-2 on Nyjer Morgan’s RBI single in the 10th.
YANKEES-ROYALS: Chris Chambliss won the 1976 American League pennant for New York with a ninth-inning solo homer in Game 5, which gave the Yankees a 7-6 win and touched off a wild celebration at Yankee Stadium as fans poured onto the field.
The Royals blew a chance at revenge the following year in Kansas City. New York scored three runs in the ninth to win 5-3, wrapping up another ALCS that went the distance.
POCKET ACES: The Red Sox had scored a combined 32 runs in Games 3 and 4 to even their 1999 ALDS with Cleveland, and the finale began as another slugfest _ it was tied at 8 in the fourth inning. Then Pedro Martinez _ who had been limited by a strained back muscle _ came in from the bullpen and held the Indians hitless for the final six innings of Boston’s 12-8 win.
There have been a few more pitching gems in Game 5s since then. In 2010, Cliff Lee of Texas struck out 11 in a complete game that eliminated Tampa Bay. The following year, Chris Carpenter outdueled Roy Halladay when St. Louis beat Philadelphia 1-0.
In 2012, Detroit’s Justin Verlander pitched one of the finest games of his career, fanning 11 while shutting out Oakland 6-0. Verlander will be on the mound for a rematch with the A’s on Thursday.
COMEBACK CARDS: St. Louis looked finished in its 2012 division series when Washington led 6-0 in the third inning of Game 5. In the top of the ninth, the Cardinals still trailed by two with one on and two outs.