Even for the most diehard MLB fans, it’s easy to lose track of games or forget them entirely over the course of a 162-game regular season. But when it comes to the greatest MLB postseason games ever played, everybody has the memory of an elephant. Whether it’s because one player delivered one of the best playoff performances ever or one part of the game stands out as one of the top playoff moments, fans can always remember the best MLB playoff games of all time.
Of course, with well over 100 years of history, it’s not always easy to distinguish the greatest MLB postseason games from the ones that were just above-average or involved your favorite team.
There’s a lot that goes into picking the top playoff moments and the best MLB playoff games of all time. Keep in mind, it’s not just the best moments or the best playoff performances, it’s the game as a whole.
Best MLB Playoff games
Nevertheless, we were excited to do the leg work on this quandary. We wanted to pick out the games that didn’t just have an exciting ending or one memorable moment but rather the games that were compelling from start to finish.
With that in mind, here is our list of the great MLB postseason games ever played.
10. 1995 ALDS, Game 5
It takes a lot for a game in the Division Series to draw a lot of attention and be remembered as one of the greatest MLB postseason games ever played. But this decisive Game 5 had it all, including the Mariners playing their first-ever playoff series against the Yankees of all teams.
There was no way Seattle would topple the mighty Yankees, especially when the Yanks took a 5-4 lead in the top of the 11th. But the Mariners rallied in the bottom of the inning with Edgar Martinez hitting a two-run double and Ken Griffey Jr. sliding home with the winning run.
9. 2016 World Series, Game 7
For Cubs fans, this was the day that the dream finally came true, although it didn’t come easy.
The teams kept exchanging runs all night until the Cubs took a 6-3 lead. But Cleveland scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, including a two-run homer from Rajai Davis. Just when the game was about to go to extra innings, there was a rain delay, which had never happened in a Game 7 before and just added to the drama and anxiety.
The Cubs would score two runs in the 11th and give one back in the bottom of the inning before holding on for the win and a championship more than a century in the making.
8. 1993 World Series, Game 6
This game is also best remembered for its ending, although the lead-up to the finale was something special too.
The Phillies won Game 5 to stay alive but then immediately fell behind 3-0 in the first inning of another must-win game. However, a five-run seventh inning from the Phils changed everything, giving them a 6-5 lead, allowing Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams to close it out in the ninth.
However, Williams allowed a walk and a single, enabling Joe Carter to step up to the plate and smash a ball that just barely got over the wall for a three-run home run to end the World Series and give the Blue Jays their second straight title. It was just the second time in postseason history the World Series ended on a home run.
7. 2003 ALDS, Game 7
Any Game 7 between the Yankees and Red Sox is bound to be one of the greatest MLB postseason games ever played.
The whole series was a back-and-forth battle and so was Game 7. The Red Sox struck early with three runs in the second inning whereas the Yankees got their runs late, scoring three in the eighth to force extra innings. Eventually, it was Aaron Boone taking a Tim Wakefield knuckleball deep in the bottom of the 11th to send the Yankees to the World Series.
6. 2014 American League Wild Card
There’s no doubt that this game put the “wild” in Wild Card Game. The A’s thought they had the game won when they scored five runs in the sixth inning to go up 7-3.
But the Royals got three runs in the eighth and scratched out another run in the ninth to tie the game. After a pair of tense but scoreless innings, Oakland re-took the lead in the 12th, only for the Royals to rally again with their backs against the wall for the 9-8 win. At 12 innings, it was the longest elimination game of all time and helped propel Kansas City all of the way to the World Series.
5. 1975 World Series, Game 6
This game is best known for Carlton Fisk’s epic home run to win the game in the bottom of the 12th. But this game had so much more than that.
Facing elimination, Boston scored three runs in the first inning to take the early lead. But the Reds scored three runs of their own in the fifth and ultimately took a 6-3 lead, only for the Red Sox to score three runs again in the eighth to force extra innings. Fenway Park was filled with nervous energy throughout extra innings until Fisk lifted one over the Green Monster to force a Game 7.
4. 1978 One-Game Playoff to decide AL East
Knowing the rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox, one can just imagine the environment in a one-game playoff to decide the AL East winner.
That’s exactly what we got in 1978 when both teams won 99 games, forcing an extra game with the loser knowing there was no Wild Card to fall back on. Mike Torrez kept the Yankees scoreless for six innings, allowing the Red Sox to take a 2-0 lead.
However, things fell apart in the seventh inning when the Yankees scored four runs, highlighted by a home run from Bucky Dent that gave the Yankees the lead. The Red Sox responded with two runs in the eighth to make it a 5-4 deficit and then got two runners on base in the bottom of the ninth. But Goose Gossage coaxed the final out from Carl Yastrzemski to end the game and allow the Yankees to win another World Series.
3. 2011 World Series, Game 6
This game was a marathon and an instant classic that will likely hold up for decades to come.
The third inning is the only inning that both teams failed to score at least one run, so this thing went back and forth all night. The Rangers thought they had it won after a three-run seventh inning put them up 7-4. But the Cardinals came back with a David Freese triple in the ninth inning tying the game.
Adding to the drama, both teams scored two runs in the 10th inning, sending the stalemate to the 11th inning. Once again, it was Freese playing hero, hitting a walk-off home run to send the series to Game 7, which St. Louis also won at home.
2. 1986 NLCS, Game 6
This game might be the only time in baseball history that both teams considered Game 6 an elimination game.
The Mets led the series 3-2 but had no confidence in beating Mike Scott, who was lined up to pitch Game 7 for the Astros, so they knew they had to win Game 6 in Houston.
Of course, things started poorly with the Astros scoring three runs in the first inning. The Mets were held scoreless until scoring three runs in the top of the ninth to pitch extra innings.
The game would end up lasting 16 innings with both teams facing the stress of an elimination game. Until the 16th inning, the only scoring came in the 14th when both teams scored one run. The Mets eventually scored three runs in the 16th and barely hung on with the Astros scoring two runs in the 16th before Kevin Bass struck out to end the game and send the Mets to the World Series.
1. 1986 World Series, Game 6
The only game that could top the Mets’ 16-inning affair in the NLCS was their miraculous win while facing elimination in Game 6 of the World Series against the Red Sox.
Most of us know the story, but let’s refresh.
The Red Sox scored two runs in the top of the 10th inning to take a 5-3 lead.
The Mets quickly got two outs, putting Boston one out away from a championship. But rookie Kevin Mitchell got a single to keep the game alive.
Two hits later, Mookie Wilson stepped up to the plate with the tying run on third base. A Bob Stanley wild pitch that Wilson barely avoided allowed the tying run to score. After a marathon of foul balls, Wilson hit a slow ground ball to first base that somehow got past the glove of Bill Buckner and squirted into the outfield, enabling Ray Knight to score the winning run.
Unfortunately for Buckner, the play would define an otherwise solid career while also continuing Boston’s alleged curse, as the Mets would go on to win Game 7 and claim their second world championship.