Every MLB fan loves the Fall because of one obvious reason – the MLB playoffs. This is when every game matters. Nobody knows what will happen and there is always tension. There’s nothing like a thrilling MLB playoff series in terms of drama.
It’s also one of the few things that Rob Manfred can’t ruin, even if he tries. Today we’re going to look at 30 of the best MLB playoff performances ever. Some of these athletes produced moments of magic in a single game. Others were consistently excellent across a series or even the whole postseason. Check out the list below via Yardbarker below.
30. Cliff Lee – 2009
The Phillies went all-out in their bid to win the World Series. They traded four players with the Indians to bring Lee to the City of Brotherly Love. He swiftly repaid them for their faith as they had a glorious season. Without Lee, they wouldn’t have come close to their success.
Lee was exceptional in Game One of the MLB World Series against the Yankees. They were dominant and he struck out 10 players, allowing a single unearned run. He remained brilliant for the next three games before the Yankees finally got to grips with his game. But by that stage, it was too late. The Phillies won MLB gold.
Wetteland was exceptional as the Yankees embarked on a dynasty run. They played the Atlanta Braves in a World Series that went six games. The team relied on Wetteland to produce the goods and he did with a series of emphatic performances across the series. He went on to win the MVP award for his contribution.
He converted all seven of his save opportunities throughout the playoffs, including four in the World Series. An elbow injury slowed down his fastball and the Yankees replaced him with Mariano Rivera. But for that single season, Wettleland was one of the best players in MLB.
Bonds hit a home run in Game Six of the World Series that looked like it went into outer space. Honestly, the reason aliens haven’t invaded is probably that they’re afraid of Bonds smoking them with one of his pitches. Say what you like about steroids and how it tarnished MLB, but there was no doubt he was brilliant in this series.
The controversial legend batted .471 with an OPS of 1.994 as he kept this tie competitive. However, the Anaheim Angels had too much for the Giants in the end as they won the seven-game series. But don’t let that take away from one of the best performances of Bonds’ MLB career.
Schilling is the first of two players on this list to appear twice. This time is for his superb display performances throughout the playoffs, all the way to the World Series. In sum, he was a force of nature for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who eventually clinched the MLB title. They defeated the Yankees across seven games.
The six-time All-Star shared World Series MVP honors with his teammate Randy Johnson. Schilling went 4-0 throughout the postseason. While he did allow a home run in Game Seven, he was otherwise magnificent. Consistency was the name of the game and Schillings had tons of it.
Glavine only won one of five World Series attempts with the Atlanta Braves, but what a victory it was. Atlanta defeated the Cleveland Indians in six games, with Glavine central to their efforts. He had several excellent performances throughout their postseason run, and the best was in the final game of the championship series.
The World Series MVP pitched eight innings of perfect baseball. The Indians couldn’t handle his heat as Glavine demonstrated his class. His only bloop came in the sixth, but apart from that, it was stellar from the 10-time All-Star. He also won the Silver Slugger Award in the same year.
The legendary ‘Mr. Clean’ was superb for the Dodgers. But we’re more interested in a game that he played for the San Diego Padres. That’s right, we’re talking about Game Four of the NLCS. Garvey kept his team in the competition after the Chicago Cubs threatened to run away with the Series. This was one of the best performances of his career.
Garvey’s hitting throughout the game sparked the Padres back into life. Then, his walk-off home run won the game for San Diego and kept their series hopes alive. It was the highlight of his time in California because it was so thrilling. Garvey demonstrated clutch batting at its finest.
Martinez demonstrated remarkable resolve and heart in the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians. His first appearance in the series was in Game One, but back pains forced him out. The coaches didn’t want to risk his health and left him on the sidelines until Game Five. With Derek Lowe struggling, they needed their star pitcher.
Martinez couldn’t use the fastball or changeup effectively because of his injury. However, he utilized the curve brilliantly to pitch six hitless innings. The introduction of Martinez was a magnificent decision as the Red Sox won the game as well as the series. You’d expect no less from an eight-time MLB All-Star.
One man was responsible for ensuring the Milwaukee Braves’ first MLB championship. They played the New York Yankees in a seven-game series that ultimately came down to the final game. The Yankees pushed the Braves, but in the end, Burdette’s individual display went down as one of the greatest performances in the history of MLB.
Burdette won three complete games against the Yankees with a ridiculous two shutouts. The first game in Game Five, but his final showing in Game Seven was arguably even better. Furthermore, Burdette played this defining game after just two days of rest. Meanwhile, he beat another luminary of this list in Don Larsen to clinch the title.
The Kansas City Royals won the MLB World Series in ’85 but it was lucky that they even made it past the ALCS. In short, they trailed Toronto by two games to none coming into the third. The pressure was on as they knew that their postseason dream sat on the edge of a knife. Luckily for the Royals, they had an asset in Brett, who reignited their fire.
Brett was staggering as he went 4-for-4 to blow the Blue Jays away. It wasn’t the deciding game of the series but it gave them momentum to carry forward into Game Four and ultimately the World Series. Brett’s contribution to their first-ever championship win was enormous. No wonder he won the Golden Glove award because he was remarkable.
A four-time World Series champion and a seven-time All-Star, Koufax made the MLB Hall of Fame as the youngest ever entrant ever. When you look at his career as an entity, a few iconic moments do jump out. First and foremost was when he pitched a perfect game for the LA Dodgers against the Minnesota Twins.
Koufax pitched on two days rest with arthritis but still produced a masterclass. His 10 strikeouts successfully shut the Twins out. We can’t overemphasize how ridiculous an achievement this was, considering Koufax’s ailments. Needless to say, he won the World Series MVP award after his fantastic game. This was the final World Series of his MLB career that unfortunately ended earlier than it should have.
Martinez put in one of the most clutch performances ever seen in MLB in glorious circumstances. The five-time Silver Slugger starred for the Seattle Mariners against the New York Yankees in the ALDS. Seattle trained the Yankees 5-0 and it looked like they were about to end their postseason earlier than they wanted. Then Martinez almost singlehandedly turned things around.
‘The Double’ was a franchise-defining moment. He brought the Mariners back to 6-6 before smashing a fastball over the fence for a grand slam. It was incredible but this was more than just about a single game. Fans credit Martinez with saving Seattle’s baseball team because their postseason run convinced city authorities to build a new stadium. They immortalized his glorious moment in a stadium mural.
The New York Mets won the World Series in ’69 with what remains one of the most shocking upsets in the history of MLB. The heavily-favored Baltimore Orioles couldn’t believe what happened as the Mets stunned the baseball world. It takes a team to win a series, but of course some individual performances do stand out.
Agee was a force of nature in Game Three. He only hit one home run but his defense was exceptional. Firstly, he defied gravity with a breathtaking backhanded-catch. Then he managed a diving one-handed grab that saved the game for the Mets. He played like a man possessed with several other awesome moments.
The Detroit Tigers won the 1968 World Series but it all started so well for the St. Louis Cardinals. Their powerhouse pitcher Gibson put on a remarkable display in Game One as they blew the opposition away. Gibson produced 17 strikeouts in a sensational game. It doesn’t get much better than this in terms of individual performances.
A 17-season MLB veteran with the Cardinals, Gibson won two World Series titles with his franchise. However, you could argue that his best moment came in the series that he lost. By the end of the game, Gibson had thrown a ridiculous 144 pitches. This truly was a different era because that would never happen in the modern game. But Gibson’s showing is all the more legendary because of it.
One of just two players to feature on this list twice, Ruth earned it. In 1916, he was still a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox before making his move to the outfield with the Yankees. Not only was he versatile, but he was exceptional in both positions. The American hero had one of the greatest games of his career against the then-Brooklyn Robins, who eventually became the Dodgers.
Not only was this one of Ruth’s best performances, but it’s one of the most iconic of all-time because Ruth was literally like Leonidas fighting the Persians. However, Ruth emerged victorious, unlike the Spartans after a ridiculous 14 innings. Finally, he only allowed one home run in what remains the longest complete-game win in postseason history.
The New York Yankees won the ’77 World Series in six games against the LA Dodgers. Jackson was a key player with one of the greatest performances of all-time in the final game of the series. In fact, he was so good that fans nicknamed him ‘Mr. October’ for his ridiculous display.
Jackson hit three home runs under pressure to seal the deal for the Yankees. His incredible actions sent the crowd into a frenzy. The pitcher literally slammed field invaders out of the way as he escaped for his own safety. All of it combined made it one of the greatest moments we’ve seen in the history of the World Series. One of the standout moments in the 14-time All-Star’s career.
Halladay was a ludicrous pitcher. Every time he threw a ball, it was like a bazooka launching a rocket. The eight-time All-Star never won a World Series but take nothing away from his overall ability. It’s not easy to win a Championship ring but it’s also incredibly difficult to pitch a perfect game. However, that’s exactly what Halladay achieved with the Phillies.
Halladay made his debut all the way back in 1998 but never played in the postseason until 2010. It proved to be worth the wait because he was magnificent. 28 Cincinnatti Reds’ batters tried to stop him but they couldn’t stand in his way as he produced only the second post-season no-hitter ever. Furthermore, the two-time Cy Young award winner threw 25 first-pitch strikes. Talk about dominance.
The star of the St. Louis Cardinals’ postseason quest, Freese rightfully won the MVP Award after the 2011 World Series. However, the most heroic of his playoff performances came in Game Six. The Texas Rangers led the Cardinals before Freese intervened and turned things around. This was a truly clutch display.
The Rangers only needed one more pitch to win the series, but then it all went wrong. Freese forced the game into extra innings and then in the 11th, he produced a moment of magic. Tied at 9-9, you could taste the tension in the stadium. Then he hit a massive home run to send the series into its seventh game which the Cardinals won.
This was one of the most courageous performances in postseason history. Schilling took the Red Sox nickname to the next level because an open wound on his foot literally left his sock soaked with blood. Game Six of the ALCS saw him continue to pitch despite the torn tendon sheath in his right ankle.
He blasted out 99 pitches through seven innings as he refused to allow the injury to overcome him. The blood continued to seep through his sanitary sock, creating an iconic moment for MLB fans. Surgeons operated on him at the end of the season. But Schilling didn’t care because the Red Sox won the series.
It only took Pujols four innings to make this list. The St. Louis Cardinals annihilated the Texas Rangers in the World Series to take the rings home. A long-serving MLB veteran, Pujols won two World Series championships with the Cardinals before heading to the Angels. Both of these performances were great, but his 2011 display was truly awesome.
His best individual game was the third of the series as the Cardinals blew the Rangers away. First, he set a World Series record with 14 total bases. Furthermore, he achieved five hits during agonizing viewing for Rangers’ fans. Games like these are the stuff of dreams for professional baseball players. Pujols made this into a reality.
The Cincinnati Reds blitzed past the Oakland Athletics in the World Series. Two players were key to their success. Jose Rijo and Hatcher pitched like never before, with the latter having one of the best performances of his life. The Arizona native produced astounding numbers in this dominant victory.
In short, he batted a ludicrous .750 as the Athletics won the series in just four games. Incredibly, he didn’t win the MVP award which instead went to Rijo. Furthermore, some will question his merit on his list but his efficiency was emblematic of the Reds’ game as a whole. It was tremendous.
Japanese baseball star Matsui is a Yankees’ cult hero for a number of reasons. First of all, he hit a grand slam in his first game at Yankee Stadium. Even the likes of Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio can’t say that. But he was also a beast in the MLB playoffs, with one of his best performances coming in the World Series.
‘Godzilla’ achieved six RBIs in the sixth game of the series. Overall, he hit .615 and three home runs. He only played in three games but still won the World Series MVP award for his contribution. An all-round record-breaker, Matsui was the first Japanese player to take the coveted award home.
‘Rocket’ truly lived up to his nickname in Game Four of the ALCS. In short, it was one of the most devastating performances in the history of the postseason. In fact, he came incredibly close to a no-hitter in a 15-strikeout, one-hit shutout. The Mariners melted underneath his power and pressure.
As well as his 15 strikeouts, Clemens threw 138 pitches. If you think Clemens took steroids then this game will surely be one that you’d use as a case study. The relentless pitcher was like an overpowered superhero in his quest to crush Seattle. This was a remarkable moment in the series.
Four-time All-Star Lincecum had the game of his life against the Atlanta Braves. It came in Game One of the NDLS when he broke his franchise’s playoff record for strikeouts. In short, Lincecum pitched a perfect game against the Braves who just didn’t know what was happening to them. ‘The Freak’ was unstoppable as he led his team to the win.
Lincecum’s 119-pitch, 14-strikeout was a near-perfect performance and baseball at its very best. The Washington-native had a slow start to the season but it ended in great circumstances as he got his hands on a World Series ring for the first time. It was the first of three for the two-time Cy Young Award winner.
Robinson put on a defensive masterclass in the World Series against the Cinncinati Reds. There’s a reason why most baseball historians regard him as the greatest defensive third baseman ever. The 16-time Golden Glove award winner produced one of the best performances of his career as the Orioles defeated the Reds.
He was brilliant all throughout this World Series but Game Three stands apart. Robinson’s diving stop on Johnny Bench’s line drive was something out of this world. Nothing could get past him and he gave the Reds’ coaching staff nightmares through the series. It was like trying to break a brick wall with a spoon.
To this day, the Angels have only won a single World Series championship in their history. That came when they were still the Angels of Anaheim. Erstad as sublime all throughout their playoff run and the key to their title success. Without his contribution, they wouldn’t have come close to glory.
After a great run to the final series, Erstad saved the Angels’ bacon with a home run in Game Six against the Giants. Then he made a vital catch in Game Seven as the Angels clinched the title. Furthermore, he equaled the postseason record for hits with 25. The three-time Gold Glove Award winner was a hero.
The first time is always the most special. That’s true in many aspects of life but it also applies perfectly to baseball. Game Four of the World Series saw Ruth become the first player to hit three home runs in a single World Series game. Ultimately, the Cardinals still won after seven games, but this remains the most memorable moment from the entire series.
The home runs came in the first, second, and sixth innings as Ruth made history. The seven-time World Series winner knew how to steal the show as his two appearances on this list convey. That’s why he’s one of the greatest of all-time. He didn’t win the series this time but he won the hearts of fans.
The Minnesota Twins have produced some great performances in their history. Puckett’s display against the Atlanta Braves was almost as good as that of his teammate Jack Morris, but more on him later. He was exceptional in Game Six of the World Series as his pitching onslaught was just too hot for the Braves to handle. Honestly, this was like a cannon breaching the walls of a fortress.
Puckett almost singlehandedly forced the series into a seventh game after an 11th-inning home run. Meanwhile, he stoles bases made incredible catches and demonstrated sheer bloody-mindedness in a game for the ages. This is up there with the best World Series of all time, but Puckett deserves as many plaudits as anybody. Baseball at its most entertaining.
The 23-year-old Beckett was an unlikely hero for the Marlins in this miraculous win over the Yankees. He didn’t even expect to feature much because he had never played a postseason game on three days’ notice. But that’s exactly what happened and it was an inspired decision. Beckett put on one of the most remarkable performances in the history of professional baseball.
After an excellent game three, it looked like he had done his bit for the Marlins’ shot at glory. But he came in from the cold in Game 10 to pitch a complete shutout against the favorites. Furthermore, it was the deciding game of the series so Beckett effectively sealed the championship win for the Marlins. Fans and analysts heavily favored the Yankees before this game, but the Marlins and Beckett proved their worth.
Morris only played one season for the Minnesota Twins, but what a year it was. He put on one of the greatest World Series performances we’ve ever seen in a stellar win for the Twins in Game Six against the Braves. It was the second of four World Series wins for the Minnesota native but by far the most memorable.
One of just two players to win the Babe Ruth Award twice, Morris was incredible. In sum, he pitched for 10 innings in a perfect display of throwing. The 36-year-old had only played three games in the series but insisted on carrying his momentum forward. In the end, it was an inspired decision as they brought home the championship ring.
Larsen played a perfect game in the 1956 World Series for the New York Yankees. We’re talking about an achievement that has only ever occurred 22 times in the entire history of MLB. He threw one on the biggest stage of them all so, because of this, he deserves to be on top of this list. This was an iconic baseball moment, nevermind a playoff one.
Dodgers’ fans might not like it, but history only remembers the winners. Larsen was anonymous before Game Five but came alive when it counted. To this day, it remains the only no-hitter and perfect game ever seen in the World Series. Don’t hold your breath for another one either because there was only one other perfect game in a playoff series. This was one of the most remarkable individual performances in sporting history.