(AP) – 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.
After back-to-back walks on full counts, Daniel Descalso tied it with a two-run single. Then rookie Pete Kozma added a two-run single of his own, sending the Cardinals to a 9-7 win and leaving Nationals fans bemoaning a final strike that never came.
THE BEST OF ALL?: The Yankees-Mariners clash in 1995 deserves its own category, because it had a little bit of everything.
There was New York right-hander David Cone walking in the tying run in the eighth with his 147th and final pitch _ before a wiry rookie named Mariano Rivera came on and halted Seattle’s rally. That tying run by the Mariners? It was scored by 20-year-old Alex Rodriguez, who was making his postseason debut _ as a pinch-runner.
Randy Johnson pitched the final three innings for Seattle, two days after going seven as a starter. The Yankees took the lead in the top of the 11th, but the Mariners won it 6-5 on Edgar Martinez’s two-run double in the bottom half, with Ken Griffey Jr. sprinting around from first to score the final run of that series.
It was the last game of Don Mattingly’s career _ and his lone postseason series in 14 years with the Yankees.
Information from baseball-reference.com was used in this report.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)