The Decade’s Best Game
As we wrap up the year, my posting is liable to be a little spotty due to a host of family commitments. Regardless, check in each Thursday for continuations of the series on the men who integrated the major leagues. Today, though, I want to join the bandwagon of sports sites doing best of decade retrospectives. In particular I want to focus on the best regular season baseball game of the last 10 years. In the postseason, I think Game 7 of the 2001 World Series wins hands down, though Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS will always have a special place in my heart. (Check out the Retrosheet play-by-play for Pujols’ home run – “Pujols homered [Eckstein scored, Edmonds scored]; the ball hit the windows above the train track on top of the wall” – that is the greatest Retrosheet play-by-line I have seen, and the emphasis is in the original.) Postseason games will always outweigh regular season games, but baseball lets us cheat. One-game playoffs are regular season games, and there have been three (2007-2009) in the last decade. Which was the decade’s best game?
The 2008 tiebreaker is the first game eliminated. Though this game may have been the most crisply played of the three, it lacked the sheer excitement of the two that bracket it. It did not go to extra innings, instead revolving around two excellent pitching performances. John Danks went 8 innings for the White Sox, giving up no runs and getting the win. Nick Blackburn went 6.1 for the Twins, giving up a home run to Jim Thome leading off the bottom of the 7th inning. That would be the game’s only run. A well-played game? Certainly. Exciting? Sort of, because it was close. The best of the decade? No, because the other two tiebreakers were better. It also loses points for thwarting the will of God, i.e. that His Chosen Team should always win.
2007 and 2009 both went to extra innings, the 2007 game going 13 and 2009 12. Both games existed because of great runs/great collapses. The Rockies were in the midst of one of history’s great hot streaks, and the Twins had a very good run of their own. Simultaneously, the Padres and Tigers were both choking away easy playoff spots. Neither game was crisp. Jake Peavy, about to win the NL Cy Young Award, would walk 4 in 6.1 innings, and the Padres walked 8 batters in the game. Rick Porcello of the Tigers would hit a runner with a throw to first, and Alexi Casilla of the Twins would get thrown out at the plate with the potential winning run. Nevertheless, both games were extremely tight. The biggest lead of 2007 was three runs; the Rockies led by 3 after 2 innings but instantly gave up 5 in the top of the 3rd. In 2009 the biggest lead was also 3, held by the Tigers after the top of the 3rd; the Twins would get their first run in the bottom of the inning. Each game had a team take the lead in extra innings, only to lose. So how can these two be separated?
I think the only thing to hold against either game is the last run of 2007. Matt Holliday scored the winning run off of Trevor Hoffman on a face-first dive for the plate. From every angle I have ever seen, he missed the plate. Nevertheless, he was credited with the game-winning run. In 2009, the since-traded Carlos Gomez scored cleanly on a single by presumed-goat Alexi Casilla. Because of the cleaner ending, I give the nod to the 2009 tiebreaker, won by the Twins over the Tigers, 6-5. If you prefer 2007, I would give very little argument. Both were great games, and baseball’s now yearly tiebreaker has added a distinct level of excitement to the regular season.
Any games that have stuck with you from the last decade? I have only focused on the one-game playoffs, leaving out great games like Randy Johnson’s perfect game and, of course, this gem. Joking aside, what do you think was the best regular season game of the last 10 years?