The unlikeliest long balls,
Woodruff off Kershaw joins club of unlikeliest post-season home runs
MILWAUKEE— When a left-handed-hitting reliever launches a playoff home run off a lefthanded pitcher bound for the hall of fame — well, let’s just say you don’t see that much in October. Yet it really did happen in the third inning Friday at Miller Park, in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, when the Milwaukee Brewers’ Brandon Woodruff connected off the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.
“I knew he could swing the bat a little bit, for sure,” Kershaw said. “I didn’t know he could do that.”
That got us to thinking, with the help of Twitter: Was this the most improbable postseason home run ever? That’s a purely subjective question, of course, but here’s a look at other unlikely blasts.
GAME 1: 1967 WORLD SERIES Boston’s Jose Santiago off St. Louis’ Bob Gibson
Gibson may have been the best big-game pitcher in baseball history. He went 7-2 with a 1.89 ERA in nine World Series starts, working 81 innings and winning two series most valuable player awards. He beat the Red Sox three times in 1967 to squelch the Impossible Dream — yet somehow gave up a home run to his counterpart, Santiago, in Game 1 at Fenway Park.
GAME 2: 1968 WORLD SERIES Detroit’s Mickey Lolich off St. Louis’ Nelson Briles
Lolich won three times in the Series, which was pretty impressive. But the really amazing part was his home run — the only one he hit in a career that included 821 regularseason at-bats, during which he hit .110.
GAME 5: 1969 WORLD SERIES The Mets’ Al Weis off Baltimore’s Dave McNally
By the time Weis homered to tie the clinching game, it was fairly obvious: A miracle was indeed happening at Shea Stadium. McNally, a 20-game winner, was holding a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning, trying to send the Series back to Baltimore. But Weis — who hit seven home runs in more than 1,500 career at-bats — didn’t let him, tying the score with a solo home run. Two innings later, the Mets were champs.
GAME 3: 1976 WORLD SERIES The Yankees’ Jim Mason off Cincinnati’s Pat Zachry
Mason hit .180 with one home run for the 1976 Yankees. The next three years, he hit .187, .190 and then .183. But when he came up to pinch hit in the Yankees’ first home World Series game in 12 years, he actually hit a home run. The Yankees lost the series in a sweep, and Mason was lifted for a pinch hitter in the ninth inning that very night. He had but one World Series at-bat in his life, but he took advantage.
GAME 2: 1984 WORLD SERIES San Diego’s Kurt Bevacqua off Detroit’s Dan Petry
The Padres have had the misfortune to match up with two of the greatest teams ever in their only World Series appearances: the 1984 Tigers and 1998 Yankees. They won just one game, this one, when Bevacqua slammed a three-run homer to give them a lead in the fifth inning. Bevacqua hit .200 that season and was playing because of an injury to Kevin McReynolds. No wonder he blew kisses to the crowd during his triumphant trot.
GAME 5: 1985 NLCS
St. Louis’ Ozzie Smith off Dodger Tom Niedenfuer Just before Smith came to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 5, with the game and the series tied, NBC flashed a graphic stating that he had never hit a home run while batting left-handed. Just like that, the Wizard ripped a liner off a concrete beam above the right-field wall for a gameending home run. “Go crazy, folks!” Jack Buck told his radio audience in St. Louis. “Go crazy!”
GAME 4: 1987 WORLD SERIES St. Louis’ Tom Lawless off Minnesota’s Frank Viola
Viola was the MVP in the Series, winning the first and last games. In between, he somehow gave up a wall-scraping home run to Lawless, who hit a robust .080 (2 for 25) in the regular season and had hit precisely one career home run. The best part, by far, was Lawless’ reaction: a nonchalant, over-the-shoulder bat flip, as if he had reached the upper deck and had done it many times before.
GAME 1: 1988 WORLD SERIES The Dodgers’ Kirk Gibson off Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley
Gibson was a superstar who was the National League MVP. But he had two bad legs and was facing a hall of fame closer with two out in the bottom of the ninth. He swung off his front foot at a full-count backdoor slider — the very pitch that the scouting report, by Mel Didier, had predicted — and limped his way into World Series lore.
GAME 2: 2005 WORLD SERIES
The White Sox’ Scott Podsednik off Houston’s Brad Lidge Podsednik had 507 at-bats in the regular season and zero home runs. But he went deep in the division series against Boston and then ended Game 2 with a home run to break a 6-6 tie. It landed Podsednik on the cover of Sports Illustrated and sent the White Sox on a happy flight to Houston, where they soon wrapped up their first title since 1917.
GAME 4: 2008 WORLD SERIES
Philadelphia’s Joe Blanton off Tampa Bay’s Edwin Jackson It was no surprise to see Ryan Howard hit two home runs in the Phillies’ win over Tampa Bay; home runs were Howard’s game. But Blanton drilling a homer? That was wild. Blanton became the first pitcher to homer in the World Series since Oakland’s Ken Holtzman in 1974. Blanton’s cumulative batting line, post-season included, besides that home run: 20 for 193 (.104) with no home runs.
GAME 7: 2016 WORLD SERIES
Cleveland’s Rajai Davis off the Cubs’ Aroldis Chapman Who would have ever expected Davis, the American League leader in stolen bases, to deliver one of the most dramatic home runs in World Series history? Davis choked up on his bat against the overpowering Chapman and sizzled a line drive just over the tall wall down the left-field line, sending Cleveland into delirium, tying one of the most exhilarating games in World Series history and giving Cubs fans one last scare before they finally won their first crown since 1908.
Milwaukee reliever Brandon Woodruff floated around the bases after a solo blast in the Brewers’ Game 1 win over the Dodgers.