Before Wednesday, baseball had brought its unique brand of crazy to the postseason stage many a time. Granted, maybe not with so much packed into one 53-minute frame, but there's a long history of the unexpected and downright unreal sending October drama soaring.
The Game 5 madness in Toronto deserves a lofty standing in the pantheon of postseason events baseball fans hadn't seen before, and probably won't again. With a go-ahead run scoring on a hit-by-catcher throw, three errors by the Rangers and a thunderous three-run blast by the Blue Jays' Jose Bautista, the seventh inning of the American League Division Series finale was, in a word, unique. Unfortunately for the Rangers, it also was another painful reminder that anything can happen in October.
With the echoes from Rogers Centre still ringing in everyone's ears, here's a look back at some of the most bizarre twists and turns in baseball's postseason history leading up to Wednesday's wildness:
Certainly no single foul ball has ever been as replayed, dissected and discussed more than the one that went into the stands along the right-field line at Wrigley Field in Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series. Steve Bartman, wearing a Cubs cap and headphones, reached for the foul ball just as Cubs left fielder Moises Alou was trying to catch it, and the rest is a complicated, messy piece of baseball history. What might have been the second out turned into a walk, and the Marlins went on to score eight runs. Simply stunning, all the way around.
The leaping, laughing reaction of Ray Knight going down the line to score the winning run of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series says it all about how surprising that turn of events was for everyone witnessing it. Of course, the image most remember is that of the Mookie Wilson grounder going through the legs of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, and his stunned reaction tells the tale as well. Iconic moment in postseason history, and totally unexpected.
One strike away -- twice
The Cardinals were one strike from elimination in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series and came back, twice. A game-tying, two-run triple by David Freese on a 1-2 pitch with two down in the ninth sent the game to extra innings. After Josh Hamilton homered for Texas in the top of the 10th, Lance Berkman singled home the tying run in the bottom half on a 2-2 pitch. With a walk-off homer in the 11th, Freese capped off the most improbable comeback in postseason history. In fact, that game, according to baseball-reference, ranks No. 1 among postseason contests with a 1.377 WPA (win probability added), which gives a good sense of games that had a lot of lead changes and wild swings. That certainly did.
Consider: Cabrera wound up with 89 hits in parts of five Major League seasons, yet he's a household name among baseball fans. It was 23 years ago Wednesday, Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS, and the Braves were down 2-0 to the Pirates. In the ninth, they rallied to pull within one, and with two outs and the bases loaded, up stepped Cabrera. His single to left scored the tying run from third and the winning run when Sid Bream lumbered home to beat the throw by Barry Bonds. Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium shook with joy.
Before Bartman, a 12-year-old Yankees fan helped the home team on what was ruled to be a home run by Derek Jeter in Game 1 of the 1996 AL Championship Series. Young Jeffrey Maier reached down and hauled in the ball with Orioles right fielder Tony Tarasco immediately pointing upward to umpire Rich Garcia, pleading that it wasn't a homer. But it was, and always will be a homer, although replays show that the youngster went overboard in helping out the home nine. Ah, but instant replay was more than a decade away.
Call it a walk-off obstruction. In Game 3 of the 2013 World Series, the Cardinals' Allen Craig got tangled up with Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks, scampering to his feet only to be tagged out by a mile at home. But third-base umpire Jim Joyce already had signaled that Middlebrooks impeded the baserunner, awarding Craig home with the winning run. Funny thing is, the Cardinals and Red Sox had a similar situation in Game 1 of the 1946 World Series, St. Louis taking a 2-1 lead in the eighth when Whitey Kurowski wound up tangled up at third base with Boston's Pinky Higgins. Kurowski was awarded home plate on -- yep -- an obstruction call.
Rocket goes batty
In the first inning of Game 2 of the 2000 Subway Series, the Mets' Mike Piazza had his bat split in half on a Roger Clemens pitch -- and then it got weird. The Yankees ace grabbed the jagged barrel of the bat and threw it in the direction of Piazza, who had jogged a few steps up the first-base line on the foul ball. Piazza, who was hit in the helmet by a pitch from Clemens in July of that year, didn't charge the mound and order was restored, Clemens claiming no intent, saying he thought the bat was the ball. But, well, that was just weird.
Before Carlton Fisk danced up the first-base line and implored that ball to stay fair, and it did, in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, the Red Sox catcher was part of a controversial play in Game 3 that still really has no equal. In the 10th inning, Armbrister, a seldom-used outfielder and pinch-hitter, bunted directly in front of home plate. He took one step and got tangled up with Fisk, and Fisk's throw to second base then went into center field. Home-plate umpire Larry Barnett did not rule that Armbrister interfered with Fisk, although Fisk and Red Sox manager Darrell Johnson vehemently objected. Three batters later, the Reds scored the winning run, and Armbrister would forever be linked to World Series lore.
Pedro vs. Zimmer
The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was playing out in the 2003 ALCS, and things were getting chippy in Game 3 in Fenway Park. Manny Ramirez took exception to a pitch from -- there he is again -- Clemens, and the benches cleared. Suddenly, a quick fracas. Man down. Wait, was that Don Zimmer, affable 72-year-old bench coach with a plate in his head from being beaned as a player, charging toward Pedro Martinez near the Red Sox dugout? And was that Martinez, the future Hall of Famer, pushing Zimmer to the side and onto the ground? That happened.
J.T. Snow's save
What was a cute sideline to the 2002 World Series became a scary moment, creating a uniquely indelible image in baseball lore. Darren Baker, Giants manager Dusty Baker's 3-year-old son, had been the team's bat boy through the postseason, and the miniature Giant was a huge hit with players and fans alike. But he was too eager to retrieve a bat in Game 5 and was nearing home plate when J.T. Snow scooped him up and carried him out of the way of the next runner, David Bell, avoiding what could have been a terrible collision. Snow, a six-time Gold Glove Award winner, never made a better scoop. And something you never thought you'd see in a postseason game happened. Again.
You can't make this stuff up. Yet baseball's postseason keeps on coming up with SMH moments, moments that sometimes go on for almost an hour like Wednesday's, moments that won't be forgotten any time soon.
The 1985 World Series would have played out much differently had the series been played under today's rules. Whether or not the outcome would have changed is impossible to know, but the Royals' series-saving, ninth-inning rally in Game 6 surely would have unfolded differently -- if at all. That's because with the Royals trailing 1-0 in the game -- and 3-2 in the series -- pinch-hitter Jorge Orta began the bottom of the ninth with an infield single when he was incorrectly ruled safe on a close play at first base by umpire Don Denkinger. Without the luxury of replay challenges at the time, the Cardinals went on to lose the game on a walk-off, two-run single later that inning before dropping the series in Game 7.
Slap, slap your hand
In a scene almost opposite to the one that unfolded in Wednesday's wacky seventh inning, Alex Rodriguez was initially ruled safe when he slapped the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. To set the scene, Arroyo raced off the mound to field a dribbler up the first-base line before then attempting to tag Rodriguez. The Yankees third baseman, however, swatted Arroyo's glove, jarring the ball loose and sending it rolling down the right-field line. The umpires initially ruled Rodriguez safe, allowing Derek Jeter to score all the way from first, before convening and (correctly) calling Rodriguez out for interference. The Red Sox held on to win the game, then finished off the series in Game 7.
Infield fly for the ages
The inaugural National League Wild Card Game in 2012 not only introduced a national audience to a new postseason format, but also served up a controversial lesson on the infield rule. With the Braves trailing the Cardinals by three runs with runners on first and second with one out in the bottom of the eighth, Andrelton Simmons hit a lazy fly ball toward shallow left field. Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma initially called for it as he ranged back onto the outfield grass before stepping out of the way at the last minute, allowing the ball to fall between him and left fielder Matt Holliday. Instead of having the bases loaded with one out, however, Simmons was called out on the infield fly rule, sending the Turner Field crowd into a frenzy that led to a 19-minute delay as the grounds crew cleared debris off the field.
Joba of the flies
Joba Chamberlain burst onto the Major League scene late in the 2007 season, racking up a 0.38 ERA and 34 strikeouts in just 24 innings for the Yankees after making his debut on Aug. 7. Thus, the Yankees seemingly had little reason to worry when they called on him to protect a 1-0, eighth-inning lead in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Indians. Unfortunately, they did not account for the midges. A swarm of the tiny insects not only caused a brief delay in the game, but they also surrounded Chamberlain on the mound, as the rookie walked the first batter he faced then allowed him to move to second on a wild pitch before later scoring on yet another wild pitch. The Indians went on to win the game, 2-1, and the series.
With their season on the line in Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS, the Astros raced out to an early lead against the Mets then appeared to be coasting toward forcing a decisive Game 7. One night after dropping a 12-inning game to fall behind 3-2 in the series, Houston quickly plated three runs in the bottom of the first to take a 3-0 lead. The score would remain that way all the until the ninth inning when the Mets began to chip away before ultimately tying the game on a Ray Knight sacrifice fly. The game would go to extra innings, where it would remain knotted at 3-3 until the top of the 14th when Wally Backman plated Darryl Strawberry with an RBI single. Houston answered in the bottom half with a Billy Hatcher home run that once again extended the ballgame.
The Mets would later string together three runs in the top of the 16th on three hits, a walk and two wild pitches. The Astros put together yet another rally in the bottom of the inning, scoring two more runs before Jesse Orosco finally shut the door with a series-clinching strikeout with the tying runner on second base.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.