Game-Ending Thrillers in 2015
The definition of a walk-off win is rather dry—ending a baseball game immediately by causing the winning run to score for the home team in the bottom of the last inning—but the event is one of the most exciting in sports when the jubilation of players storm onto the field and mob the teammate who scored and/or drove home the winning run with pats on the back, tearing of uniform jersey’s and the drenching from cooler water.
Through Sept. 9, such game-ending celebrations took place 179 times in the majors, with 94 walk-off victories in the National League and 85 in the American League—with the Chicago Cubs leading the pack with 12 decisive wins coming in their final at-bat in Wrigley Field. The Tampa Bay Rays have the fewest, with only one walk-off win at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay while also surrendering the most walk-off wins to its opponents with 11 followed by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves and Seattle Mariners with 10. The Milwaukee Brewers have been on the losing end of walk-off victories the fewest times with two, just ahead of the New York Yankees and Cubs with three.
Among the first 179 walk-off wins this year in the majors, 96 were extra-inning affairs and 83 were nine-inning drama enders. Also among the 179 last-man-standing victories, 56 ended by means of a home run—including two grand slams (Derek Norris of the Padres and Todd Frazier of the Reds).
When the home team comes to bat in the bottom of the last inning with the winning run on base or in the batter’s box, the stadium is filled with anticipation for an invigorating celebration of victory. And such a party can be reached in various ways as they have throughout the 2015 campaign. Besides the 56 walk-off home runs through the first week of September, there have been 78 singles that drove home the winning run, 13 doubles, 11 sacrifice flies, seven fielding errors, five fielder’s choice plays, three bases loaded walks, three wild pitches, one triple, one hit by pitch and one balk.
Avisail Garcia of the White Sox has had the most plate appearances that resulted in his club’s victory in the final inning with four that resulted through a single, hit by pitch, walk and a double. The players with the most walk-off hits are Jose Altuve of the Astros, Josh Donaldson of the Blue Jays, Starlin Castro of the Cubs and Wilmer Flores of the Mets, each has three.
Donaldson is one of six players with two walk-homers, having belted game-ending blasts on April 18 against the Braves and May 26 against the White Sox. The other players with multiple walk-off home runs in 2015 include Chris Davis of the Orioles, Jason Castro of the Astros, Brian Dozier of the Twins, and rookies James McCann of the Tigers and Kris Bryant of the Cubs.
“It’s tough to put into words how you feel after hitting a game-winning homer,” Donaldson said after his three-run blast against the White Sox closer David Robinson last May that capped a 10-9 Blue Jays victory. “After I swung at a fastball on 1-0 pitch, I was kind of sitting curveball a little bit, but my eyes had already seen two heaters right there and I was just able to make the adjustment real quick and was fortunate enough to hit it out. It’s just great to win a game that way and help your team.”
The longest game that has ended with a walk-off hit was a 17-inning marathon between the Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks last May 31 that ended with a Martin Maldonado solo shot off D’backs reliever Vidal Nuno for a 7-6 Milwaukee win at Miller Park. “I was really tired so I was happy to end the game like that," said Maldonado, who caught all 17 innings that night. “I saw something up and put a good swing on it. That’s what I was looking for and I was fortunate enough to get it. It’s a great feeling and something I’ll never forget.”
Walk-off wins are playoff-like victories in the middle of a long season and when they come, they are events that players and fans remember for a lifetime.
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