Ranking 10 best games from 2022 MLB playoffs: Astros’ World Series wins, Phillies’ NLCS chaos, more

The Houston Astros are 2022 World Series champions. The Astros defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 6 on Saturday to clinch the second title in franchise history. Thanks largely to the owners’ lockout and the new 12-team postseason format, this is the latest Major League Baseball has ever been played. Never before had the World Series ended as late as Nov. 5.

There were 40 — 40! — postseason games played this year thanks to that new 12-team format. Those 40 postseason games are not the all-time record. The record is 53 postseason games in 2020, though that was the shortened pandemic season with a 16-team postseason field. In a full length season, yes, 40 postseason games is the record. The previous record was 38 in 2003.

Now that the postseason has concluded, let’s rank the 10 best games from this October. You may think these rankings are highly subjective, but they’re not. These are 100 percent correct.

This was a fairly low-event series (the two teams averaged a combined 6.8 runs per game in the series) and the ninth inning of Game 3 was far and away the highlight of the series. The Yankees took 5-3 lead into the ninth, but because manager Aaron Boone did not want to use closer Clay Holmes on back-to-back days so soon after his late-season shoulder injury, rookie Clarke Schmidt got the call. The Guardians strung together five hits for the walk-off win.

Prior to this game the Yankees were 167-0 all-time in the postseason when taking a multi-run lead into the ninth inning. When your franchise history includes all-time great closers like Goose Gossage and Mariano Rivera, blowing multi-run leads in the ninth inning of postseason games isn’t a thing that happens. It did in Game 3 of this year’s ALDS though.

What a riveting ballgame. The Astros pushed a run across in the top of the first inning but the Phillies prevented them from putting up a crooked number, then Kyle Schwarber tied the game up two pitches into the bottom of the first. The game stayed close into the late innings before Trey Mancini and Chas McCormick made stellar defensive plays to stifle the Phillies.

This game really had it all. Early offense that gave way to a pitchers’ duel, clutch hitting, and tremendous defense. There were no lulls in the action. From start to finish, this one was compelling.

This was really one great inning more than a great game. Zack Wheeler and José Quintana dueled until Juan Yepez broke the scoreless tie with a seventh inning two-run homer. The Cardinals took a 2-0 lead into the ninth inning. That’s when the Phillies put together a stunning six-run rally against All-Star closer Ryan Helsley to steal the win.

It’s sort of amazing the Phillies did that to the Cardinals rather than the Cardinals doing that to the Phillies. No disrespect to the NL champs or anything, it’s just that that’s usually how things go for these two franchises. The Cardinals make the miraculous comeback and the Phillies have the catastrophic bullpen meltdown. In Wild Card Series Game 1, the roles were reverse.  

This was the most entertaining World Series since at 2019 and it started off with a banger. The Phillies erased an early 5-0 deficit against Justin Verlander, the two teams traded zeros in the late innings (thanks in part to a game-saving catch by Nick Castellanos), then J.T. Realmuto popped a game-winning homer to right field in the top of the 10th. It didn’t matter in the end, but stealing Game 1 after falling behind 5-0 against Verlander was pretty, pretty good.

Realmuto and the Phillies handed the Astros their first loss of the postseason in Game 1. They were 7-0 up to that point, one short of the longest ever winning streak to begin a postseason. Only the 2014 Royals did better. They started 8-0. That said, six teams in history have started a postseason with at least six straight wins, and the 2022 Astros are the only one to win the World Series.

The second no-hitter in World Series history and only the third in postseason history. This game doesn’t rank higher because let’s face it, combined no-hitters aren’t as cool as single-pitcher no-hitters, plus the game wasn’t especially close. The Astros took a 5-0 lead in the fifth inning and the game was never really in doubt after that. All the attention was on the hits column on the scoreboard, not the runs column.

The four pitches: Cristian Javier (six innings) and relievers Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero, and Ryan Pressly (one inning each). They struck out 14 and walked three, and honestly, there really wasn’t anything particularly close to a hit for the Phillies. Those four Astros pitchers surgically picked apart the Phillies’ lineup.

Tagging Verlander for six runs in four innings is a great way to keep the good vibes going after a remarkable comeback to win the Wild Card Series (more on that in a bit). Alas and alack, the good vibes did not last for the Mariners. The Astros erased a 7-3 deficit in the eighth and ninth innings, with Yordan Alvarez hitting a titanic three-run walk-off homer. Good golly:

Alvarez’s blast turned a 7-5 deficit into an 8-7 win and, believe it or not, it was the first two-out walk-off hit (homer or otherwise) to turn a multi-run loss into a win in postseason history. In fact, only once before in the postseason had a player hit a walk-off homer with his team down even one run with two outs in the ninth. That, of course, was Kirk Gibson’s iconic blast in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

This was an exciting chaos series between two chaos teams. There was good defense and bad defense, over-the-top home run celebrations, monster comebacks, the works. This game featured seven runs in the first inning alone, plus a seven half-inning stretch in which runs were scored in five of them. The Phillies came back from a 4-0 hole in the first inning and the two teams combined to use 13 pitchers.

The ALCS was very dull this year. The Astros swept the Yankees in a series that wasn’t all that competitive. MLB should have just given the Astros a bye to the World Series and made the Padres and Phillies play a best-of-14 series. That would have been way more fun.

Up until Alvarez’s homer in World Series Game 6, Bryce Harper’s eight-inning go-ahead homer against San Diego was the signature moment of the 2022 postseason. A star player doing star player things to help his team clinch the pennant. This is the kind of home run you will watch on highlight reels for years and years and years to come:

This game was much more than a big home run too. The great Juan Soto hit a massive home run of his own and then there was Seranthony Domínguez’s rain-aided wild pitch meltdown as well. The Padres turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead thanks to Domínguez’s three wild pitches in the seventh inning, then Harper took the lead back.

I’m not sure there could be a more a) exciting way to win your first postseason series in a generation, and b) excruciating way to end your season. The Blue Jays built an 8-1 lead through five innings and it looked like these two clubs were headed for a winner-take-all Game 3. Instead, the Mariners scored nine runs in the final four innings to win the game and clinch an ALDS berth, and send the Blue Jays home for the offseason.

The seven-run comeback is tied for the second largest in postseason history with the 2008 Red Sox, who erased a 7-0 deficit against the Rays in Game 5 of the ALDS. The largest postseason comeback ever belongs to the 1929 Athletics. They were down 8-0 to the Cubs in Game 4 of the World Series, then rallied for a 10-8 win. 

The regular season series was extremely one-sided. The Dodgers went 14-5 against the Padres and outscored them 109-47, or 3.26 runs per game on average. San Diego then slayed the dragon in the NLDS, sending Los Angeles home with a five-run rally in the seventh inning. It is in no way hyperbole to call it one of the biggest innings in Padres franchise history. Josh Hader struck out Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, and Freddie Freeman on 10 pitches in the ninth inning to put an exclamation point on the win.

According to win differential, the NLDS was one of the biggest upsets in baseball history. The 89-win Padres sent the 111-win Dodgers home, and the 22-win difference was the largest in a postseason series upset since the 93-win White Sox defeated the 116-win Cubs in the 1906 World Series.