MLB playoffs history: 14 postseason oddities you might not know about

The MLB postseason is known for drama, but not every big play goes down as an epic moment in history.

There are many oddities and cool factoids unearthed when digging through playoff history and statistics.

Everyone remembers walkoff homers, but walkoff sacrifice bunts? Yep, they’ve happened. A game that was essentially played twice? Yep, that, too.

Here’s a look back at some postseason odds and ends you might not know about, via BaseballReference.com .

There have been 17 times in postseason history when a batter has reached base because of catcher’s interference. After having zero instances of postseason catcher’s interference from 1985 to 2008, it has happened 10 times since 2009. The latest occurrence was in Game 1 of the 2018 NL Championship series when Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal interfered with Brewers batter Jesus Aguilar in the third inning.

There have been four instances in which a postseason series MVP has come from the losing team. It happened most recently in 1987, when the Giants’ Jeff Leonard was voted MVP of the NLCS against the Cardinals. Leonard hit .417 with four homers in the Giants’ seven-game loss. The other LCS MVP recipients from losing teams are Mike Scott of the Astros in 1986 and Fred Lynn of the Angels in 1982. Only one World Series MVP has come from the losing team — Bobby Richardson of the Yankees in 1960.

Only three players in postseason history have hit a home run on their birthday. Willie Aikens of the Royals hit two in Game 1 of the 1980 World Series against the Phillies, the Rays’ Evan Longoria hit one in Game 3 of the 2013 ALDS against the Red Sox, and the Cardinals’ Kolten Wong hit one in Game 2 of the 2015 NLDS against the Cubs. Aikens’ big birthday performance in 1980 also set an MLB postseason record for RBIs on a birthday, with four.

Only one pitcher has ever committed a postseason balk on his birthday: Les Straker of the Twins in Game 3 of the 1987 ALCS. The balk aside, it wasn’t a great birthday for Straker. He went 2 2/3 innings and gave up five runs while walking four. [sad trombone]

There have been four times in postseason history that a game has ended on a walkoff sacrifice bunt. Yes, a walkoff sacrifice bunt. It happened most recently in Game 3 of the 2014 NLCS, when the Giants’ Gregor Blanco laid down a sacrifice only to have Cardinals pitcher Randy Choate make an errant throw to first that allowed the winning run to score.

Runners have stolen home 19 times in 70 attempts in postseason history (a 27 percent success rate). The most recent was by the Cubs’ Javier Baez in Game 1 of the 2016 NLCS against the Dodgers. Before that, the most recent was by Elvis Andrus in Game 2 of the 2010 ALCS as part of a double-steal. Others to steal home — either as a straight steal or in a double-steal — include Ty Cobb, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Tim McCarver, Reggie Jackson and Brad Fullmer.

If you had to guess who holds the all-time record for highest single-year postseason batting average, it would probably take a while to arrive at Lloyd McClendon. But the Pirates’ utility man was on fire in the 1992 NLCS against the Braves, when he hit a staggering .727 in 16 plate appearances across five games, including two doubles and a homer. McClendon also set the record for highest single-year postseason on-base percentage, at .750. His OPS for the postseason was 1.932, good for fourth all-time.

There have been 21 postseason homers by pitchers, the last being Joe Blanton for the Phillies in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series. Bob Gibson and Dave McNally are tied for the most all time with two each. McNally’s homer in Game 3 of the 1970 World Series was a grand slam.

Derek Jeter has seen the most pitches in postseason history: 2,749. That’s 563 more than the next-closest player (Bernie Williams). Having seen that many pitches in the postseason, it should come as no surprise that Jeter also has the most hits in postseason history (200), the most balls put in play (508) and the most strikeouts (135).

Yankees great Yogi Berra once went 90 postseason at-bats without striking out, an MLB record. The streak encompassed 26 games from Oct. 8, 1956, to Oct. 5, 1961. This is something we likely wouldn’t see in 21st century baseball because, as Vin Scully once said, “Guys today strike out 12 times during the anthem.”

There has been one triple play in postseason history. It was turned, unassisted, by the Indians’ Bill Wambsganss in the fifth inning of Game 5 of the 1920 World Series against the Dodgers. Blue Jays fans will tell you the team turned one in the 1992 World Series against the Braves but were the victims of a bad call.

The 1991 World Series between the Twins and the Braves had four walkoff wins, the most ever in a postseason series. The Braves and Twins split the walkoffs with two apiece: the Braves’ coming in Games 3 and 4, and the Twins’ coming in Games 6 and 7. The breakdown was: single (Mark Lemke, Game 3), sac fly (Jerry Willard, Game 4), home run (Kirby Puckett, Game 6) and single (Gene Larkin, Game 7). 

This one isn’t so much an oddity as just something a lot of people don’t seem to know: The Washington Nationals franchise has, indeed, won a playoff series. Well, it wasn’t technically the Nationals — it was the Montreal Expos — but it counts just the same. Back in 1981, MLB added an extra round of playoffs because of the players strike, so each league had a divisional round to determine who would play in the league championship series. In the division series to determine the NL East champion, the Expos beat the Phillies in five games to advance to the NLCS, where they lost to the Dodgers, also in five games. The 1981 divisional rounds have become mostly an obscure memory for seasoned baseball fans, but younger fans usually have no idea they even happened. The Nationals’ website didn’t even include it on the team’s official postseason history page until 2017. So, for all you Nats/Expos fans, here’s video proof of your team’s 1981 postseason triumph. 

In 1982, the Braves and Cardinals played Game 1 of the NLCS twice. Sort of. Here’s what happened: The Braves led 1-0 after 4 1/2 innings in the original Game 1 before rain halted play three outs from it becoming an official game. Had those three outs been recorded and the game made official, it would’ve been suspended at that point and resumed the next day. Instead, the game was called and the teams played a new Game 1 the next day, with the Cardinals winning 7-0. In 2009, MLB changed its postseason rainout rules to allow the suspension of a weather-affected game at any point, regardless of whether it has been made official. Had that first 1982 NLCS game been played today, it would’ve been suspended with the Braves leading 1-0 in the fifth and resumed later. Sorry, Braves fans. What might have been.