7. Dave Winfield, 1992 Toronto Blue Jays. Five of the 10 most pivotal moments in Game 6 history took place in just two games. The famous 2011 Rangers-Cardinals game, with an unprecedented three entries, has already been alluded to. In 1992, the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Atlanta Braves 4-3 in 11 innings to win their first World Series in a game that contained a pair of pivotal moments.
The second of those chronologically, and the one that clinched the championship, is actually the lesser moment from a standpoint of pivotal impact. In the top of the 11th at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium, Braves reliever Charlie Leibrandt retired the first batter, but hit Devon White and gave up a base hit to Roberto Alomar before retiring Joe Carter on a fly out to center field.
Winfield was due up next. With the go-ahead run in scoring position in the person of the speedy White, Winfield needed only a base hit, but he went one better. On a 3-2 pitch he grounded Leibrandt’s pitch over the bag at third, the ball rolling into the corner and then eluding left fielder Ron Gant as White and Alomar both scored.
As it turned out, the Jays needed both runs. In the bottom of the 11th, Atlanta got one of those runs back before Mike Timlin nailed down the Series clinching final out. Winfield Win Probability Added: 45 percent.
t-5. Otis Nixon, 1992 Atlanta Braves. The Jays would have won that Sixth Game in regulation time except for Nixon’s ninth inning heroics. Trying to keep their Series chances alive in front of the home crowd, the Braves trailed 2-1 entering the bottom of the ninth and faced Jays closer Tom Henke, with 34 regular season saves to his credit.
Henke allowed a Jeff Blauser single leading off the ninth, but retired two of the next three batters he faced, leaving Blauser at second and Lonnie Smith, who had walked, at first for Nixon. A prototype leadoff hitter, Nixon had no power – he had hit just two home runs in 502 plate appearances that season – but reliable contact skills.
When Henke fired two strikes, Nixon did what he often did; he shortened up and relied on his bat-to-ball skills. Nixon met Henke’s third pitch and grounded it perfectly between the third baseman and shortstop for the hit that allowed Blauser to score the tying run and, for the moment anyway, delay the Series conclusion. Nixon Win Probability Added: 47 percent.
t-5. Dane Iorg, 1985 Kansas City Royals. The bottom of the ninth inning of the sixth game of the 1985 World Series between the Royals and Cardinals is notorious in St. Louis for umpire Don Denkinger’s missed call. Denkinger ruled the inning’s first hitter, Jorge Orta, safe on what should have been the first out as St. Louis tried to close out a Series win.
The Cardinals took a1-0 lead into that ninth thanks to the dominant pitching of Danny Cox. Ken Dayley the kept the Royals off the board in the eighth, then turned the issue over to rookie Todd Worrell, an August callup whose blazing fastball had won him the closer’s job.
A hit, a walk, a passed ball and an intentional walk followed Denkinger’s blunder, setting the stage for the real drama. Iorg pinch hit for Dan Quisenberry with the bases loaded and Worrell still two outs short of victory.
Worrell’s first pitch missed, then Iorg looped a soft liner over the head of second baseman Tom Herr into short right field. With two out, the tying run scored easily, and Jeff Sundberg slid home ahead of catcher Darrell Porter’s tag with the winning run.
One night later, the Royals routed the stunned Cardinals 11-0 to claim Kansas City’s first World Series title. Iorg Win Probability Added: 46 percent.