The 2015 World Series could end as soon as Sunday night in Game 5, with the Kansas City Royals just one win away from their first championship in 30 years. But no matter how long the New York Mets can keep the season alive, every remaining 2015 baseball game will be played in November, joining a select handful of games.
November baseball started in 2001, and it started with a game not really in November.
Game 4 of the 2001 World Series saw the Arizona Diamondbacks poised to take a 3-1 series lead over the New York Yankees on Halloween night, taking a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. Closer Byung-Hyun Kim dispatched the Yankees with ridiculous ease in the eighth inning, striking out all three batters he faced, but allowed a game-tying, two-run home run to Tino Martinez with two outs in the ninth inning to give New York new life.
The game dragged on another inning, and with Kim amazingly still in the game, the clock at Yankee Stadium struck midnight before Derek Jeter batted in the 10th. At 12:04 a.m., Jeter hit Kim’s 61st pitch just over the right field wall for a walk-off home run, earning the nickname of “Mr. November” from Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay.
That World Series was pushed back one week because of the tragedy of September 11, and with it came the birth of November baseball. The final three games of the 2001 Fall Classic were all November games, and memorable in one way or another.
2001 Game 5: Nov. 1
Another night, another late two-run lead for the Diamondbacks, which meant another chance for Kim to try to close things out. But after throwing 61 pitches the night before, he allowed a lead off double to Jorge Posada. After retiring the next two batters, putting Arizona within an out of a 3-2 series lead, Kim allowed yet another tying home run, this one a pulled shot down the left field line by Scott Brosius, who triumphantly threw his fist in the air as soon as he hit it.
Arizona loaded the bases with one out in the 11th inning against closer extraordinaire Mariano Rivera in his second inning of work, but he would leave them stranded. New York prevailed in the 12th inning with a single by Chuck Knoblauch, a sacrifice bunt by Brosius and a single from Alfonso Soriano, giving the Yankees a 3-2 series lead heading back to Arizona.
2001 Game 6: Nov. 3
Back in Phoenix, the Diamondbacks turned to future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, who was at the peak of his powers in 2001. He won the third of four straight National League Cy Young Awards that season, and was 21-6 with a 2.49 ERA during the regular season with 372 strikeouts. Add in the 47 strikeouts Johnson achieved in the postseason, and 2001 was a record year for Johnson with 419 total strikeouts, eight more than Sandy Koufax in 1965.
Game 6 was not competitive in the least, with Arizona jumping out to a 4-0 lead after two innings, then adding an eight-run rally in the third to put the game away. Johnson allowed two runs in seven innings for the win, evening the series at three games apiece
2001 Game 7: Nov. 4
The final game of the 2001 World Series featured one of the great starting pitching matchups of all time, with American League Cy Young winner Roger Clemens facing off against NL Cy Young runner-up Curt Schilling, and the two didn’t disappoint. The game was scoreless until the sixth when Arizona scratched across a run, but that was it against Clemens, who struck out 10 on the night.
The Yankees tied it in the seventh, then Alfonso Soriano led off the eighth by golfing an 0-2 pitch over the wall in left center field, giving New York a 2-1 lead and putting them just six outs away from a potential fourth World Series championship.
But the Diamondbacks would rally against the usually unflappable Rivera, the man with a 0.70 lifetime postseason ERA and 0.99 World Series ERA, handing him the only World Series blown save of his career, finished off with a blooper from Luis Gonzalez.
Johnson, who threw 104 pitches the night before, got the final four outs of Game 7 in relief to earn the win.
2009 Game 4: Nov. 1
We didn’t get another November game until 2009, though 2007 would have given us Game 7 had the series lasted that long. The juggernaut Yankees won 103 games and were facing a Philadelphia Phillies team looking to repeat as World Series winners.
New York dropped the first game but won the next three, including a three-run, tie-breaking rally against closer Brad Lidge in the ninth inning of Game 4. That rally was most remembered for a heads-up Johnny Damon beating an infield shift by stealing two bases on one play.
2009 Game 5: Nov 2
The Phillies stayed alive with an 8-6 win, thanks in large part to Chase Utley, who hit two home runs, including a three-run shot in the first inning against A.J. Burnett. Utley would homer five times during this World Series.
Cliff Lee, acquired by Philadelphia in a deadline deal that July, cruised into the eighth inning with a big lead. The Yankees rallied for three runs against him in the eighth but the game was already put away by then, and Lee improved to 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five starts that postseason for Philadelphia.
2009 Game 6: Nov. 4
The Yankees closed out their title thanks to a huge night from Hideki Matsui, who had a two-run home run in the second inning, a two-run single in the third, followed by a two-run double in the fifth inning, leading New York to a 7-3 home win. Matsui was the Yankees’ designated hitter and started just three of the six games of the Series, but went 8 for 13 (.615) with three home runs, a double, a walk and eight RBI to capture World Series MVP honors.
2010 Game 5: Nov. 1
The San Francisco Giants got eight strong innings from Tim Lincecum, who struck out 10 while only allowing one run in Arlington, and Edgar Renteria hit a three-run home run in the seventh inning for the only runs against Lee, now with the Texas Rangers. This gave the Giants their first World Series championship in 56 years, and their first since moving out west to San Francisco.
To date, that’s it for November baseball. Seven games, including one extra-inning contest and three games decided in the final inning. The Mets and Royals will play November game No. 8 on Sunday night, and the Mets hope there is room for games nine and 10 on the docket.