Tonight, the Yankees will face the Tigers in Game Five of their American League Division Series. It’ll be the seventh time the Yankees have participated in an ALDS that’s gone the distance: They’re 3-3 in such games. Here, now, a look back at the first six.
October 11, 1981, in New York: Yankees 7, Brewers 3
This wasn’t an ALDS as we know it today: In the strike-shortened 1981 season, the first-half champions and and second-half champions in each of the league’s two divisions met in a best-of-five series to determine the division’s representative in the ALCS. In Game Five of the ALDS, the Yanks fell behind 2-0, but tied the score on back-to-back fourth-inning home runs by Reggie Jackson and Oscar Gamble. Rick Cerrone, who according to the Times, “felt [George] Steinbrenner’s most biting sting after the loss in the fourth game,” also drove in a run in the fourth, and later homered in the seventh. He also considered acknowledging the Boss after the homer, but wisely thought better of it. Also from the next day’s Times: ”For one second, when I got to home plate, I thought of tipping my hat to George. But that would have shown him up. I don’t show up my pitchers, my teammates or my boss.” Rookie Dave Righetti, who started and won Game Two three days earlier, earned the victory by pitching three innings of one-run ball in relief of Ron Guidry, who started Game Five on three days’ rest.
October 8, 1995, in Seattle: Mariners 6, Yankees 5
After winning the first two games of the ALDS in New York and dropping the next two in Seattle, the Yankees took a 5-4 lead in the top of the eleventh on Randy Velarde’s single off Randy Johnson. What happened next was such an important moment in the history of the Mariners’ franchise that it has its own Wikipedia page: Edgar Martinez’s double off Jack McDowell scored both Joey Cora and Ken Griffey Jr., and Seattle won the game 6-5.
October 5, 1997, in Cleveland: Indians 4, Yankees 3
Sandy Alomar Jr.’s home run off Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning of Game Four may be the most memorable moment of this series, but that Indians’ win only forced a deciding game. In Game Five, Cleveland scored three runs in the third off Andy Pettitte: Two on a Manny Ramirez ground rule double, and another on a Matt Williams single. (Had anyone else forgotten that Matt Williams played a season for the Indians? Surely we’re not the only ones, right? Right?) Cleveland would score again in the fourth, and the Yankees would scratch out just two runs. Jaret Wright earned his second victory of the series.
October 7, 2000, in Oakland: Yankees 7, Athletics 5
Oakland’s 11-1 win in Game Four in the Bronx meant the teams had to fly cross-country to play the deciding Game Five the very next day. The Yankees grabbed control of the game early with a six-run first that included Tino Martinez’s bases-clearing three-RBI double. Oakland would cut it to 7-5 by the end of the fourth inning, but four Yankees relievers (Mike Stanton, Jeff Nelson, Orlando Hernandez, and Mariano Rivera) combined for five and a third scoreless innings in which they allowed just three hits and struck out seven batters.
October 15, 2001, in New York: Yankees 5, Athletics 3
This went down as one of the most memorable series of the Joe Torre era: The Yankees had fallen behind two games to none, but forced a Game Five with two wins in Oakland. (This was also the series that gave us Derek Jeter’s memorable “flip play.”) In Game Five, Oakland jumped out to an early 2-0 lead with runs of Roger Clemens in each of the first two innings, but the Yankees would rally back, eventually taking a 4-2 lead thanks in part to some sloppy Oakland defense. The game would also feature another outstanding defensive play from Jeter; in this one, the shortstop tumbled into the stands to catch Terrence Long’s foul pop-up in the eighth inning. Mariano Rivera pitched two innings of scoreless relief to close out the game, and the Yankees became the first team to win a best-of-five series after losing the first two games at home.
October 10, 2005, in Anaheim: Angels 5, Yankees 3
Angels starter Bartolo Colon left the game in the second inning with inflammation in his right shoulder, but Mike Mussina didn’t last much longer: The Angels scored five times off Mussina in the first three innings, and the righty was pulled after just two and two thirds, with the Yankees trailing 5-2. Randy Johnson came on to pitch four and a third scoreless innings, three days after a terrible outing in Game Three, but it was too little, too late. The Yankees would score just one more run — a Derek Jeter homer to lead off the seventh — and the Angels advanced to play the eventual champion White Sox in the ALCS.