Great Pennant Races Since 1969.

Sorry this is a couple days behind the times, but with the wrap up of the regular season we should look at some of the great last weeks of the season since 1969.

Great NL Divisional Pennant Races Since 1969

2003 NL Central
Before their 19-8 September lead by stellar pitching by Kerry Wood and Mark Prior the Cubs were 3 games over .500, in third place in the Central, 2.5 games behind St. Louis and Houston. They took 4 of 5 games against St. Louis over Labour Day weekend and they didn’t look back. They entered the last weekend of play a half game ahead of Houston. They took both ends of a Saturday doubleheader against Pittsburgh to clinch the title with a game to spare.

1999 NL Central
After a bad start the Cincinnati Reds were playing catch-up to the Houston Astros all season and they were able to catch them before going into the last weekend of the season. The Astros won the first 2 games vs Los Angeles while the Reds dropped the first 2 in Milwaukee to give the Astros the Central title. The Reds needed to win the season finale; which turned out to be the last game at County Stadium and they did 7-1 to force a playoff the next night in New York – who had swept Pittsburgh to catch the Reds on the second to last day. The Mets prevailed in the playoff 5-0 on a 2 hit shutout by Al Leiter.

1996 NL West
The upstart San Diego Padres had flirted with the Dodgers for the NL West lead even after playing though a terrible slump in June and July. They controlled their own destiny coming into the last weekend of the season. It was a tough hill to climb, as they needed to sweep the Dodgers on the road. Fortunately for the Padres the Dodger bats went to sleep for the final series. The Dodgers managed only 4 runs and 3 extra base hits in the first 2 games. In the 2-0, 11-inning season finale which saw the Dodgers manage only 4 singles in the game and only 1 after the fifth inning while Bob Tewksbury, Dario Veras and Trevor Hoffman combined for an 11-inning shutout and the NL West crown.

1993 NL West
At the end of June the Braves found themselves 9 games behind the Giants. They started July with a sweep of the Rockies (Atlanta was 13-0 vs Colorado in 1993) and continued to get hotter as the season went on including 41-15 after August 1. Regardless, the season came down to the last game. The Braves had defeated the Rockies, the Giants needed a win to keep pace and lost 12-1 to the Dodgers led by 2 Mike Piazza home runs. The Giants, despite 103 victories finished one behind Atlanta.

1991 NL West
The Dodgers had established a 2 game lead over the surprising Braves going into the second to last weekend of the season. However, the sputtering Braves were able to turn their fortunes around on the road with sweeps in Houston and Cincinnati. The Braves came home and beat Houston while the Dodgers lost in San Francisco. A 2-hit shutout by Trevor Wilson of the Giants sunk the Dodgers as the Braves got a complete game by John Smoltz and won the title for Atlanta.

1982 NL West
Despite coming out of the gates 13-0 the Atlanta Braves found themselves in a tight 3- team race and a game behind the Dodgers going into the last week of the season. They were heading to California to play the Giants, Dodgers and Padres. They swept the Giants (eliminating them) and split against the Dodgers. They entered the last game of the season a game up and needing either to beat the Padres or a Dodger loss to the Giants. The Braves managed only 1 run on 4 hits in a 5-1 loss to Tim Lollar and the Padres. Despite great pitching from Fernando Valenzuela the Dodger bullpen could not win the game as a late inning Joe Morgan three run shot won the game for the Giants and the pennant for the Braves.

1980 NL West
After competing in a three way race with the Dodgers and Cincinnati all season the Astros went into the final 4 games at Dodger Stadium needing one win to wrap up the franchises first playoff berth. In the first game, leading 2-1 going into the ninth a Dodger rally forced extra innings when a bottom of the tenth lead off homer by Joe Ferguson won it for the Dodgers. Jerry Reuss out dueled Nolan Ryan to win the second game 2-1. Three late runs in the third game propelled the Dodgers 4-3 to set up a winner take all season finale. The Astros put up 7 runs early for Joe Neikro who cruised to a 7-1 win and a title for Texas.

1980 NL East
After losing 2 of 3 to the Expos at Veterans Stadium the Phillies found themselves a half game behind the Expos with a week to play. They were able to turn their fortunes around and swept 4 from the Cubs while the Expos swept 3 from St. Louis. This set up a classic season finale of 3 games between the Phils and Expos deadlocked atop the NL East at Olympic Stadium. The first game was won by the Phils in a 2-1 pitching duel in which Mike Schmidt knocked in both runs. The Phillies scored in the top of the ninth in the second game of the series to force extra innings in which Schmidt homered in the eleventh with Pete Rose on to win the game 6-4 and clinch the NL East title.

1979 NL East
The Montreal Expos got off to a great start in 1979 going 14-5 in April but had cooled off in the summer and had fallen 3.5 games behind the Pirates before a ten game win streak at the end of August had propelled them into a virtual tie over the last two weeks in September. The last week of the season the Expos were 0.5 games ahead of the Pirates and they split a double-header at Three Rivers. The next two games at Pittsburgh saw the Expos lose by a combined score of 20-5. Pittsburgh took the lead in the standing and now, controllers of their own destiny; cruised to the crown. The Expos won 95 games but finished 2 games back of the Pirates.

1978 NL East
The Pirates and Phillies had battled all year for top spot and it came down to the last series and Pittsburgh had to sweep Philadelphia and the title was theirs. The Pirates won the first two games in a double header and got off to a 4-0 first inning lead due to a Willie Stargell grand slam. The Phillies battled back to lead 10-4 going into the bottom of the ninth before Pittsburgh rallied to put 4 runs up before being Ron Reed was able to shut the door on the Pirates by striking out Stargell and getting a ground out to end the game winning the title for the Phillies.

1974 NL East
With 2 weeks to go in the season the Cardinals had just handed the Pirates their sixth loss in a row to take a 2.5 game lead. The Pirates came back and took the next two games against St.Louis and began an 11-4 run to end the season. The Pirates clinched the title with a tenth inning single by Manny Sanguillen at Three Rivers to beat the Cubs 5-4. While a Mike Jorgensen homer in the eighth inning gave the Expos a 3-2 win over Bob Gibson and the Cards on the last day of the season.

Great AL Pennant Races since 1969
2004 AL West
After battling all year the Angels and A’s have 3 games left in Oakland. The Angels are up a game and beat the A’s 10-0 in the first game of the series. The second game Oakland’s Barry Zito is replaced in the top of the eighth allowing only 3 hits and leading 4-1, the Angels put up a 4 spot against the Oakland bullpen to win the game and the pennant.

1995 AL West
After the California Angels led the West for most of the season. The Mariners go on a tear going 19-7 after September 1. However, with 2 games to go they find themselves 2 games up on the Angels. They lose their last 2 in Texas while California easily disposed of Oakland setting up a one-game playoff. The Mariners send Randy Johnson to the mound at the Kingdome and give him 9 runs to work with in a 9-1 three hit complete game, the Mariners first division title.

1987 AL East
With a week to go in the season the Blue Jays go 3.5 games ahead of the Tigers after taking 3 in a row off Detroit. Detroit wins the fourth game of the series in a 13 inning marathon which Kirk Gibson tied the game in the ninth with a HR off Tom Henke. The Jays would go on to lose the next 6 all by one run. The Tigers would win the division on last game of the season with a 1-0 complete game shutout by Frank Tanana.

1984 AL West
With a week to go in the season the Royals, Twins and Angels are within a game and a half of each other. KC took the next 3 of 4 vs the Angels before losing 2 of 3 to the A’s while the Twins lose their last 6 games including 4 to lowly Cleveland. All three teams limp to the wire with the Angels and Twins finishing 3 games behind the Royals.

1982 AL East
Going into the final series of the season the Brewers are three games ahead of the Orioles with a 4 game set at Memorial Stadium to decide the division winner. The Brewers lose the first 3 games by a combined score of 26-7 only to win the season finale and the East title with HOF Don Sutton getting the win over HOF Jim Palmer 10-2.

1978 AL East
With a week to go in the season both the Yanks and Red Sox are on fire. The Sox win their last 8 games while the Yanks could only manage 7-1. A one game playoff to decide the title winner is scheduled at Fenway Park. A four run Yankee seventh capped by a 3 run dinger by Bucky Dent sent the Red Sox home despite winning 99 games.

1972 AL East
In a season interrupted by a strike there would be no games made up by the event of the stoppage. The Tigers and Red Sox went down to the wire in a 3 game series with the BoSox leading the MoTowners by a half game. Detroit took 2 of 3 games to finish the season at Tiger Stadium and won the AL East by a half game. The Red Sox played 155 games while the Tigers played 156. The Sox had unfortunately lost one more game during the strike and while both teams had 70 losses the Tigers had one more win.
So what’s your favourite, did I miss any great one?

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  • Might as well add in the AL central race this season. Good article, tons of info!!

  • Early

    Sort of anti-climatic as the top two teams both made the playoffs. AL East last year, good race but they were both going to the playoffs.