By Cliff Corcoran
Diamondbacks right-hander Archie Bradley became the first relief pitcher to hit a triple in postseason history on Wednesday night when he smoked a hanging slider from the Rockies' Pet Neshek in the bottom of the seventh inning of Arizona's 11-8 victory over Colorado in the National League Wild Card Game, driving in two. Even though Bradley would promptly give those runs back via a pair of solo homers in the top of the eighth, it was still pretty cool.
Bradley's triple was the first extra-base hit of his professional career and just his second hit this season, and it increased his teams' probability of winning the game by 16 percentage points (expressed in win probability added as 0.16 WPA). That made the hit, one of four D-backs triples on the night, the most significant play of the game. However, it falls short of these notable postesason pitcher knocks, all of which were worth 0.20 WPA or more.
10. Jack Bentley, Giants, Game 5, 1924 World Series
Two-run home run, 0.20 WPA
A career .291/.316/.406 hitter who started 56 games at first base for the Phillies in 1926, Giants lefty Jack Bentley went 3-for-5 with a double against the Yankees in the 1923 World Series, but 0-for-3 in his first start against the Senators in the 1924 Fall Classic. In his Game 5 start, he broke a 1-1 tie with a two-run home run off the legendary Walter Johnson in an eventual 6-2 Giants win, though New York would lose the Series.
9. Mike Cuellar, Orioles, Game 1, 1970 ALCS
Grand slam, 0.20 WPA
Only two pitchers have ever hit a grand slam in the postseason, and both did so for the Orioles in 1970. Dave McNally's grand slam against the Reds in Game 3 of that year's World Series came with the Orioles already up 4-1 in the sixth, and thus had a WPA of just 0.07. Cuellar's, however, came right after Baltimore had broken 2-2 tie to take a 3-2 lead on the Twins with one out in the top of the fourth inning of the opening game of the American League Championship Series. Don Buford and Boog Powell added solo shots that inning, and the Orioles cruised to a sweep of Minnesota and their second consecutive pennant.
8. Steve Carlton, Phillies, Game 3, 1978 NLCS
Two-out RBI single, 0.21 WPA
Carlton's 2-for-4 performance at the plate in this game stands as the second most impactful hitting performance by a pitcher in postseason history. This hit, an RBI single off the Dodgers' Don Sutton in the top of the sixth, led to an error by right fielder Reggie Smith that allowed a second run to score and Carlton to move to third, expanding the Phillies' lead from 4-3 to 6-3, after which Carlton scored on a Jerry Martin double to make it 7-3. Carlton gets extra credit from WPA for Smith's error, but he earned the overall score, as you'll see below at No. 6.
7. Art Nehf, Giants, Game 1, 1924 World Series
Single in top of 12th inning, 0.23 WPA
Nehf appeared in five World Series, tallying four hits, three of which came in this game, all of them singles off the Senators' Walter Johnson. The second of those hits came with a man on second and two outs and the Giants up 2-1 in the top of the ninth. A bow-legged rookie named Hack Wilson tried to score on the hit, but was thrown out at home by Senators right fielder Sam Rice to end the inning. Needing three outs for the win, Nehf allowed Washington to tie the game, and he and Johnson continued to duel into the 12th. Giants catcher Hank Gowdy led off the top of the 12th by working Johnson for a walk. Nehf then delivered another single, and he and Gowdy both gained an extra base on center fielder Earl McNeely's error. That might not sound like much, but that play put two men in scoring position in the 12th inning of a tied World Series game. The Giants wound up scoring twice in that inning, enough to allow Nehf to give up another run in the bottom of the 12th and still secure the 4-3 win. But the Senators won the Series in seven games.
6. Steve Carlton, Phillies, Game 3, 1978 NLCS
Three-run home run, 0.24 WPA
After exchanging 1-2-3 innings with Carlton in the first inning of this game, the same as that which featured Carlton's single above, Sutton retired the first two men in the top of the second only to give up a double to Mike Schmidt and fall apart against the bottom of the order. He walked Carlton's personal catcher, Tim McCarver, and gave up an RBI single to Ted Sizmore. Then came Carlton, who cracked a three-run home run over the 385 sign in Dodger Stadium's right-center-field gap to give Philadelphia an early 4-0 lead. Carlton officially drove in four runs in this game, but, thanks to Smith's error, a fifth scored on his single and he himself scored a sixth in a game the Phillies won 9-4. Add it all up, and Carlton had a 0.406 WPA as a hitter in this game. But the Dodgers won the NLCS, 3-1.
5. Kerry Wood, Cubs, Game 1, 2003 NLDS
Two-run double, 0.25 WPA
Wood hit a game-tying two-run homer in the bottom of the second inning of Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS against the Marlins. That hit just missed this list at 0.18 WPA. Two weeks before that, he had an even bigger hit that stayed in the ballpark. It came in the top of the sixth against the Braves' Russ Ortiz. The Cubs, who had opened the inning with three singles to load the bases, had just tied the game 1-1 on an RBI groundout by Paul Bako, but that brought the pitcher up with two outs. Wood took ball one, then laced a double to left that plated the two remaining runners, giving Chicago a 3-1 lead that increased to 4-1 when Kenny Lofton singled Wood home. The Cubs ultimately won 4-2 and took the NLDS in five.
4. Babe Ruth, Red Sox, Game 4, 1918 World Series
Two-run triple, 0.26 WPA
No list of hitting pitchers would be complete without Ruth, and he doesn't disappoint. Ruth connected for the fourth-most-valuable posteason hit by a pitcher when he delivered a two-out, two-RBI triple off the Cubs' Lefty Tyler that broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth inning of this game, which the Red Sox won 3-2. Ruth pitched into the ninth, then shifted to left field to allow Bullet Joe Bush to record the final two outs.
3. Jake Arrieta, Cubs, Game 3, 2016 NLDS
Three-run home run, 0.27 WPA
Arrieta's three-run home run off the Giants' Madison Bumgarner came with two outs in the top of the second to open up the scoring in this game, and Arrieta made it hold up through the sixth. However, after his departure, the Cubs' bullpen let San Francisco take the lead. The bats rallied to tie the game in the top of the ninth, but the bullpen ultimately blew it again, handing the Cubs a 6-5 loss in 13 innings. (As you might know, though, it worked out for the Cubs in that Division Series ... and ultimately the World Series.)
2. Christy Mathewson, Giants, Game 2, 1913 World Series
RBI single with one out in top of 10th inning, 0.29 WPA
Mathewson had already singled once in this game against the Philadelphia Athletics, and here he broke a scoreless tie with a single to left-center that plated what would prove to be the winning run. The Giants brought Matty around for an insurance run, and Mathewson retired the A's in order in the bottom of the tenth for the win. The A's beat the Giants in the Series, though, 4-1.
1. Rube Foster, Red Sox, Game 2, 1915 World Series
RBI single with two outs in top of 9th inning, 0.38 WPA
Foster went 3-for-4 in this game against the Phillies, with a double in the fifth and a single in the seventh, but neither of those hits contributed to a run-scoring inning. The score stood at 1-1 in the top of the ninth, when Sox third baseman Larry Gardner led off with a single off Phillies starter Erskine Mayer. Two outs later, Gardner had only made it to second base, but at a time when teams would let their pitchers hit in crucial late-game situations, Foster got the job done with an RBI single to center that scored Gardner with what proved to be the winning run. Altogether, Foster's hitting performance in the game was worth .414 WPA, making it the most significant single-game hitting performance by a pitcher in postseason history.
Cliff Corcoran is a Sports on Earth contributor and a regular guest analyst on MLB Network. An editor or contributor to 13 books about baseball, including seven Baseball Prospectus annuals, he spent the last 10 seasons covering baseball for SI.com and has also written for USA Today and SB Nation, among others.