The 2020 MLB season was unlike any other. An unprecedented 60-game campaign gave us all the thrills of a regular season packed into about two months of baseball, followed by an expanded Postseason full of intense drama and history-making performances. On Sunday night, MLB Network counted down the top 40 moments of the 2020 season. Here’s a breakdown:
No. 1: The Dodgers finally win it all
Nobody can know how the final out of the World Series will unfold before it happens — it could be a strikeout, a groundout, a flyball, anything. Entering Game 6 of the 2020 World Series, the Dodgers had already had many occasions to ponder that in recent years, having lost the World Series in 2017 and ’18. But it finally happened — on a called third strike right down the middle from Julio Urías to Willy Adames, a 32-year championship drought was brought to a triumphant end.
No. 2: Unlikely hero plus wacky finish equals World Series classic
Brett Phillips hadn’t had a plate appearance in more than two weeks. And then he was thrust into the spotlight as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of World Series Game 4. The Rays were trailing the Dodgers, 7-6, but had the tying run at second and the winning run at first.
In only his third career postseason plate appearance, and coming off a season in which he had a .697 OPS over 59 plate appearances, Phillips delivered a single to right. The tying run scored, and after Chris Taylor misplayed the ball in right-center field, Randy Arozarena, who would have been out at the plate had the play been made and therefore turned back toward third, turned around again and stumbled home to win it for Tampa Bay when catcher Will Smith lost the ball while spinning to apply the tag.
No. 3: Bellinger’s picture-perfect robbery of Tatis
It’s the seventh inning of NLDS Game 2. Your club is clinging to a 4-3 lead with the tying run on second and two outs for … Fernando Tatis Jr. Needless to say, it’s a huge spot. So when Tatis crushed a ball deep to center field, it looked as though the Padres would have a 5-4 lead over the Dodgers when the ball landed. But it landed in Cody Bellinger’s outstretched glove on a picture-perfect leaping grab against the wall to rob Tatis of what surely would’ve been a go-ahead homer.
No. 4: MLB players join the fight for social justice
In the wake of the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis and other ensuing events around the country, MLB players joined together to express their solidarity in the fight for social justice. Several current and former players appeared together in a special Players Alliance video, and as the season opened in late July, teams around baseball held special moments to honor lives lost and express support for the movement. Several teams also chose to not play some of their games in the aftermath of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisc., instead playing makeup contests later in the season. Overall, the 2020 season had as one of its major themes an issue much bigger than baseball.
No. 5: Brosseau’s revenge
If you were the Rays, you couldn’t have written the script any better: Tampa Bay was locked in a 1-1 tie with the Yankees in the decisive Game 5 of the AL Division Series, and in the eighth inning, Mike Brosseau came to the plate against the flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman (these two have some history — Chapman nearly hit Brosseau in the head with a pitch at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 1 before the benches emptied). Brosseau smashed a go-ahead homer on the 10th pitch of the at-bat — a 100.2-mph fastball — that proved to be the difference in the Rays’ 2-1, series-clinching victory, leaving Chapman and the Yankees stunned and Brosseau with the ultimate revenge.
No. 6: Arozarena makes (more) postseason history
Randy Arozarena had a postseason for the ages in 2020. He single-handedly rewrote the record book in several categories, and in the first inning of World Series Game 6 against the Dodgers, the Rays’ rookie outfielder launched his record-setting 10th home run of the postseason, a solo shot off Tony Gonsolin over the right-field wall at Globe Life Field.
No. 7: Pujols passes Mays with No. 661
Albert Pujols is in the twilight of his career, but we have all been fortunate to have had the opportunity to watch one of the greatest right-handed hitters in MLB history. He further burnished his Hall of Fame credentials with his 661st and 662nd career home runs on Sept. 18 at Angel Stadium against the Rangers. No. 661 surpassed the legendary Willie Mays, whose 660 home run figure is one of the most iconic stats in baseball history. Pujols is now the sole possessor of fifth place on the all-time home run list.
No. 8: Cashing out with Snell
The Rays were playing for the chance at a Game 7 in the World Series against the Dodgers. And Tampa Bay was in good shape, leading Los Angeles in the sixth inning of Game 6, 1-0. On the mound, the club’s ace, Blake Snell, was dealing — he had just given up a single to Austin Barnes, but it was just the second hit of the game for the Dodgers. Snell was at nine strikeouts and no walks over 73 pitches. But manager Kevin Cash decided to pull the left-hander in favor of reliever Nick Anderson. The first batter Anderson faced, Mookie Betts, doubled Barnes to third. Following a wild pitch that enabled the tying run to score, Corey Seager drove in Betts with an RBI groundout. The Dodgers won the World Series that night with a 3-1 victory.
No. 9: Marlins make history with a front-office first
The Marlins announced they had hired Kim Ng as their new general manager on Nov. 13, making her the first woman to ever hold the position of GM in MLB history, as well as the second GM of Asian-American descent after Farhan Zaidi, who was the Dodgers’ GM before becoming the Giants’ president of baseball operations. Ng has a long and accomplished history in baseball operations, beginning as an intern with the White Sox in 1990 and rising to assistant GM for the Yankees by 1998. She then served as Dodgers vice president and assistant general manager from 2002-11. She served as senior vice president of baseball operations for MLB from 2012-20, before being named Miami’s GM in November.
No. 10: Marlins become surprise team of MLB with postseason berth
The 2020 season was unusual, to say the least. And the Marlins, for whom there were no expectations of a postseason appearance, faced even more challenges than most other clubs due to having several players test positive for COVID-19 throughout the shortened season. Still, despite having to use so many different players, many of whom had little to no MLB experience, NL Manager of the Year Don Mattingly guided Miami to its first postseason berth in 17 years, as well as its first postseason series victory in that span with an NL Wild Card Series win over the Cubs. And ironically, Miami punched its ticket to the playoffs in the same city it had last played a postseason game, defeating the Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 25.
No. 11: Correa crushes clutch walk-off homer to keep Houston alive
The road to a third AL pennant in four years was a daunting one for the Astros. While Houston didn’t accomplish that feat, there were some memorable moments along the way. One of them was the end of Game 5 of the ALDS against the Rays, when Carlos Correa crushed a walk-off home run over the center-field wall at Petco Park in the ninth inning. With the victory, the Astros became just the fourth team in MLB history to fall behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven series and force Game 6. They ended up going to seven games before Tampa Bay won the pennant. As for Correa, though, it wasn’t his first postseason walk-off homer, and he’s certainly shown a knack for delivering in October. According to manager Dusty Baker, Correa even called his shot before stepping to the plate.
No. 12: ‘Slam Diego’ makes history
The Padres are one of the most exciting teams in baseball. So when we look back, it’s no surprise that this squad made some history in 2020. It began when Fernando Tatis Jr. launched his first career grand slam in a 14-4 Padres win over the Rangers at Globe Life Field on Aug. 17. The next day, Wil Myers smashed a slam against Texas. The next day, facing the Rangers at Petco Park, Manny Machado belted a walk-off slam. See a pattern forming? Machado’s slam tied San Diego for the longest streak of games with a grand slam in MLB history. The tie was broken when Eric Hosmer lined a grand slam over the right-field wall the next day, cementing San Diego as “Slam Diego.” Also, poor Rangers, right?
No. 13: A Belli-Bomb of the highest order
The Dodgers were once again on the brink of falling short of winning their first World Series title since 1988. It happened in 2017, ’18, and ’19. And now, in 2020, they faced a Game 7 of the NL Championship Series against the Braves. With the game tied, 3-3, in the seventh inning, Cody Bellinger launched the biggest home run of his young career, a long solo homer to right-center field off Chris Martin to put Los Angeles on top, 4-3, in a pennant-clinching victory by the same score. And the Dodgers went on to finally win that elusive World Series championship.
No. 14: Tatis, Machado go back-to-back in NL Wild Card Series
The young Padres were facing elimination in the best-of-three NL Wild Card Series against the Cardinals at Petco Park, and San Diego’s lineup had fallen flat through five innings. Down 6-2 in the sixth, that all changed, courtesy of Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado. The pair belted back-to-back homers to tie the game, and Tatis put the Padres ahead with a two-run shot the very next inning. That one gave us a bat flip for the ages, and San Diego went on to win, 11-9, to tie the series at a game apiece. They won the next night for their first postseason series victory in 22 years.
No. 15: Giolito no-hits the Pirates
During the Players League video game tournament in the spring, Lucas Giolito threw a pair of no-hitters (one with teammate Dallas Keuchel on the mound, and another with himself pitching). He did the real thing on Aug. 25 against the Pirates, striking out 13 with just one walk while tossing 101 pitches.
No. 16: Betts robs the Braves again, this time in Game 7
Mookie Betts making great catches isn’t anything new. Betts making great catches in big games isn’t new. But Betts making a leaping grab at the wall to rob a home run in Game 7 of the NLCS, a day after making another unbelievable catch against the wall in Game 6, is new. Betts pulled off the incredible play in the fifth inning, when with two outs and the Dodgers trailing the Braves, 3-2, Freddie Freeman hit a towering drive toward the right-field wall. Betts drifted back, measured everything up and reeled in the would-be homer with a full-extension grab.
No. 17: Betts robs the Braves in the NLCS (the first time)
In another big spot in the NLCS, Betts went the other direction, to his right, to make a clutch catch against the wall in Game 6. It was on a Marcell Ozuna drive to deep right-center in the fifth inning that would have scored at least one run to cut into a 3-0 Dodgers lead had it hit the wall. But it didn’t — it landed instead in the outstretched glove of Betts, and little did we know he wasn’t done flashing the leather.
No. 18: Mills tosses first career no-no
The great thing about a no-hitter is that you just never know who might throw one. After all, Chris Heston threw a no-no for the Giants in his 13th career start in 2015 (he hasn’t pitched in the Majors since ’17) while the greatest starting pitching trio in the decade of the 1990s — Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz — combined for exactly none. So it was on Sept. 13, when Alec Mills no-hit the Brewers in a 12-0 Cubs victory at Miller Park. Mills etched his name in the history books in just his 15th career start, walking three and striking out five over 114 pitches.
No. 19: The White Sox go back-to-back-to-back … to back(!)
We knew entering the 2020 season that we were going to see some mammoth home runs from the White Sox, and a lot of home runs in general. After all, add Luis Robert to a lineup that already features José Abreu and Eloy Jiménez, and … you get the picture. But even such a potent lineup can surprise you with its power sometimes. Case in point: On Aug. 16 against the Cardinals at Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago got consecutive homers from Yoan Moncada, Yasmani Grandal, Abreu and Jiménez in a 7-2 win over St. Louis.
No. 20: Freeman delivers in the 13th for Game 1 win
A 0-0 game in the bottom of the 13th inning is not a bad opening act for the postseason. That’s where the Braves and Reds found themselves as Atlanta put runners at the corners with one out for its MVP — and eventually the league’s MVP — Freddie Freeman. As he did so many times during the regular season, he came through in the clutch with a single up the middle to give the Braves a 1-0 NL Wild Card Series lead.
No. 21: Will Smith wins the battle with … Will Smith?
Another Dodger coming through in a huge postseason spot. Except in this case, he was facing a pitcher with his name. See, what happened was, Will Smith faced Will Smith in the top of the sixth inning, with the Braves — already leading the NLCS 3-1 — leading Game 5, 2-1. Will Smith crushed a 3-2 fastball from Will Smith that landed over the left-field wall to put the Dodgers in front, 4-2. Got it? Los Angeles went on to win that game, and then that series, and then the World Series.
No. 22: More Mookie magic in October
The Dodgers generally hit a lot of home runs. So it’s no surprise they hit a lot of them in big spots last October. Betts’ 434-foot homer to lead off the eighth inning of World Series Game 6 against the Rays padded a 2-1 Dodgers lead with three outs to go for the franchise’s first World Series title in more than three decades.
No. 23: Trout hits another milestone
When you think about it, how incredible is it that Mike Trout has done all that he’s done in only 10 MLB seasons? He added to his long list of accomplishments when he launched the 300th home run of his career against the Astros at Angel Stadium on Sept. 5. It was a two-run shot to right field, and also made Trout the all-time franchise leader in homers, passing Tim Salmon’s 299.
No. 24: Acuña smashes longest homer of ’20
Ronald Acuña Jr. hit four leadoff homers in 2020, and one in particular wowed us more than the others — a 495-foot bomb to left-center field against Red Sox right-hander Chris Mazza at Truist Park on Sept. 25. Hanging sliders to Acuña are not recommended.
No. 25: Braves hit the trifecta in back-to-back games
We can’t forget the Braves when it comes to slugging lineups. If you saw nothing else from the NL East champions’ 2020 season, you would’ve come to recognize Atlanta’s power from two consecutive games over which a different player launched three homers. On Sept. 1 at Fenway Park, Marcell Ozuna went deep three times, and on the following night, Adam Duvall did the same. Duvall would have another three-homer game just a week later.
No. 26: Lewis leaps to the rescue
Before winning the 2020 AL Rookie of the Year Award, Kyle Lewis was busy not only at the plate, where he hit 11 homers with an .801 OPS in 58 games, but also in center field, where he made several highlight-reel plays. One of those was a catch that brought back what looked to be a sure grand slam at T-Mobile Park. With Seattle down, 1-0 in the first inning against the A’s on Sept. 14, Ramón Laureano belted a ball deep to left-center field with the bases loaded, and Lewis sprinted over, measured it up and made a tremendous leaping grab to rob Laureano and the A’s of a 5-0 lead.
No. 27: Ramírez sends Tribe to the postseason in walk-off fashion
José Ramírez is perhaps one of the most underrated sluggers in the game today — he’s finished among the top three in AL MVP Award voting three times already, finishing runner-up in 2020. But Cleveland certainly knows his value, which he demonstrated yet again when he stepped to the plate with his club down to its last out in the bottom of the 10th inning against the White Sox at Progressive Field on Sept. 22. After fouling off several pitches to stay alive, Ramírez lofted a walk-off three-run homer to clinch a postseason berth for the Tribe.
No. 28: Betts makes unbelievable laser throw to third
It’s your run-of-the-mill bottom of the first inning at Chase Field, when Ketel Marte loops a broken-bat single down the right-field line against the Dodgers. Then you see something that you have to make sure actually happened because it’s so incredible. Betts went over to pick the ball up and, from foul ground in the right-field corner, unleashed a missile of a throw to third base on the fly that nabbed Marte trying for a triple. According to Statcast, it was a 305-foot throw. His initials aren’t M.L.B. for nothing, folks.
No. 29: Alonso walks-off the Yankees after Seaver tribute
The Mets lost one of their all-time greatest players when Tom Seaver, also known as “The Franchise,” passed away on Aug. 31. On Sept. 3, Mets players paid tribute by rubbing dirt on their right knees in honor of Seaver’s trademark delivery, which resulted in dirt on his right knee from it touching the mound as he threw a pitch. That’s how that day’s game against the Yankees at Citi Field began, and the way it ended was also appropriate — after overcoming separate three- and four-run deficits, including a J.D. Davis game-tying homer off Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning, the Mets prevailed on a Pete Alonso walk-off homer in the 10th.
No. 30: Braves bust out for 29 runs
“I’ve never seen an offense click like that.” So said Freddie Freeman after his Braves set a modern era (since 1900) NL record for runs scored in a single game, demolishing the Marlins, 29-9 on Sept. 9 at Truist Park. Atlanta scored 11 in the second inning, two in the third, three in the fourth, six in the fifth, three in the sixth and four in the seventh. Leading the way was Adam Duvall, who turned in his second three-homer game in a week.
No. 31: Robles’ rocket completes incredible double play
Victor Robles made a spectacular leaping catch going back toward the warning track to rob the Phillies’ Alec Bohm of extra bases on Aug. 25. That was a great play. But he wasn’t done. Robles then unleashed a 288-foot throw on the fly to first base to double up Jean Segura, who could be seen smiling and shaking his head as he headed into the dugout. That’s about all you can do after seeing that jaw-dropping display.
No. 32: Gio launches slam in the ‘Urshela Game’
Game 2 of the 2020 AL Wild Card Series between the Yankees and Indians may very well be remembered as the “Urshela Game.” That’s because in addition to sparkling defensive plays at third base, which included a diving stop and throw from a seated position to get the out at first base, Gio Urshela launched a huge fourth-inning grand slam to put New York on top, 5-4, in an eventual 10-9 victory to advance to the ALDS.
No. 33: A Taylor-made double play
With the Dodgers clinging to a 7-6 lead in the ninth inning at Petco Park on Aug. 5, the Padres had runners at the corners with one out against closer Kenley Jansen. With the dangerous Manny Machado at the plate, things were looking good for San Diego. Machado lined a ball to left field, where Chris Taylor made the catch and fired home to nab the tagging Trent Grisham to end the game. According to Statcast, Taylor’s arm strength was 93.3 mph on the one-hop strike.
No. 34: Abreu homers in four straight at-bats
On his way to winning the AL MVP Award, José Abreu wore out the Cubs’ pitching staff over a three-game series at Wrigley Field from Aug. 21-23. He tied an MLB record by homering in four consecutive at-bats, and he did so off four different pitchers — Kyle Hendricks, Rowan Wick, Duane Underwood Jr. and Yu Darvish. And that’s not even all the damage Abreu did that weekend — he hit two more homers to become the sixth player in MLB history to homer six times over a three-game series (the MLB record is seven, held by Shawn Green).
No. 35: Nolan being Nolan
Anytime a baseball is hit in the vicinity of third base when the Rockies are in the field, there’s a general sense of excitement for the baseball fan (sans the fan for the batter’s team) that Nolan Arenado might be about to do something absurdly amazing. One such occasion came on Aug. 31 at Coors Field, when the Padres’ Austin Nola grounded a ball right down the third-base line past the bag. Arenado backhanded it and, crossing over into foul territory at the cut of the outfield grass, nonchalantly tossed the ball to first to get Nola by about three steps. Just another day at the office for No. 28.
No. 36: Bard’s brilliant comeback begins
Daniel Bard was once one of the elite relievers in baseball, posting a 1.93 ERA over 73 appearances for the Red Sox in 2010. But injuries and mechanical problems plagued him over the years that followed, and he toiled in the Minor Leagues to try to overcome a severe case of the yips before retiring in 2017. He then decided to try for a comeback after serving as a player mentor for the D-backs. The Rockies gave him a shot, and he took the mound in a Major League game for the first time in seven years when he debuted against the Rangers on July 25, tossing a scoreless inning and a third. He went on to win the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award after finishing with a 3.65 ERA (145 ERA+) over 23 appearances.
No. 37: Dickerson’s giant three-homer performance
He had a tough first month or so at the plate in 2020, but Alex Dickerson broke out in a big way to help fuel the Giants’ 23-5 win over the Rockies at Coors Field on Sept. 1. The slugging outfielder went 5-for-6 with two doubles, three home runs and six RBIs. One of his homers traveled a Statcast-projected 480 feet, the longest Statcast has tracked by a Giants player since tracking began in 2015. That’ll get you going. And it certainly got Dickerson going — he hit .400/.466/.815 in September.
No. 38: Choi being awesome
Before we got to see him demonstrate his athleticism defensively with some acrobatic postseason plays at first base, we got to see another fantastic Ji-Man Choi moment — the left-handed hitter turned around and hit right-handed on July 26 against the Blue Jays. He struck out in his first at-bat from the right side, but in the second one, he launched a laser homer into the left-center-field seats. This guy is just fun.
No. 39: Robert obliterates a 487-foot homer
We knew it was only a matter of time. White Sox center fielder Luis Robert, a five-tool phenom who made his highly anticipated MLB debut in 2020, smashed 11 home runs during the regular season. But it was a mammoth shot during the AL Wild Card Series against the A’s that left us awestruck more than any of those 11. In Game 3, Robert sent an 0-1 pitch from Mike Fiers 487 feet into the far reaches of the Oakland Coliseum — McGwire territory, if you will.
No. 40: A long-awaited Opening Day
With the COVID-19 pandemic delaying or postponing all major sports, baseball’s Opening Day on July 23 was long anticipated following a nine-month offseason. It was the beginning of a 60-game sprint of a campaign, but it was a thrilling race, with the Dodgers emerging as World Series champs.