Baseball fix: Recent classic games to watch during the coronavirus shutdown

With baseball delayed indefinitely, and people around the world working from home to stem the spread of the coronavirus, entertainment options are a must. Major League Baseball’s 2020 season isn’t coming Thursday, as originally planned. We don’t know when or if it will arrive, really, and we certainly don’t know what it will look like if it does.

But we know the familiar daily comforts and thrills that usually come with spring are missing. Television networks, including MLB Network (which will show the famous 1978 Bucky Dent game several times on Saturday), are providing some access to old favorites, but the more choices the better.

We assembled a list of instant classics — regular season games of recent vintage, in this first edition — that you can watch on YouTube or with that MLB.TV subscription you had already bought in anticipation of your team’s upcoming season.

Shohei Ohtani flirts with perfection

Athletics at Angels, April 8, 2018: Watch on YouTube or MLB.TV.

Shohei Ohtani was, at this moment early in his first season with the Los Angeles Angels, basically a human manifestation of every baseball fan’s wildest dreams. Carrying the mystique of literally Babe Ruth, the two-way star made his second start on the mound on a Sunday afternoon in Oakland.

His first outing had been a success, six innings and a win, but this quickly looked like something else entirely. He struck out the side in the first inning, and had seven Ks on the board by the time he ... struck out the side again in the fifth. All the while, America’s eyes were darting around what wasn’t in his stat line: Hits, walks or baserunners of any kind.

Ohtani eventually lost the perfect game in the seventh inning, but the performance captured every viewer’s imagination long before that. - Zach Crizer

David Bote’s walk-off grand slam

Nationals at Cubs, Aug. 12, 2018: Watch on YouTube or MLB.TV

This was a thing of backyard legend. The scenario baseball-loving kids act out in their backyard every summer. Two outs. Bottom of the ninth. Down by three. Bases loaded. Only this was real life and David Bote was at the plate for the Chicago Cubs.

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 12: David Bote #13 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates as he rounds the bases after hitting a walk-off grand slam against the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field on August 12, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago Cubs won 4-3. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

They were down 3-0 to the Washington Nationals on Sunday Night Baseball. Cole Hamels and Max Scherzer had each pitched well to start the game, and the Nats added insurance to a 1-0 lead in the ninth. Which is to say it was a tense game worth watching before Bote stepped to the plate with the bases juiced and everyone’s childhood dream staring back at him.

You know how this ends. He did it. He actually did it. But it’s one of those movies that’s still worth watching even though you know the ending. - Mike Oz

A Yelich cycle

Brewers at Reds, Aug. 29, 2018: Watch on YouTube or MLB.TV.

This one has it all: tons of offense, extra innings, and a little history. The Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds combined for 36 hits and nine home runs, the Brewers came back from three separate deficits, and eventual 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich hit for the cycle.

This game clocks in at over four hours (and there's a rain delay as well), but with 25 total runs scored, there's never a dull moment. - Liz Roscher

Bellinger one-ups Yelich

Dodgers at Brewers, April 21, 2019: Watch on MLB.TV.

Joc Pederson homered twice on his birthday and Clayton Kershaw took a no-hitter into the fifth inning for the Los Angeles Dodgers before the Milwaukee Brewers pulled off a furious rally to erase a 5-run deficit — the heroics of Lorenzo Cain and Eric Thames make it a stirring watch with no further context.

Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich met on the field early in 2019, then raced toward an NL MVP vote throughout the season. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

But this game is most memorable for its two-highlight summation of the high-flying 2019 NL MVP race that was just beginning to unfold — as eventual winner Cody Bellinger robbed Yelich, the defending MVP and eventual runner-up, of a crucial homer, then hit the go-ahead bomb himself. - Zach Crizer

The Angels’ emotional no-hitter

Mariners at Angels, July 12, 2019: Watch on MLB.TV.

Baseball is a sport built around emotion. When the Los Angeles Angels returned home on July 12, 2019, ten days after the death of teammate Tyler Skaggs, that emotion was expressed in ways far different than we're use to seeing on a baseball field. 

The mood was somber to start. Skaggs' grieving mother, Debbie, was the first person on the mound that night, firing a perfect ceremonial first pitch. From there, the Angels completely overwhelmed the Seattle Mariners in a game they won 13-0, while raising the ballpark's collective spirit and providing an outcome that won't soon be forgotten.

Together, Taylor Cole and Felix Peña pitched the second combined no-hitter in Angels history just hours before what would have been Skaggs' 28th birthday. There are few words to describe what happened that night. From the memorable first pitch, to the Angels seven-run first inning, to the emotional final out and postgame celebration. In fact, there may only be one word that fits: magical. - Mark Townsend

That game-saving Aaron Hicks catch

Yankees at Twins, July 23, 2019: Watch on MLB.TV.

The first few innings of this one are dull, but then it picks up like crazy. The The New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins scored a combined 26 runs off 35 hits over 10 jam-packed innings, and this game even included a magical Yankees comeback after it looked like the Twins were a lock to win. If a rewatchable game means an onslaught of action and an unexpected ending, look no further. - Liz Roscher

These two teams were all about offense in 2019, becoming the first clubs in MLB history to surpass 300 home runs in a season. Ironically, when they met in a historically homer-filled series at Target Field in late July, the defining moment was a defensive play for the ages.

Aaron Hicks ended the Yankees' wild win over the Twins with a diving, airborne grab in the gap to take extra bases away from Max Kepler. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Aaron Hicks, an outfielder who debuted and spent his first three MLB seasons with the Twins, came back to break Minnesota's heart with an incredible diving catch to secure a Yankees 14-12 win in 10 innings.  Minnesota had loaded the bases with two outs when Max Kepler hit a rocket that seemed ticketed for extra bases. Hicks, who was shaded in the right direction, used his speed and athleticism to end the game.

There was no shortage of drama leading up to that point. The Yankees scored five eighth-inning runs to take the lead, which they quickly blew. In the ninth, Hicks hit a go-ahead two-run home run that also didn't hold up. Didi Gregorius, who finished with five hits and seven RBIs, eventually scored the winning run on a Gleyber Torres single. - Mike Oz

‘Boom’: The Nationals preview postseason magic

Mets at Nationals, Sept. 3, 2019: Watch on MLB.TV.

As you might have heard, the Washington Nationals won the 2019 World Series. You might have also heard that they went 5-0 in elimination games on their way to the title, despite trailing by multiple runs in every single game at some point.

Those October games are all worth watching (wait for part two of this guide), but it was a regular season game in which the 2019 Nats gave us fair warning of the kind of demented run they were setting up for. Sure, it was against the always-doomed New York Mets, but a seven-run ninth-inning comeback capped by a Kurt Suzuki walk-off homer is exhilarating no matter what team is on the bad end of it.

Oh, and did we mention that the starting pitchers were Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, who have combined to win the past four NL Cy Young awards? - Jack Baer

Bonus: Pete Alonso walks it off at the Home Run Derby

2019 Home Run Derby, July 8, 2019, watch it on Youtube

If you miss seeing dingers, MLB and Youtube have you covered. On Saturday, the complete 2019 Home Run Derby was uploaded to the video streaming service. It's an especially kind gift considering that we're unlikely to experience any All-Star festivities in 2020. 

What a wild event it was. Toronto Blue Jays rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a record 91 home runs over three rounds, but that wasn’t enough to win it. Pete Alonso of the New York Mets, who went on to set the MLB rookie home run record, topped Guerrero 23-22 in the final round with a walk-off blast.  

Other participants included Ronald Acuña Jr., Alex Bregman, Joc Pederson, Josh Bell, Carlos Santana and Matt Chapman. 

Watch it now. Thank us later. - Mark Townsend

Coming soon: Postseason classics to watch while baseball is away.

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