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MLB MLB Playoffs

MLB Playoffs: Ten best comebacks in postseason history

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Ten best postseason comebacks


Almost everyone loves a good 'back from the dead' story and they are celebrated in all sports. Whether it is Headingley 1981 or Istanbul 2005 the only ones who don't like to see them are usually the ones on the losing side. (Which is quite reasonable, of course.) With it's rich history, going back well over 100 years, baseball has of course seen it's share of Lazarus acts and none are more dramatic and memorable than the ones that occur in the postseason.

In baseball, as is the case in several other sports, there are two types of potential comebacks. A team can come back from being down in a series, be it a best-of-five or best-of-seven affair, like the New York Yankees are hoping to do in the ALCS this year. There are also the comebacks from massive deficits that are seen in all sports. These can be more dramatic, but are usually less influential in the long run. Though the St Louis Cardinals like to get around that by having theirs in elimination games.

Whatever the type, these are occasions that live long in the memory. Although not strictly a part of the postseason (it was a pennant-deciding game, but being before the LCS era it was officially an extension of the regular season) one can still easily find audio of Bobby Thomson's 'shot heard round the world'. There are a lot of these from which to choose and it's hard to narrow it down to just ten. But these are mine.

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1925 Pittsburgh Pirates

1925 Pittsburgh Pirates - Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Not only were the 1925 Pittsburgh Pirates the first team to ever come back from a 1-3 deficit in a best-of-seven series (it had been done when the World Series was briefly a best of nine affair, however) they gave themselves a mountain to climb in Game Seven as well. The Washington Senators jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning behind Walter Johnson who already had two wins in the series. The Pirates starting cutting the arrears in the third inning, but took until the seventh inning to get the game tied as six. The Senators went back in front in the top of the eighth, but a two out double from Kiki Cuyler finally gave the Pirates their first lead of the game and they held it in the ninth.

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1958 New York Yankees

1958 New York Yankees - stadiumpage.com

The 1958 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Milwaukee Braves was a rematch of the previous year which had been won by the Braves. And they put themselves in a great position to make it back-to-back Championships as the won the first two games at home before Warren Spahn shut out the Yankees in Game Four to give Milwaukee a 3-1 lead. Up against it, the Yankees responded with a shutout of their own from Bob Turley in Game Five to send the series back to Milwaukee.

Game Six was a thriller, with Spahn going again for the Braves and giving up just two runs over the first nine innings. Whitey Ford was knocked out in the second inning after giving up two runs, but Art Dimar and Ryne Duren held the Braves in check and sent the game to the tenth. Spahn stayed on to pitch, but surrendered a leadoff home run to Gil McDougald. The Yankees would add on another crucial run in that inning and hold on for a 4-3 win to level the series. Game Seven looked like it would be tight as well, but four runs in the eighth for New York all but sealed both the game and the series.

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1960 Pittsburgh Pirates

1960 Pittsburgh Pirates - Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Game Seven of the 1960 World Series is famous for one thing and one man: Bill Mazeroski. And rightly so, there have not been many World Series won with a walk-off homer. But what then tends to be forgot is that an inning before that the Pirates were not quite dead and buried, but did trail 7-4 in the eighth inning. The first three batters of the eighth inning singled and the last of the three by Dick Groat (pictured) brought the Pirates to within two. But relief pitcher Jim Coates came into the game and then got the next two outs to put the Yankees four outs on defence away from the title. But by the time he got the last out, a single and a three run home run had put the Pirates in front by two. It was then the Yankees turn to stage a comeback before Mazeroski famously broke the ensuing 9-9 tie in the ninth.

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1979 Pittsburgh Pirates

1979 Pittsburgh Pirates - mitchellandness.com

In 1925 the Pirates became the first team to come back from a 1-3 series deficit and in 1979 they also became the fourth team to do so. Playing the Baltimore Orioles, the two teams split the first two games in Baltimore (though it took a run in the ninth for the Pirates to win game two) before the Orioles then won Games Three and Four at Three Rivers Stadium. The Orioles then actually took a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning of Game Five, but the Pirates responded with seven to send the series back to Baltimore. From there, quality pitching performances in the last two games completed the comeback for Pittsburgh.

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1985 Kansas City Royals

1985 Kansas City Royals - Kansas City Royals
Kansas City Royals

Until 1985 only four times had teams had ever come back from a 1-3 deficit in a best-of-seven series. That year, however, the Kansas City Royals did so twice, once in the ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays and then again in the World Series against the St Louis Cardinals. In the World Series the Royals also became the first team to ever come back and win after losing the first two games at home.

The Royals also had to come back from the brink in Game Six as they trailed 0-1 going into the bottom of the ninth. This inning is famous for how it started with Jorge Orta getting an infield hit courtesy of a missed call by the first base umpire. But what then gets overlooked is that Orta was later out at third on a botched bunt. It is in fact the great irony of the inning that after all the talk about Orta not being called out at first, the only out the Cardinals got before Dane Iorg's game winning single was Orta at third base.

It is also sometimes forgot that there was an entire Game Seven after the dramatics of Game Six. The Royals, without any help from the umpires, piled on 14 hits and eleven runs as Bret Saberhgen pitched a five-hit shutout.

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1986 New York Mets

1986 New York Mets - hrperspectives.wordpres.com

The year after the Royals became the first team to ever come back from losing the first two games at home, the New York Mets became the second team and in dramatic style as well.

Unlike the Royals, the Mets never went 1-3 down, but famously they were down to their last strike in Game Six. I hardly need detail the game, though it is somewhat unfortunate for Mets fans that the tale is nearly always told from the perspective of the losing Boston Red Sox. The ensuing seventh game of the series was not a bad one either, though. The Red Sox took an early 3-0 lead, but the Mets scored three in the sixth and three in the seventh to turn everything around and won 8-5.

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1997 Florida Marlins

1997 Florida Marlins - bolstablog.wordpress.com

The then Florida Marlins' series with the Cleveland Indians almost seems like an odd choice for this list. It was a very even series overall, with the two teams trading victories. But at the Marlins left their last victory until very, very late. They trailed for most of the game after the Indians scored two in the top of the third and they went into the bottom of the ninth down 1-2. The Indians were a double play away from the title, but instead a sac fly tied the game to set up the win for the Marlins in the eleventh.

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2001 Arizona Diamondbacks

2001 Arizona Diamondbacks - sabakuink.net/sporkballblog

Like the Marlins, the Arizona Diamondbacks did not have a large hole to climb, but the way they did it was what made it memorable. Having taken a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning of Game Seven, they found themselves 1-2 down going into the bottom of the ninth and facing one of the most successful closers in the game: Mariano Rivera. Rivera had already pitched the eighth and struck out the side. Perhaps this made him less sharp in the ninth though as the only out he got in the inning was on a bunt. Tony Womack tied the game with a double down the line in right, before Luis Gonzalez looped a single over the head of the drawn in Derek Jeter to snatch the victory away from the Yankees.

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2004 Boston Red Sox

2004 Boston Red Sox - pwentling.blogspot.com

In 2004 the Red Sox were trying to avenge their walk-off defeat to the Yankees of a year before. It is fair to say they did not get off to a good start. They lost the first two in New York before being hammered 19-8 in Game Three in Boston. No team had ever come back from a 0-3 deficit in a series of any length before. And the Red Sox did not look like making history as they went into the ninth inning of Game Four down 3-4. But a leadoff walk and a steal of second by pinch runner Dave Roberts gave them a sniff before Bill Mueller tied the game with a single and the Red Sox went on to win it in the twelfth.

With the arrears now reduced to a 'manageable' 1-3, the Red Sox managed to get in almost the exact same position the next night. This time they needed two in the eighth to tie the game before winning it in the 14th. That was the last time they trailed in a game that postseason, however. Game Six is famous for Curt Schilling's 'bloody sock' as he pitched through an injury to shut down the Yankees in New York in a contentious game. With their 3-0 lead having evaporated, the Yankees put up little fight in the finale. The Red Sox scored six times in the first two innings and went on to win 10-3.

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2011 St Louis Cardinals

2011 St Louis Cardinals - Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The 1986 Mets were down to their last strike once, but the 2011 Cardinals were down to their last strike twice in Game Six. The Texas Rangers actually led 7-4 after seven innings, but by the bottom of the ninth that had been cut to 7-5. And it was still 7-5 Rangers when with two out David Freese hit a 1-2 pitch deep to right field. It barely evaded the fielder to tie the game. The Cardinals jubilation was short lived, however, when Josh Hamilton hit a two run home run in the tenth to put the Cardinals back up against it. This time the Cardinals more conventionally built the rally, but still waited until another two out/two strike situation to tie the game. Finally a solo home run from Freese in the eleventh sent the series to a seventh game that the Cardinals won comfortably.