You never want your team to get down 3-1 in a best-of-seven postseason series, no matter what sport it is. However, the beauty of baseball is that more than any other game out there, any team can win on any given night. Yes, that’s cliche and obviously true in every single sport on the planet. But sit and think about it, and you’ll conclude that a bad MLB team will beat a good MLB team much more often than a bad team will beat a good team in the NFL, NBA, or NHL.
So while no team in Major League Baseball wants to be down 3-1 in a best-of-seven, it’s obviously not impossible to come back. The odds are clearly still stacked against those who get down 3-1, but coming into the 2021 MLB playoffs, 89 teams (the 90th is this year’s Los Angeles Dodgers) had been in that hole, and 14 were able to dig their way out. And another six were able to take the series to a seventh game.
So close to a quarter of the teams to get down 3-1 at least gave themselves a real chance to win the series, and about 15.7% of them pulled it off. Not great odds, but it could certainly be worse, right?
And the most recent MLB team to pull off the feat?
The 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers were the most recent MLB team to come back from a 3-1 deficit
The latest team to come back from a 3-1 deficit was the 2020 LA Dodgers, who had the best record in MLB during the COVID-19-shortened 60-game campaign.
After sweeping the Milwaukee Brewers in the Wild Card Series and also sweeping the San Diego Padres in the National League Division Series, the Dodgers lost the first two games to the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series. LA fought back with a decisive 15-3 victory in Game 3 but got down 3-1 when Atlanta took Game 4 with a decisive win of its own, winning 10-2.
After taking Game 5 at Globe Life Field by a score of 7-3 behind some heroics from catcher Will Smith, the Dodgers scored three runs in the first inning of Game 6, highlighted by back-to-back home runs from Corey Seager and Justin Turner, and held on for a 3-1 victory. LA then won a thrilling Game 7, falling behind 2-0 and 3-2 but fighting back to take a 4-3 victory, the go-ahead run coming off the bat of Cody Bellinger, who belted a solo homer in the seventh.
The Dodgers then went on to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series in six games.
14 teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit in the MLB playoffs
As mentioned, those 2020 Dodgers were one of 14 teams that have come back from a 3-1 deficit in the MLB playoffs, including the World Series. Here’s a quick look at the entire list.
- 1925 World Series: Pittsburgh Pirates def. Washington Senators
- 1958 World Series: New York Yankees def. Milwaukee Braves
- 1968 World Series: Detroit Tigers def. St. Louis Cardinals
- 1979 World Series: Pittsburgh Pirates def. Baltimore Orioles
- 1985 ALCS: Kansas City Royals def. Toronto Blue Jays
- 1985 World Series: Kansas City Royals def. St. Louis Cardinals
- 1986 ALCS: Boston Red Sox def. California Angels
- 1996 NLCS: Atlanta Braves def. St. Louis Cardinals
- 2003 NLCS: Florida Marlins def. Chicago Cubs
- 2004 ALCS: Boston Red Sox def. New York Yankees (only MLB team to come back from 3-0 deficit)
- 2007 ALCS: Boston Red Sox def. Cleveland Indians
- 2012 NLCS: San Francisco Giants def. St. Louis Cardinals
- 2016 World Series: Chicago Cubs def. Cleveland Indians
- 2020 NLCS: Los Angeles Dodgers def. Atlanta Braves
Six others have taken a series to a seventh game
In addition to the 14 teams who came back from a 3-1 deficit in the MLB playoffs, these six teams fought back to get to a Game 7 but came up short.
- 1912 World Series: New York Giants (lost to Boston Red Sox)
- 1967 World Series: Boston Red Sox (lost to St. Louis Cardinals)
- 1972 World Series: Cincinnati Reds (lost to Oakland A’s)
- 1992 NLCS: Pittsburgh Pirates (lost to Atlanta Braves)
- 2008 ALCS: Boston Red Sox (lost to Tampa Bay Rays)
- 2020 ALCS: Houston Astros (lost to Tampa Bay Rays)
Will the 2021 Dodgers join one of these exclusive clubs? We’ll find out soon enough.
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference