In MLB playoffs, the best teams often end up losing in a short series. Sometimes a bad break, one way or another, is enough to completely swing a playoff series. Other times, teams get to the point where they’re nearly victorious and just let it all slip away at the end. With that in mind, these five teams pulled off a victory from the jaws of defeat in the MLB postseason.
1. Anaheim Angels, 2002 World Series, Game 6
Back in 2002, the Anaheim Angels weren’t even supposed to be in the playoffs. Nobody picked the Angels as a playoff team. Their division included the Seattle Mariners, who won 116 games the season prior, and the Oakland A’s, who won 205 games combined the previous two seasons. However, Anaheim went on an amazing run to finish 99-63 and take the American League wild-card spot.
After advancing to the World Series, the Angels went down 3-2 against the San Francisco Giants. In Game 6 in Anaheim, things didn’t look too good. Liván Hernandez, the starter for the Giants, was absolutely dealing. Barry Bonds had hit a home run and the Giants led 5-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh. But the Angels got to Hernandez, and San Francisco’s ‘pen imploded. Anaheim scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh and three in the bottom of the eighth, stealing the game and setting up their series clincher in Game 7.
2. Florida Marlins, 2003 NLCS, Game 6
Much like the Angels the year prior, the Florida Marlins didn’t look like a real playoff contender for most of 2003. They snuck in with the wild-card spot and took out the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS. The victory brought them to the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS, who just defeated the Atlanta Braves and looked like a team of destiny.
After winning an extra-inning game to start the series, the Marlins lost the next three games to the Cubs to go down 3-1. They took Game 5 in Miami on the back of Josh Beckett, sending the game to Chicago with the Cubs needing just one win to advance to the World Series. Ace Mark Prior started Game 6 and the Cubs took an early 3-0 lead. It seemed like the Cubs were about to close out the game. However, after getting the first out of the eighth inning, Chicago completely fell apart. The Marlins scored eight unanswered runs, stole a win, and then the series in the next game.
3. Boston Red Sox, 2004 ALCS, Game 4
The 2004 Boston Red Sox are a story that’s well-known among baseball fans. It will likely remain a legend for the rest of baseball history. Boston made the playoffs as the American League wild card, finishing behind the division-leading New York Yankees. They met up for the second consecutive season in the ALCS. Boston lost the first three consecutive games in the series; it looked like they would be eliminated yet again.
But in Game 4, down 4-3 with Mariano Rivera coming in for New York to close it out in the ninth inning, the Sox set the wheels in motion. Bill Mueller led off with a walk, Dave Roberts pinch-hit and stole second base, and David Ortiz knocked him in to tie the game. The Red Sox won in extra innings, stealing the game away from the Yankees. They, of course, went to win the next three games and eventually the World Series, making one of the most improbable World Series runs of all time.
4. St. Louis Cardinals, 2011 World Series, Game 6
Much like the Boston Red Sox in 2004, the St. Louis Cardinals experienced a completely improbable run to the 2011 World Series. As late as the last few days of August, they were 11.5 games behind in the wild card. With a few days at the end of the regular season — when a single loss would eliminate them from the postseason — St. Louis snuck in. Then, they tore through to the World Series. The Cardinals met up with the Texas Rangers, who took a 3-2 lead in the series with the final two games in St. Louis.
The Rangers had a 5-3 lead into the ninth inning with Neftali Feliz in to close it out. With two outs and the tying run on first base, third baseman David Freese hit a fly ball to right field. Outfielder Nelson Cruz took an odd route on the ball, jumping and coming up about a foot short of catching it on the warning track. The ball fell and the Cardinals tied the game. They went down 7-5 the next inning and then tied it again, finally winning the game in the 11th inning. Of course, they won Game 7 the next night.
5. St. Louis Cardinals, 2012 NLDS, Game 6
The very next season the Cardinals had yet another amazing comeback. Once again, they finished in the wild card, this time in the first year of the one-game wild-card playoff. St. Louis beat the Atlanta Braves, although the game didn’t come without its own controversy. They moved on to play the Washington Nationals, who were the best team in the National League that year.
The Nationals and the Cardinals went to Game 5 in the best-of-five series, playing the game in Washington to decide which team moves on to the NLCS. The Nats took a 7-5 lead in the game, heading to the ninth inning with reliable reliever Drew Storen on the mound. (Storen had a 2.64 ERA over 105 2/3 innings the previous two seasons.)
It looked fairly good for the Nationals to close it out and move on to the NLCS. But the Cardinals, pesky as always, rallied for four runs off Storen in the ninth inning. They won the game 9-7, stunning the Nats and their fans and moving on to the NLCS.