The 2019 MLB season brought lots of excitement and competition. As we head into the postseason, we’ll take a look at the 10 most magical and improbable runs to (and in) the postseason since 2000.
- 2007 Philadelphia Phillies
- 2004 Boston Red Sox
- 2003 Minnesota Twins
- 2002 Los Angeles Angels
- 2013 Cleveland Indians
10. 2014 San Francisco Giants
The 2014 Giants continued the franchise’s even-year magic, as they won their third World Series in five years (2010, 2012, 2014). The Giants finished 10 games under .500 in 2013, but bounced back in 2014 to claim the second wild card spot. Madison Bumgarner threw a complete game shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Wild Card game, a sign of things to come. San Francisco next managed to knock off the Washington Nationals in the NLDS, including an 18-inning Game 2 victory. The Giants then took on the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, with Madison Bumgarner throwing 7.2 shutout innings in Game 1. The Giants won on a walk-off bunt in Game 3, and then Travis Ishikawa hit a walk-off 3-run homer in Game 5 to send the Giants to the World Series. Facing the Kansas City Royals in the World Series, Bumgarner allowed just 1 run and 3 hits in Game 1. In Game 5 he was again magnificent, throwing a complete game shutout. Just three days after throwing 117 pitches in Game 5, Bumgarner came out of the bullpen in the 5th inning to hold a 3-2 lead in Game 7. He threw 5 scoreless innings to finish off the game and World Series victory.
9. 2015 New York Mets
The 2015 New York Mets returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2006, but it didn’t come easily. They tied a team-record with 11 straight victories in April, but the team fell to 40-40 in July. On July 29, the Mets agreed to a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, sending Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler away for Carlos Gomez. With the deal not official, Flores stayed in the game, but fans let him know that he had been traded. This led Flores, who had been with the team since he was 16, to start crying on the field. That night Gomez failed his physical and the deal got nixed. The next day the Mets held a 7-5 lead with 2 outs in the 9th before a rain delay, and when the delay finished they gave up a 3-run walk-off home run. The following day the Mets took on the first place Nationals, but not before they traded for star Yoenis Cespedes minutes before the trade deadline. Wilmer Flores made his return to the Mets lineup to standing ovations, and hit a walk-off home run in the 12th inning that could be described only as magical. On August 24, David Wright made his first appearance in over 4 months as he dealt with a career-threatening spinal stenosis injury. In his first at-bat, he crushed a home run, one of the team’s franchise record 8 on the day. The Mets went on to win the division and Daniel Murphy set an MLB record with 6 straight postseason games with a home run, leading the Mets to the World Series where they ultimately came up short.
8. 2006 Minnesota Twins
The 2006 Twins were 12 games out of first on June 7, but Jason Kubel’s walk-off hit on June 13 helped spark a 17-1 stretch. The Twins still found themselves 9.5 games out on August 1, despite a 34-8 record from June 7 to July 26. Jason Bartlett hit a walk-off single on September 28 to move the Twins into a tie for first, the latest a team had ever moved into first for the first time all season. The Twins then took over first place on the last day of the season, the first time a team clinched on the last day of the season without ever being in sole possession of first place. While the Twins fell in the ALDS, it was a magical season led by AL Cy Young winner Johan Santana, AL MVP Justin Morneau and AL batting champ Joe Mauer.
7. 2004 Houston Astros
The Astros added star pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte just before the 2004 season, giving them one of the best pitching rotations with them pairing up with Roy Oswalt. On June 28 they traded for star outfielder Carlos Beltran, giving them one of the most talented teams in the league. Houston was just 44-44 at the All-Star break, so they fired manager Jimy Williams. The Astros found themselves just a game over .500 on August 26, trailing the Cubs by 7 games, the Giants by 6 games and the Nationals by 5 games. The Astros then went 28-7 the rest of the way (won 36 of final 46 games) and took the Wild Card lead with 1 game to go, sending them to the playoffs. Houston set an NLDS record with 36 runs scored and Carlos Beltran set a record with 5 straight postseason games with a home run (later broken by Daniel Murphy). While the Astros came up short of the World Series, it was still a magical season.
6. 2002 Oakland Athletics
The 2002 Athletics are famous for being the team featured in Moneyball and being the ultimate underdogs. They lost 3 key players in the offseason in 2000 MVP Jason Giambi, outfielder Johnny Damon and closer Jason Isringhausen. The team started slow, sitting at 20-26 on May 23 and 10 games out of first on May 30. The A’s went 16-1 from June 6 to June 24 to pull within 2 games of first, but they struggled after that streak up until August 13. That day they began their MLB-record 20-game winning streak, with wins 18 and 19 coming on walk-off hits by Miguel Tejada. After blowing an 11-0 lead on September 4, pinch hitter Scott Hatteberg hit a walk-off home run to complete the streak. Miguel Tejada won AL MVP and Barry Zito won AL Cy Young as the A’s won 103 games, although they fell in the ALDS.
5. 2011 Tampa Bay Rays
The 2011 were a small-market team trying to compete with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. They were 11.5 games back of first on July 27 before going 18-10 in August with 5 walk-off wins. Despite the August success, they trailed the Red Sox by 9 games and the Yankees by 8.5 games on September 1. With a strong September and a Red Sox collapse, the Rays trailed the Wild Card by 2.5 games on September 23 with 5 games to play. They pulled into a tie with Boston on September 26 with two games left, and they remained tied going into the historic final day. At 9:30 that night, the Red Sox went to rain delay with a 3-2 lead in the 7th while the Rays trailed 7-0 going into the 8th. At 10:23 Evan Longoria hit a 3-run homer to make it 7-6 in the 8th. With 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, pinch hitter Dan Johnson hit a home run to tie the game. 30 minutes later the game in Baltimore resumed, and Boston had a runner thrown out at the plate and then stranded the bases loaded, keeping their lead at 3-2. At 11:59 the Orioles hit a walk-off single, giving the Rays a chance to clinch a postseason birth. Just 6 minutes later Evan Longoria hit a walk-off home run to send Tampa Bay to the playoffs. Although they lost in the ALDS, it was quite a memorable season for the Rays.
4. 2003 Florida Marlins
The Marlins finished in 4th place in 2002 and started the 2003 season 19-29. They managed to turn things around and win the Wild Card, and then the magic began. The Marlins won Game 3 of the NLDS on a walk-off by Ivan Rodriguez, and the series ended with the Giants J.T. Snow trying to bulldoze Rodrgiuez in a play at the plate. It was the first time a playoff series ended with they tying run being thrown out at home plate. The Marlins fell behind the Cubs three games to one in the NLCS, and trailed 3-0 with one out in the 8th inning of Game 6. This is when Steve Bartman famously reached over the fence to catch a foul ball, and the Marlins scored 8 runs after his interference. The Marlins went on to win the series and ultimately the World Series.
3. 2007 Colorado Rockies
The 2007 Rockies got off to a rough start, sitting at 18-27 in May. They were as many as six games out of the Wild Card race in September and were just 76-72 on September 16. They then won 14 of their final 15 games, overcoming a 4.5 game deficit with 9 to play and a 2 game deficit with 2 games to play. They then won the tie-breaker game 9-8 in 13 innings with a controversial play at the plate. The Rockies then swept both the NLDS and NLCS, advancing to their first World Series having won 21 of 22 games. Although they were swept by the Red Sox, Rockies fans will always remember “Rocktober.”
2. 2012 Oakland Athletics
While the 2002 Athletics season was the team’s most famous year, 2012 was the more magical of the two. The A’s had the second lowest payroll in baseball and were 13 games back of first on June 30. The team went 19-5 in July and won 10 out of 11 after the All-Star break, including 3 of their league-leading 15 walk-off wins. The A’s then won 13 of their final 15 August games, ending the month with a 20-2 victory over the Red Sox. Oakland lost 6 of 8 games from September 13 to September 24, leaving them 5 games behind the Rangers with just 9 to play. They then won 8 of their final 9 games, including a 3 game sweep of the Rangers, with the final game giving them the division crown. The A’s managed to force a game 5 against the Tigers in the ALDS thanks to a Coco Crisp walk-off, but they were unable to make it any further.
1. 2011 St. Louis Cardinals
The 2011 Cardinals trailed the Atlanta Braves by 10.5 games on August 24 and by 8.5 games with 21 left. The Braves would go on to lose 20 of their final 30 games, while the Cardinals would finish the season 23-9. This led to a tie for the wild card going into game 162, same as the Rays and Red Sox in the American League. Chris Carpenter threw a complete game shutout, so all the Cardinals needed was for the Braves to lose. Star closer Craig Kimbrel blew the save in the 9th inning, and the won in 13 innings, sending the Cardinals to the playoffs. A squirrel appeared at Busch Stadium during the NLCS, making an appearance in Game 3 and even running in front of home plate during a pitch in Game 4. The Rally Squirrel became a mascot for the Cardinals during their run. In Game 5, Chris Carpenter threw a complete game shutout to send the Cardinals to the NLCS, where the Cardinals beat the Brewers in 6 games. Allen Craig hit a game-winning single in Game 1 of the World Series against the Texas Rangers, and Albert Pujols hit 3 home runs in Game 3. After falling behind in the series three games to two, the Cardinals trailed 7-5 in the ninth inning of Game 6. With two strikes and two outs, David Freese hit a game-tying triple over Nelson Cruz to tie the game. Lance Berkman tied the game in the 10th inning with a 2 strike and two out hit, setting up David Freese to again be the hero. In the 11th inning he hit a walk-off home run to force Game 7. Freese won World Series MVP and set a post-season record with 21 RBIs.