Where Would Giants Comeback Rank with the Greatest in LCS History?
On Monday night, weather permitting, the San Francisco Giants will attempt to accomplish something only previously achieved by two National League teams.
Only twice since the NLCS was expanded to seven games have teams climbed all the way from a three games to one deficit to move on to the World Series. In fact, the feat has only been accomplished six times altogether.
The Boston Red Sox alone have done it three times.
History is on the Giants' side as well. Since 1976, a home team has won a Game 6 at home to force a seventh and deciding game. Eleven of those 12 teams went on to win Game 7.
While it's certainly not precedent-setting, these Giants are proving that they're resilient in every way. They've already escaped from a 2-0 deficit in the NLDS to roar back and win three straight games against the Cincinnati Reds to get to where they are right now.
If the Giants complete the comeback tonight, they will take their place alongside the 1985 Kansas City Royals as the only winners of six consecutive elimination games in the same postseason.
So, just where would a Giants comeback rank among the greatest comebacks in LCS history?
Let's take a look.
7. 2007 Boston Red Sox
The 2007 Boston Red Sox showed dominance in sweeping the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS. They were looking to do the same after starting pitcher Josh Beckett opened the ALCS with an easy victory over the Cleveland Indians.
However, the Indians had other ideas. They came back and won the next three games handily, putting the Red Sox in an all-too familiar position—down three games to one in an ALCS.
For the Red Sox, the third time was the charm.
They handed the ball to Beckett for Game 5 and he delivered, allowing just one run on five hits with 11 strikeouts. The Red Sox offense pounded CC Sabathia and the Indians bullpen for 12 hits on their way to a 7-1 win.
Back at Fenway Park for the final two games, the Red Sox extended the series to a seventh game behind the pitching of Curt Schilling and a grand-slam home run from right fielder J.D. Drew on their way to a 12-2 victory.
In Game 7, Red Sox manager Terry Francona handed the ball to Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Dice-K delivered. Matsuzaka held the Indians to two runs on six hits in five innings, and the Sox offense pounded reliever Rafael Betancourt for six runs to put the game away, completing the comeback with an 11-2 win.
It marked the third time in history the Red Sox had come back from a three games to one deficit.
6. 1996 Atlanta Braves
They rallied for four late runs in Game 4 to defeat the Braves 4-3, giving them a commanding three games to one series lead.
The Braves had their dominating starters—John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine—lined up for the final three games, but it wasn't so much on their efforts that the Braves relied.
Smoltz did his job in Game 5, throwing seven scoreless innings. But the Braves' offense exploded for 22 hits on its way to a convincing 14-0 win.
Game 6 saw Maddux deliver as well, allowing just one run on six hits in 7.2 innings in a series-tying 3-1 win.
Game 7 saw the Braves' offense jump all over Cardinals starting pitcher Donovan Osborne for six first-inning runs, and the rout was on.
By the time the dust had settled, the Braves collected 15 runs on 17 hits, and starter Tom Glavine threw three-hit ball over seven innings to send the Braves to the World Series with a 15-0 win.
5. 2003 Florida Marlins
While the 2003 NLCS will always be remembered for the famous Steve Bartman incident, the series does have its place in MLB lore.
After splitting the first two games at Wrigley Field, the Cubs took the first two games at Pro Player Stadium to take a commanding three games to one series lead.
Marlins starter Josh Beckett staved off elimination in Game 5 with a brilliant two-hit shutout, and Mike Lowell's two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth was all the offense the Marlins needed in a 4-0 win.
Game 6 brought the infamous Steve Bartman incident into play, leading to an eight-run eighth inning for the Marlins that forced a seventh and deciding game.
Game 7 saw the Cubs take a 5-3 lead heading into the top of the fifth inning but starter Kerry Wood was unable to hold the lead. The Marlins scored three runs to take a 6-5 lead and never looked back, holding on for a 9-6 win and an improbable NLCS comeback victory.
4. 1985 Kansas City Royals
In 1985, Major League Baseball expanded the LCS to a seven-game format. The Kansas City Royals met the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS and quickly found themselves facing elimination.
The Blue Jays won the first two games at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. The Royals fought back in Game 3 at Royals Stadium with Steve Balboni's eighth inning RBI single breaking a 5-5 tie.
Dave Stieb and Tom Henke combined to hold the Royals to just one run on two hits in Game 4, and the Royals were facing long odds in their quest for their second American League pennant.
Royals starter Danny Jackson tossed an eight-hit shutout to keep the Royals alive in Game 5, and another 5-3 win by the Royals in Game 6 forced the first seventh game in LCS history.
The Royals completed the comeback in Game 7 on the strength of catcher Jim Sundberg's four RBI and a quality relief effort by Charlie Leibrandt in a 6-2 victory.
3. 1986 Boston Red Sox
In 1986, the Boston Red Sox were down to their final strike in Game 5. Dave Henderson then struck for one of the most thrilling moments in postseason history.
Henderson took a 2-2 pitch from California Angels reliever Donnie Moore and drilled it over the fence in left field for a two-run home run, giving the Red Sox a 6-5 lead.
The Angels would come back and tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, but Henderson would deliver once again against Moore, hitting a sacrifice fly in the top of the 11th inning to score Don Baylor with the eventual winning run to keep the Red Sox alive.
The Angels were clearly snake-bit at that point as the Red Sox would easily win the final two games at Fenway Park to complete the remarkable comeback.
2. 2012 San Francisco Giants
If the San Francisco Giants complete their NLCS comeback on Monday night, it would absolutely qualify as one of the most thrilling comebacks in postseason history.
Down three games to one, the Giants turned to the much-maligned Barry Zito to extend the series on Friday night.
Zito delivered his most thrilling performance in a Giants uniform, allowing no runs on just six hits through 7.2 innings to send the series back to San Francisco.
On Sunday night, Ryan Vogelsong matched Zito's effort with a dazzler of his own, allowing just one run on four hits with a career-high nine strikeouts over seven innings. Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval paced the Giants' offense with two hits apiece and three RBI to force a seventh and deciding game.
If the Giants are victorious on Monday night, they would become only the second team in postseason to win six straight elimination games, joining the 1985 Kansas City Royals.
1. 2004 Boston Red Sox
The steal of the century was the impetus behind the most thrilling postseason comeback in Major League Baseball history.
Pinch-runner Dave Roberts' daring steal of second base in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 4 of the ALCS set up Bill Mueller's run-scoring single that tied the game at 4-4.
David Ortiz would deliver a dramatic game-winning two-run home run in the bottom of the 12th inning to give the Red Sox a 6-4 victory, staving off a sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees.
Ortiz would repeat his walk-off heroics in Game 5 in extra innings as well. Ortiz singled in the bottom of the 14th inning to drive in Johnny Damon with the winning run, sending the series back to Yankee Stadium.
Game 6 delivered the infamous "bloody sock" game in which Red Sox starter Curt Schilling gutted it out for seven innings after undergoing a surgical procedure to stabilize a tendon in his ankle. Schilling's one-run effort amazingly forced a Game 7.
The Yankees at that point were done. A two-run homer by David Ortiz in the first inning off Yankees starter Kevin Brown got the Sox rolling. Damon followed with a grand-slam home run off reliever Javier Vazquez in the second, and the Sox completed their miracle comeback with a 10-3 win.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.
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