Picking the All-Time Postseason Failure for Every MLB Team

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterOctober 15, 2018

Picking the All-Time Postseason Failure for Every MLB Team

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    Remember when the Red Sox were cursed?
    Remember when the Red Sox were cursed?Rusty Kennedy/Associated Press

    Everyone from Winston Churchill to Yoda has spoken about how failure can be a good thing.

    They clearly have never experienced a crushing defeat in the Major League Baseball postseason.

    We dove deep and picked out the biggest October nightmare in the history of all 30 MLB teams. The list covers everything from missed opportunities to simple letdowns to the chokiest of choke jobs. 

    The general rule of thumb was that the bigger the series and/or game, the harder the flop. For this, The Baseball Gauge's championship leverage index—which measures "the importance of a play or game to a team's chances of winning the World Series"—proved critical.

    We'll proceed in alphabetical order by city.

Arizona Diamondbacks: 'Tony Plush' Stamps Out a Comeback in the 2011 NLDS

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    Jim Prisching/Associated Press

    The 2011 regular season was one big comeback story for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and they threatened to extend it into the National League Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers.

    The Snakes dropped the first two games at Miller Park, but they slithered back with wins at home in Games 3 and 4. And in the top of the ninth inning of Game 5, they rallied against Brewers closer John Axford for a 2-2 tie. That dropped Milwaukee's odds of winning the series from a peak of 88.3 percent down to 32.3 percent. 

    But as soon as that momentum came, it was gone.

    The Diamondbacks left the potential go-ahead run stranded in scoring position in the ninth. That set the stage for Nyjer "Tony Plush" Morgan to drive in Carlos Gomez with a game-winning single in the 10th.

    "I think it was the worst way we could have lost the game," D-backs reliever David Hernandez said.

    As the rest of this list will make clear, that's an exaggeration. Nonetheless, the total change in championship win probability highlights the 2011 NLDS as Arizona's most heartbreaking October defeat.

Atlanta Braves: Twin Heroes Are Too Much in the 1991 World Series

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    Doug Mills/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Braves won the World Series in 1995, but they also lost four World Series between 1991 and 1999. Of those, what happened in 1991 deserves a special place in Atlanta sports hell.

    Following a 14-5 blowout in Game 5, the Braves had the Minnesota Twins teetering on the brink of elimination going into Game 6 at the Metrodome. But by squeezing only three runs out of nine hits, they let the Twins hang around long enough for Kirby Puckett to hit his "And we'll see you tomorrow night!" home run in the 11th.

    Then Game 7 happened.

    Specifically, Jack Morris and John Smoltz engaged in a legendary duel, and neither the Twins nor the Braves scored in regulation. The Braves had the best opportunity to do so, as they had the bases loaded with one out in the eighth. But they failed to cash in when Morris induced Sid Bream into a double play.

    That was technically the biggest play in the second-most pressure-packed World Series game ever played. Gene Larkin might beg to differ, however. It was his drive in the 10th that brought home the winning run and finished the Braves off for good.

Baltimore Orioles: Willie Stargell Wrests Control of the 1979 World Series

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    The 1979 Baltimore Orioles were a 102-win juggernaut that initially seemed more than capable of crashing the Pittsburgh Pirates' "We Are Familyparty in the World Series. They jumped out to a 3-1 lead and had two more home games remaining.

    But then Baltimore's bats, which had satisfied manager Earl Weaver's hankering for homers by blasting 181 in the regular season, went cold. They mustered one run in Game 5 and zero in Game 6. The Pirates won both games to force a Game 7 at Memorial Stadium.

    The Orioles grabbed a 1-0 lead on a third-inning blast by Rich Dauer. But that was erased when a 39-year-old Willie Stargell—"Pops" to his younger Pirates teammates—cranked a two-run homer in the sixth.

    Stargell's dinger dropped the Orioles' odds of winning from 69.4 to 38.4 percent. Their best chance to fight back came when Eddie Murray hit with the bases loaded in the eighth. But his deep flyout pushed his hitless streak to 21 at-bats and all but sealed the Orioles' fate. They lost 4-1.

    Afterward, a dejected Weaver remarked: "I don't know why they didn't make the World Series three out of five."

Boston Red Sox: Defeat Snatched from Jaws of Victory in the 1986 World Series

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    Rich Pilling/Getty Images

    Kids younger than 14 may not know this, but people used to think the Boston Red Sox were cursed. Never more so than when the New York Mets got the better of them in October 1986.

    Although the 1975 World Series technically reigns as the toughest Red Sox loss, at least they lost a good fight in that one. The '86 World Series, on the other hand, practically defines what the word "choke" means to sports fans.

    Start with the obvious: Yes, Bill Buckner's notorious error completed a collapse in the 10th inning of Game 6 at Shea Stadium, in which the Red Sox peaked with 99.2 percent odds of winning. But it was Calvin Schiraldi who let a 5-3 become a 5-4 lead, and Bob Stanley who turned that lead into a tie with a backbreaking wild pitch.

    Game 6 also wasn't the end of the '86 World Series. The Red Sox actually reclaimed their momentum with an early 3-0 lead in Game 7. But the Mets sent eight runs across the plate between the sixth and eighth innings, while the Red Sox could only conjure two more.

    That was that, and it would be another 18 years before Buckner and all other Red Sox goats were finally exonerated.

Chicago Cubs: Total Collapse in the 2003 NLCS

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    What the '86 World Series is to the Red Sox, the 2003 National League Championship Series is to the Cubs.

    By the eighth inning of Game 6, the Cubs seemed well on their way to dispatching the Florida Marlins and advancing to their first World Series since 1945. Mark Prior was working on a shutout with a 3-0 lead. After he got Mike Mordecai for the first out, Chicago's odds of winning the series climbed to 97.9 percent.

    According to popular lore, things started going south when a bespectacled and be-headphoned fan named Steve Bartman interfered with Moises Alou's attempt to catch a foul fly off the bat of Luis Castillo. But that narrative ignores what actually went wrong. 

    Dusty Baker waited too long to hook Prior. Alex Gonzalez booted a possible double-play ball. Kyle Farnsworth came in and served up meatballs, including one that Mordecai crushed for a game-breaking three-run double.

    That poor fan also isn't responsible for what happened in Game 7, in which an early 5-3 Cubs lead (and 80.2 percent win probability) gradually turned into a 9-6 Cubs defeat.

    That loss, and indeed the entire collapse, was squarely on the team.

Chicago White Sox: Early Wynn Runs Out of Gas in the 1959 World Series

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    Put "Chicago White Sox" and "postseason" in the same sentence these days, and the conversation is bound to shift to a certain 2005 team that only South Siders seem to remember.

    However, some might still remember the 1959 World Series, in which the Los Angeles Dodgers rendered the White Sox's most reliable pitcher unreliable.

    The '59 White Sox were 94-game winners in the regular season, and 22 of those wins were credited to Cy Young Award winner Early Wynn. He kept playing the part of the ace with seven shutout innings in the White Sox's 11-0 Game 1 win. When it ended, Chicago had 65.7 percent odds of winning the series.

    Then came three straight losses, including a defeat in Game 4 in which Wynn served up four runs and got only eight outs. A White Sox win in Game 5 gave him a shot at redemption in Game 6, but on only two days' rest. This time, he allowed five runs and got only 10 outs in an eventual 9-3 loss.

    "I goofed it up good. I was trying to baffle 'em and it didn't work," Wynn owned up afterward.

    What of the 1919 White Sox, you ask? Well, let's agree to call that a moral failure, not a baseball one.

Cincinnati Reds: Gene Tenace Plays Spoiler in the 1972 World Series

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    The 1970s were good times for the Cincinnati Reds. It was the time of the "Big Red Machine," which couldn't be stopped.

    Well, except for that time it ran afoul of the Oakland Athletics' upstart catcher in the 1972 World Series.

    The Reds were heavily favored to beat the A's, who were without an injured Reggie Jackson. But Gene Tenace got the ball rolling on an upset with a pair of home runs in a 3-2 A's win in Game 1. He cranked a few more in Games 4 and 5, and saved his biggest performance of the series for Game 7.

    The game was tied 1-1 going into the sixth at Riverfront Stadium. That's when Tenace gave the A's the lead with an RBI double. It was his ninth RBI of the series, and it catapulted the A's to a 3-2 win.

    To be fair, the Reds did not help their cause with their own high-powered offense mustering only 21 runs in the series. To be even fairer, the '72 postseason marked the beginning of Tenace's breakout as an All-Star.

    At the time, though, this was a case of a relative unknown taking on the Big Red Machine and winning. Largely because of Tenace's efforts, Cincinnati's odds of winning never eclipsed even 60 percent.

Cleveland Indians: Jose Mesa Fails to Close Out the 1997 World Series

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    Many nails were bitten during the 1997 World Series. It's one of the most back-and-forth Fall Classics of all time, and it culminated in an extraordinarily pressure-packed Game 7.

    The Cleveland Indians seemed to have the Marlins cornered going into the ninth inning of the finale at Pro Player Stadium. They had a 2-1 lead and star closer Jose Mesa on the mound.

    However, Mesa hadn't been pitching like a star of late. He'd given up runs in five of his 10 postseason appearances, and he'd been touched up for six hits in 3.1 innings in the Fall Classic.

    So it went for Mesa in Game 7. Singles by Moises Alou and Charles Johnson set Craig Counsell up for a game-tying sacrifice fly. That shifted all the momentum to the Marlins, who would win on Edgar Renteria's walk-off single in the 11th.

    Cut to former Cleveland shortstop Omar Vizquel pulling no punches on Mesa in his autobiography: "The eyes of the world were focused on every move we made. Unfortunately, Jose's own eyes were vacant."

    What pain can possibly top a blown ninth-inning lead in a World Series Game 7? Unfortunately for Cleveland fans, perhaps blowing a 3-1 series lead in the 2016 Fall Classic.

Colorado Rockies: When the Mojo Ran Out in the 2007 World Series

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Born in 1993 and prone to hardship, the Colorado Rockies don't have much of a postseason history. And what history there is doesn't contain any truly gutwrenching losses.

    There was, however, a sizable letdown when the Rockies played in the 2007 World Series.

    The Rockies needed to win 14 of their last 15 regular-season games—including a dramatic tiebreaker against the San Diego Padres—just to get into the '07 postseason. They continued riding that momentum in sweeps over the Philadelphia Phillies and Diamondbacks in the NLDS and NLCS. They were an unstoppable T-800 rampaging across the baseball landscape.

    But in between the NLCS and the World Series was an eight-day break in which the Rockies had to wait for the Red Sox to knock off the Indians in the American League Championship Series. Perhaps not so coincidentally, they played lifelessly in the World Series. Boston outscored them 29-10 in a four-game sweep.

    Officially, the odds of winning the 2007 World Series were never in favor of the Rockies. All the same, it's the closest they've ever come to the franchise's first championship.

Detroit Tigers: Dick Bartell Freezes and the 1940 World Series Slips Away

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    Associated Press

    Going into the 1940 World Series, a 90-win Detroit Tigers team seemed to be a massive underdog against a 100-win Reds team. Bit the two clubs traded wins through the first six games, setting up a do-or-die Game 7 at Crosley Field.

    Detroit ace Bobo Newsom—whose father tragically passed away after Game 1—carried a four-hit shutout into the bottom of the seventh, wherein the Tigers were clinging to a 1-0 lead. But Frank McCormick led off with a double and was on the move when Jimmy Ripple followed with a double of his own.

    The relay made its way to shortstop Dick Bartell. Charles P. Ward of the Detroit Free Press described what happened next:

    "Bartell took the throw and held the ball. He had his back to McCormick and assumed that the Cincinnati first baseman had scored. But McCormick was only halfway home when Dick got the ball, and Bartell's teammates shouted excitedly for him to throw the ball to Billy Sullivan. Dick cocked his arm and turned around. And just then, McCormick crossed the plate with the run that tied the score."

    The Reds got the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly a few batters later, and their 2-1 lead held up to the end. Through it all, Detroit's chances of winning deflated from 68.3 percent at the end of the sixth.

Houston Astros: A Hard Battle Is Lost in the 1980 NLCS

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    Haber/Associated Press

    It's a minor miracle that the 1980 NLCS between the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies was ever decided at all. It was a best-of-five in which the last four games went to extras. The winning team ultimately outscored the losing team by a single run.

    The Astros were the unfortunate loser. Emphasis on unfortunate.

    It all came down to Game 5 at the Astrodome, where the Astros broke through with a three-run seventh that put them up 5-2. With Nolan Ryan on the mound, the next steps seemed fairly straightforward.

    But Ryan couldn't hold serve. The Phillies mounted a rally in the eighth, culminating in a two-run triple by Manny Trillo (who also cut down a run at home in the second) that gave them a 7-5 lead.

    The Astros responded with a game-tying rally in their half of the eighth, but they couldn't bring the go-ahead run home. The eighth was also when they ran out of hits, effectively allowing Garry Maddox's go-ahead double in the 10th to be the series-ender.

    Thus the Astros lost a series they twice had better than a 96 percent chance of winning.

Kansas City Royals: No Answers for Madison Bumgarner in the 2014 World Series

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The 2014 World Series ended after Alex Gordon either should or shouldn't have rounded third and tried for the tying run in the ninth inning of Game 7.

    But that isn't why the Kansas City Royals lost to the San Francisco Giants. In fact, they didn't even lose to the Giants. They lost to Madison Bumgarner.

    In 40 innings against Giants pitchers not named Bumgarner, the Royals racked up 48 hits and 26 runs. Compare that to the 66 hits and 30 runs the Giants had all series, and it's clear that the Royals would have won the series if Bumgarner had been anything less than superhuman.

    Too bad for them that he wasn't. The sidewinding left-hander allowed only one run in 16 innings in Games 1 and 5. Following just two days of rest, he then came into Game 7 in relief and finished the Royals off with five more shutout innings.

    It's a good thing for the Royals that they found redemption in the World Series just a year later. If they hadn't, the wounds opened by Bumgarner might have needed decades to heal.

Los Angeles Angels: Dave Henderson Strikes, and the 1986 ALCS Becomes a Rout

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    David Madison/Getty Images

    Before the Red Sox could have their own hearts broken in the 1986 World Series, they first had to break the hearts of the California Angels in the ALCS.

    The Angels took a 3-1 lead in the series, and the fates seemed more than willing to carry them to victory in Game 5 at Anaheim Stadium. They scored five unanswered runs after falling into an early 2-0 hole. Included within was a two-run homer by Bobby Grich that caromed off Dave Henderson's glove.

    Things started looking dicey after Don Baylor clubbed a two-run homer to cut the Angels' lead to 5-4 in the ninth. But once Mike Witt got Dwight Evans to pop to third for the second out, California's odds of winning stood at 99.1 percent.

    But then Gary Lucas hit Rich Gedman with a pitch, and Henderson got his payback with a go-ahead two-run homer off Donnie Moore. Though the Angels tied the score in their half of the ninth, they didn't have an answer for Henderson's go-ahead sac fly in the 11th.

    While Game 5 didn't mark the official end of the series, it might as well have. The Angels dropped the next two games at Fenway Park, getting outscored 18-5.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Bobby Thomson's Shot Heard 'Round the World in 1951

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    Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

    Although it didn't happen in a proper postseason series, you'll have to excuse us for thinking that Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" in 1951 is the lowest of all the Dodgers' many October low points.

    The Dodgers (then of Brooklyn) had a 13-game lead in the National League standings on August 11. But as they went only 27-24 afterward, the Giants (then of New York) went 37-7 to force a three-game tiebreaker for the National League pennant.

    The Giants took the first game 3-1. The Dodgers took the second 10-0. The third was at the Polo Grounds, and it was tight until the Dodgers rallied for a 4-1 lead in the eighth inning. All they needed was for young ace Don Newcombe to finish the Giants off.

    This didn't happen. Newcombe allowed three hits and a run before giving way to Ralph Branca with two men still on base. Branca's 0-1 pitch to Thomson was high and tight, but he got his bat around and lined it into the stands for his infamous "The Giants win the pennant!" walk-off blast.

    According to Baseball Reference, Thomson's swing elevated the Giants' win expectancy all the way up from 29 percent. The Dodgers, meanwhile, had to wait until 1955 before they finally won a World Series.

Miami Marlins: Well, Actually...

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Fun fact about the Marlins: They're the only MLB franchise that's never known defeat in a postseason series.

    So rather than force something about misses in individual games they should have won, let's take a moment to say something that's rarely said.

    Good job, Marlins.

Milwaukee Brewers: Keith Hernandez Begins the End of the 1982 World Series

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    A day before Game 7 of the 1982 World Series, Milwaukee Brewers lefty Bob McClure passed a photo with a message to former high school teammate Keith Hernandez, then the first baseman of the St. Louis Cardinals.

    "Can't get you out. Best wishes, Bob McClure," read the inscription.

    Way to jinx yourself, McClure.

    The '82 World Series was the Brewers' first (and only), and they stood in strong position to win it midway through Game 7. Behind solid pitching from Pete Vuckovich and RBI by Ben Oglivie, Paul Molitor and Cecil Cooper, Milwaukee took a 3-1 lead (and 74.8 percent odds of winning) into the bottom of the sixth at Busch Stadium.

    But then Vuckovich ran into trouble, allowing a single and a double with one out. In came McClure. Following an intentional walk to Gene Tenace, he faced Hernandez with the bases loaded. His old friend blooped a game-tying two-run single into the outfield.

    That was the beginning of the end for the Brewers. George Hendrick followed Hernandez's single with a go-ahead single, and the Cardinals added two more runs in the eighth. The Brewers managed only an infield single the rest of the way.

    Flash forward 36 years, and they're still looking for their first World Series title.

Minnesota Twins: Roger Peckinpaugh Boots the 1925 World Series

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    Associated Press

    Some may still heartbroken about the thrashing that Sandy Koufax gave the Minnesota Twins in Game 7 of the 1965 World Series.

    But before the Twins were the Twins, they were the Washington Senators from 1901 to 1960. They peaked with a World Series victory in 1924, but fate came back to bite them in the World Series the very next year.

    The Senators took a 3-1 lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the '25 World Series, with the last of those coming courtesy of a Walter Johnson shutout in Game 4. But Pittsburgh stormed back to tie the series with wins in Games 5 and 6 to force a Game 7 at Forbes Field.

    Cue shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh having perhaps the strangest game in World Series history.

    On the bright side, his one hit was a home run that gave the Senators a 7-6 lead in the eighth. But on either side of that were a pair of errors in the bottom of the seventh and bottom of the eighth that helped the Pirates score four runs off Johnson. They held on to win 9-7.

    All told, Peckinpaugh made a whopping eight errors in the series. As one newspaperman put it: "Had he played perfect baseball, the Nats would have won the series in four games."

New York Mets: Way Too Many Left on Base in the 1973 World Series

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Some Mets fans might still be sore at Carlos Beltran for watching that Adam Wainwright curveball go by with the bases loaded to end the 2006 NLCS.

    But when it comes to LOB-laden tragedies in Mets history, there's no topping the 1973 World Series.

    The Mets held a 3-2 lead over the A's after five games, in large part because they'd been able to silence Reggie Jackson and the rest of Oakland's mighty offense. The A's scored three or fewer runs in four of the first five games. Even after winning Game 6, they were still looking for their first home run.

    They finally got two when Jackson and Bert Campaneris each hit two-run homers in the third inning of Game 7 at the Oakland Coliseum. The Mets never had an answer for that, as they went on to lose 5-2.

    It isn't as though they didn't have their chances, however. They went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position in Game 7, ultimately leaving eight men on base. That brought their total to 72 men left on base throughout the series, which set a record at the time.

    Had they been even a little more clutch, the Mets might not have lost a World Series that they had a 74.5 percent chance of winning at one point. 

New York Yankees: Hal Smith and Bill Mazeroski Steal the 1960 World Series

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    HARRY HARRIS/Associated Press

    What could possibly be worse than Tony Womack and Luis Gonzalez snatching a fourth straight World Series title from the Yankees' clutches in 2001?

    How about a loss in a World Series in which the Yankees outscored their opponent by 28 runs?

    That's what happened when the Yankees faced the Pirates in the 1960 World Series. In splitting the first six games, the Yankees won blowouts and the Pirates won close ones. Then came Game 7, one of the most bonkers World Series contests ever played.

    The Pirates went up 4-0 early, but the Yankees scored seven unanswered runs to take a 7-4 lead into the bottom of the eighth at Forbes Field. At one point, they had a 93.6 percent chance of winning.

    However, the Pirates mounted a five-run rally that culminated in Hal Smith's go-ahead three-run blast. The Yankees fought back with a pair of runs to tie the game in the top of the ninth, but Bill Mazeroski had the last laugh with a walk-off shot in the bottom of the inning.

    "I made up my mind I was going for the long ball," Mazeroski said afterward.

    Among the most impactful homers in MLB postseason history, Smith's ranks first and Mazeroski's ranks fourth. Not a bad way to overcome such an absurd run differential.

Oakland Athletics: Kirk Gibson Spearheads an Upset in the 1988 World Series

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    Focus On Sport/Getty Images

    You can't win a World Series in Game 1. But as the A's showed in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, it may be possible to lose one.

    After winning 104 games in the regular season and sweeping the Red Sox in the ALCS, the A's rolled into the '88 Fall Classic as heavy favorites over the Dodgers. It didn't help the Dodgers' cause that star slugger Kirk Gibson seemed to be too banged up to play.

    Game 1 went more or less according to plan for the A's through the first eight innings. Dave Stewart pitched well, and a Jose Canseco grand slam was at the heart of the 4-3 lead that superstar closer Dennis Eckersley was tasked with protecting in the ninth.

    Eckersley got the first two outs easily enough, but he then walked Mike Davis. That's when, despite his wounds, Dodgers skipper Tommy Lasorda went for the kill by pinch-hitting Gibson. He worked the count to 3-2 before getting a hanging slider to pull over the right-field wall.

    Cue Vin Scully: "In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!"

    Gibson's blast didn't end the '88 World Series, but it did boost the Dodgers' odds of winning from 39.1 percent to 65.7 percent. They didn't turn back, winning the series in five games.

Philadelphia Phillies: Mitch Williams Blows Up Twice in the 1993 World Series

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    Focus On Sport/Getty Images

    Though the Philadelphia Phillies should have done more with the superteams they had in 2010 and 2011, anything is better than what they endured in the 1993 World Series.

    Once they dropped Game 1 to the Blue Jays at the SkyDome, the Phillies never really swung the odds of winning back in their favor. There were moments when they threatened to do so, however, and they might have come to fruition if not for Mitch Williams.

    The hard-throwing closer's most famous blow-up happened in Game 6. He was tasked with protecting a one-run lead in the ninth but put two runners on and served up Joe Carter's series-ending homer.

    But that wasn't even Williams' worst flop of the series. He entered the eighth inning of Game 4 at Veterans Stadium with a four-run lead to protect. Five runs crossed the plate on his watch, including two on a go-ahead triple by Devon White.

    Had Williams held on in either game, the Phillies might have won the series. That certainly would have spared him from the trade that sent him to Houston a few weeks later, not to mention any ill will Philly fans still feel toward him.

Pittsburgh Pirates: A Historic Comeback Gets Away in the 1992 NLCS

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    We could talk about the 1903 World Series, in which the Pittsburgh Pirates blew a 3-1 lead to the Boston Americans. Or the 1991 NLCS, in which the Pirates scored 12 runs in a seven-game loss to the Braves.

    Yet, neither compares to what happened to the Pirates in their grudge match with the Braves in 1992.

    The Braves threatened an easy victory by getting out to a 3-1 lead, but the Pirates forced a Game 7 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium by outscoring Atlanta 20-5 in Games 5 and 6. By the bottom of the ninth, they had a 2-0 lead and 92.5 percent odds of winning.

    Those odds might have been even greater, however, if the Pirates had scored an insurance run when Orlando Merced broke for home on Jeff King's eighth-inning double. Alas, David Justice's throw beat him to the plate.

    The Pirates would regret not adding that run. With help from a critical error by Jose Lind, the Braves loaded the bases with nobody out in the ninth. All three runners ended up coming home, the last two on a Francisco Cabrera two-run single that landed well in front of a curiously deeply positioned Barry Bonds.

    Thus ended the Pirates' last good shot at returning to the World Series.

San Diego Padres: Game 1 Bumbling Sets Tone for Defeat in the 1984 World Series

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    The San Diego Padres have a history of losing big when they've lost in the postseason. And yet, there was that one time when they got off to a promising start in the 1984 World Series.

    After the Tigers struck first in Game 1 at Jack Murphy Stadium on an RBI single by Alan Trammel, the Padres struck back on Terry Kennedy's two-run double off Jack Morris in the bottom of the first. That lead held into the fifth, wherein the Padres had a 57.2 percent chance of winning the series.

    Then the unraveling began.

    Larry Herndon took the lead (and the odds) back for Detroit with a two-run homer off Mark Thurmond in the top of the fifth. The Padres threatened to reclaim the momentum with back-to-back singles to open the sixth, but Morris struck out the next three batters. Kurt Bevacqua seemed to ignite another rally with a shot off Morris leading off the seventh, but he was cut down trying to stretch a double into a triple. 

    The Padres lost 3-2, and that was pretty much that. They evened the series with a comeback win in Game 2, but Detroit was rarely in trouble en route to winning the next three games.

Seattle Mariners: Things Fall Apart in the 1995 ALCS

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    A quick lament for the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who won 116 games only to land with a thud when they faced the three-time defending champion Yankees in the ALCS.

    But as far as postseason pain goes, Seattle endured worse in the 1995 ALCS.

    The Mariners jumped out to a 2-1 lead over the Indians by way of Jay Buhner's game-winning homer in the 11th inning of Game 3 at Jacobs Field. Following a loss in Game 4, they seemed positioned to reclaim the series with an early 2-1 lead in Game 5. Their odds of winning stood at 61.6 percent at one point.

    But in the bottom of the sixth, Jim Thome took that lead away with a two-run homer off Chris Bosio. 

    The Mariners twice had golden opportunities to come back from that, but both fizzled. In the seventh, Paul Assenmacher struck out Ken Griffey Jr. and Buhner with runners on first and third. The Mariners then had runners on first and second with one out in the eighth, but Luis Sojo lined into a double play.

    Cleveland held on to win 3-2. The Mariners then went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position in Game 6, in which Dennis Martinez outpitched Randy Johnson in a 4-0 Indians win.

San Francisco Giants: Bad Boots and Walter Johnson Steal the 1924 World Series

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    Per its average pressure and the total change in win probability, the 1924 World Series between the New York Giants and Washington Senators is the greatest ever played.

    To boot, much of the drama unfolded in the greatest Game 7 ever played.

    The Giants held a 3-1 lead going into the eighth and pushed their odds of winning to 85.7 percent when Virgil Barnes induced Ossie Bluege into a foul pop for the first out. But then came a double, an infield single and a walk to load the bases, and the tying runs came home on Bucky Harris' two-run single to left.

    The Senators took no chances, calling in Walter Johnson to pitch in relief. He preserved the tie into the bottom of the 12th, where things got weird.

    Jack Bentley got the first out, but two runners reached courtesy of errors by catcher Hank Gowdy and shortstop Travis Jackson. Finally, the winning run came home when third baseman Freddie Lindstrom failed to snag a ground ball off the bat of Earl McNeely.

    Compared to all this, the way in which the 2002 World Series unraveled on Scott Spiezio's home run in Game 6 might not sound so bad.

St. Louis Cardinals: A Bad Call and a Blown 3-1 Lead in the 1985 World Series

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    Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

    Technically, the St. Louis Cardinals suffered their most heartbreaking postseason defeat in the 1987 World Series.

    In actuality, what happened in 1985 was worse.

    The Cardinals won three of the first four games against the Kansas City Royals. Following a loss in Game 5, they found themselves clinging to a 1-0 lead going into the ninth inning of Game 6 at Royals Stadium.

    If instant replay had been around back then, Todd Worrell would have secured the first out on Jorge Orta's trickler to second base. But it wasn't, and umpire Don Denkinger ruled Orta safe for a leadoff single.

    After that, calamity continued until Dane Iorg walked it off with a two-run single. After entering the inning with just 12 percent chance of winning the series, the Royals had improved their odds all the way to 54.3 percent. An 11-0 rout in Game 7 took them the rest of the way.

    As Willie McGee would reflect after the Cardinals lost to the Minnesota Twins in the '87 World Series: "Anything's better than '85, man. You can swallow this here. They're just a better team. In '85, we were the better team."

Tampa Bay Rays: A Cold Offense Leads to Doom in the 2008 World Series

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Rays have only made it as far as the ALDS in three of their four postseason runs. The one exception is when they went to the World Series in 2008, which was as big a letdown as it was a surprise.

    The Rays went into their tilt with the Philadelphia Phillies hot, having used scorching bats to dispatch the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS and the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. In particular, neither opponent had an answer for either Melvin Upton Jr. (B.J. Upton at the time) or Evan Longoria (Evan Longoria at the time).

    In the World Series, however, those two could only muster six singles in 40 at-bats. Neither the rest of the Rays' offense nor their pitching could make up the difference, and the odds of winning the series were in the team's favor only briefly in Game 1.

    A comeback might have been in order if Jason Bartlett had succeeded in catching Chase Utley napping on a ground ball amid a tie game in the seventh inning of Game 5 at Citizens Bank Park. But he didn't, and Pedro Feliz's go-ahead single the following inning effectively ended the series.

Texas Rangers: One Strike Away (Twice) in the 2011 World Series

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The Texas Rangers had the St. Louis Cardinals as good as beat in the 2011 World Series. Twice.

    Until, that is, they didn't. Both times.

    The sixth game of the '11 World Series is by far the most most dramatic Game 6 ever played. Only one of the game's 11 innings was scoreless, as the two teams combined for 28 hits and 19 runs.

    Nonetheless, the Rangers seemed to have the game in hand when they handed Neftali Feliz a 7-5 lead in the bottom of the ninth at Busch Stadium. He put two on with one out but struck out Allen Craig and got to within a strike of doing the same to David Freese to end it.

    Instead, Freese lined a two-run triple over the head of Endy Chavez a wall-shy Nelson Cruz. Josh Hamilton restored Texas' lead with a two-run blast in the top of the 10th, but an RBI groundout by Daniel Descalso and a two-out, two-strike RBI single by Lance Berkman took it away again. Enter Freese once again, this time for a walk-off big fly in the bottom of the 11th.

    The Rangers came back the next day and took an early 2-0 lead in Game 7, but six unanswered Cardinals runs wiped it out. Like that, a series the Rangers once had 97.6 percent odds of winning was lost.

Toronto Blue Jays: The Hits Dry Up and a 3-1 Lead Vanishes in the 1985 ALCS

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    Cliff Schiappa/Associated Press

    The Toronto Blue Jays looked like a team of destiny through the first four games of the 1985 ALCS.

    They opened with a 6-1 win over the Kansas City Royals at Exhibition Stadium. They then won Game 2 on Al Oliver's walk-off single and Game 4 at Royals Stadium on Oliver's go-ahead double. Upon the latter, Toronto's chances of winning the series stood at 86.6 percent.

    Then the Blue Jays forgot how to hit.

    They scored only five runs in the last three games of the series, in part because they went a combined 3-for-26 with runners in scoring position. That included a 1-for-11 performance in Game 7, which turned on Jim Sundberg's bases-clearing triple in the sixth inning.

    Did the Blue Jays cave under the pressure or simply go cold? According to catcher Ernie Whitt, the latter.

    "We just couldn't get the bats going in the last three games," Whitt told reporters. "We didn't play as well as we're capable of playing. I don't have an answer to it. Believe me, we wanted to win bad. I think that's a lot of bull about pressure."

Washington Nationals: Drew Storen Can't Close the 2012 NLDS

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    The Montreal Expos won only one postseason series before moving to Washington, and the Nationals have yet to even accomplish that.

    This wouldn't be the case if they had closed out the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the 2012 National League Division Series.

    The Nationals had a 96.2 percent chance of winning after ambushing Adam Wainwright for an early 6-0 lead at Nationals Park. Even as the game tightened into a 7-5 contest going into the top of the ninth, the Nationals' odds of winning peaked at 96.6 percent after Drew Storen whiffed Allen Craig for the second out.

    But with Carlos Beltran already on third base, Storen then walked Yadier Molina and David Freese to load the bases. Daniel Descalso followed with a game-tying single that clanked off shortstop Ian Desmond's glove into center field. Pete Kozma then provided a go-ahead two-run single.

    Descalso's hit dropped Washington's odds to 53.5 percent, Kozma's, to 8.4 percent. From there, Jason Motte retired the side in order in the bottom of the ninth to drop them to zero.

    How might the Nationals have avoided defeat? A better closer, for one. Not prematurely shutting down Stephen Strasburg might also have helped.


    Stats courtesy of The Baseball Gauge and Baseball Reference.


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