Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

These teams put together the best division comebacks since 2000

There is still plenty of baseball to play.

This isn't just a meaningless platitude. No team has led a division for the entire season since the 2005 White Sox. In fact, in the 108 division races over the past 18 years, the eventual division winner was, on average, 4 1/2 games out of first place as late as May 27. 

And that's just the average! Plenty of teams have trailed by lots more -- and later into the season -- before turning on the jets to create August and September memories.

So, let's look at six of the biggest and best division comebacks of the 21st century.

2012 Athletics

Biggest deficit: 13 games on June 30

They were a team of destiny. Sure, they started eight games under .500 at the beginning of June and were 13 back by the end of the month. But 19 wins in July brought them right back into contention.

It all came down the final weeks. Trailing the Rangers by five games following a walk-off loss to Texas on Sept. 24, the A's won two of the next three against the Rangers and swept the Mariners.

Naturally, that series featured a comeback victory, as the A's scored three runs across the eighth and ninth innings to send the game to extras before Brandon Moss sent everyone home.

Then, in the final three games, the A's swept the Rangers to seal the deal. 

2006 Twins

Biggest deficit: 12 1/2 games on May 27

After bottoming out 12 1/2 games behind the Tigers, the Twins remained 11 games back for much of the season, even as they warmed up with a 19-7 June.

Fortunately, the Twins had the best pitcher in the planet in Johan Santana -- who won the Cy Young Award with a 19-6 record and 2.77 ERA -- and were boosted by Francisco Liriano's dominant rookie season. If not for the forearm injury that shut him down at the end of the year and would cause him to miss all of 2007, perhaps he and not Santana would have taken home the prize. 

description

With strong seasons from Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer, the team slowly closed the gap before finally tying the division lead after a walk-off win against the Royals on Sept. 28. It was the latest in the season a club had a share of first place without ever occupying it before. 

The Twins left the division open for the Tigers by losing their next two games against the White Sox. Instead, the Tigers got swept by the Royals to end the year, while the Twins finished off the season and the AL Central with a 5-1 victory. 

2014 Dodgers

Biggest deficit: 10 games on June 8

The Dodgers seem to make a habit of this. Still, the early deficit in 2014 had more to do with the Giants getting off to a great start than a poor start from the Dodgers. 

Then, two things happened that allowed the Dodgers back into it:

One: The Giants -- who had raced out to an MLB-best 43-21 record -- were 11 games under .500 the rest of the season. (Of course, they then went on to win the World Series, so who remembers that?)

Two: Clayton Kershaw went full crazy. Beginning with his start on June 8, Kershaw went 17-1 the rest of the way, with a 1.34 ERA. That earned him both the NL Cy Young Award and MVP Award. That included his no-hitter called by the peerless Vin Scully on June 18:

2002 Athletics

Largest deficit: 10 games on May 30

You probably remember this one. After all, it was chronicled in both the book and movie, "Moneyball."

For those not versed in early-2000s baseball lore, the A's lost Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Jason Isringhausen through free agency in the offseason, so no one was surprised when the team found themselves 10 games back at the end of May.

But movies aren't made about teams that are bad and are then forgotten forever. With the big three of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito fronting the rotation, and Eric Chavez, Miguel Tejada and "it's not that hard" Scott Hatteberg on offense, the team rattled off 20 straight wins from Aug. 13 to Sept. 4. Along the way, they turned a 4 1/2-game deficit into a 3 1/2-game lead. 

2013 Dodgers

Largest deficit: 9 1/2 games on June 22

After Kershaw lost to Tim Stauffer (a strange thing to type, I know) on June 21, the Dodgers dropped to 30-42 and were 9 1/2 games out of first place. Things looked bleak for the boys in blue.

But with the addition of Yasiel Puig in early June, and second-half offensive explosions from Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier, the team not only erased the deficit, but ran away with the division, too.

After June 21, the team won nine of its next 10 games and then blitzed through July and August to the tune of a 42-12 record -- matching a stretch of games last pulled off by the 1942 Cardinals

That early deficit didn't seem to bother the Dodgers. They were 3 1/2 games in front by the end of July and finished the year with an 11-game cushion. It all culminated with a Chase Field pool party, which remains a divisive issue between these baseball Capulets and Montagues. 

2007 Phillies

Largest deficit: 8 1/2 games on June 2

OK, we're cheating a little on this one. Although four teams had equal-or-larger deficits than the '07 Phillies, they also weren't seven games down with 17 left to play (nor did they become the first big league team ever to lose 10,000 games in that season.)

Trailing the Mets by seven games after losing, 12-0, to the Cardinals on Sept. 12, most realists thought the NL East was all but officially wrapped. Even after the Phillies swept the Mets that weekend to bring the deficit down to 3 1/2 with two weeks to go, it was unlikely.

But, the Phillies kept winning and, the Mets, well, the Mets kept losing.

The two clubs were tied entering the final day and things looked good for New York as Tom Glavine took the hill to face the Marlins. But Miami gave the Phillies a major boost by hanging a 7-spot in the first inning: 

Later that afternoon, Jamie Moyer helped defeat the Nationals, 6-1, handing the division to Philadelphia.