Teams that came back after losing first 2 games

15 teams have rebounded from losing 1st 2 games of 7-game series

October 25th, 2023

Teams that win the first two games in a best-of-seven postseason series have history on their side. Those clubs have prevailed in 76 of 91 instances, but all isn't lost for the team facing a 2-0 deficit.

The 15 teams that have overcome the odds have proved, time and again, that no two-game lead is safe. Even a 3-0 deficit has been conquered once, by the curse-busting Red Sox against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. The most recent instance of a team climbing back from a 2-0 postseason hole came in the 2023 postseason when the D-backs stormed back to defeat the Phillies in seven games in the NLCS after being down 2-0. 

Of the 15 comebacks, 10 have come in the World Series, while five were in a League Championship Series (two in the AL and three in the National League), which was lengthened to a best-of-seven format beginning in 1985. Each of these comebacks occurred in series utilizing in a 2-3-2 format, and interestingly, 12 of the 15 were accomplished by teams that did not have home-field advantage in the series. That does make some sense, as teams without that edge would at least be heading home for three games while down 2-0 in the series.

Below is a closer look at the 15 instances of 2-0 comebacks in a seven-game playoff series:

^Indicates team won clinching game at home

2023 NLCS: D-backs over Phillies
AZ trailed 2-0, won in 7

The Phillies jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the 2023 NLCS in dominant fashion, as they outscored the D-backs 15-3 over the first two games of the series.

Then the D-backs woke up. In Game 3 it was Ketel Marte who got a chance to play hero with a walk-off single off Craig Kimbrel. A day later, the rookies came up clutch, as Alek Thomas cranked a two-run game-tying home run in the eighth inning off Kimbrel before Gabriel Moreno staked the D-backs to a lead later in the inning with an RBI single. But all those vibes disappeared in Game 5 when the Phillies won 6-1 behind a dominant outing from Zack Wheeler -- a result that meant that the D-backs would need to win two games at Citizens Bank Park if they wanted to reach the World Series.

And that’s exactly what they did.

Tommy Pham and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit early home runs to back Merrill Kelly (5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER) in Game 6, while Corbin Carroll (3-for-4, 2 RBIs) and Kevin Ginkel (1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief) led the D-backs to a 4-2 win in the decisive Game 7 to earn the team's first World Series berth since 2001.

2020 NLCS: Dodgers over Braves
LAD won in 7 (Were designated as home team but series played at neutral site)
When L.A. bulldozed its way to a 15-3 victory in Game 3, it was easy to think that the team with the best record in the Majors would run away with the series after all. Not so fast. The Braves came back to win Game 4, putting the Dodgers on the brink of elimination, in a series played at Texas' Globe Life Field during the pandemic.

Instead, this became only the fourth best-of-seven series in which a team rallied to win after trailing both 2-0 and 3-1. It still wasn't an easy climb, though. The Dodgers trailed after five innings in Game 5 and had to sweat out a 3-1 victory in Game 6 after scoring all their runs in the first inning. Then, in Game 7, the Dodgers faced multiple deficits, including 3-2 after five innings. But Enrique Hernández's homer in the sixth tied the score, Cody Bellinger's in the seventh gave L.A. the lead, and the club held on from there. After all that, the Dodgers advanced to their third World Series in four years before winning their first title since 1988.

2004 ALCS: Red Sox over Yankees
BOS trailed 3-0, won in 7
Boston's comeback against the Yankees in 2004 may be the most impressive series reversal on this list as the Red Sox became the first team in MLB history to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a seven-game series. The Yankees were on the verge of a sweep in Game 4, bringing a one-run lead into the ninth inning. But Dave Roberts' clutch steal and Bill Mueller's game-tying single against All-Star closer Mariano Rivera sent the game to extras, and David Ortiz capped Boston's comeback with a walk-off homer in the 12th inning. Game 5 also went down to the wire, and again, Ortiz was the hero, hitting a walk-off single in the 14th inning en route to series MVP honors. Game 6 was Curt Schilling's legendary "Bloody Sock" game, in which Schilling pitched seven innings of one-run ball with an injured ankle. Boston clinched the series with a 10-3 victory in Game 7 and defeated the Cardinals in the Fall Classic for the franchise's first championship since 1918.

1996 World Series: Yankees over Braves
NYY won in 6^
The '96 Yankees are the last team to accomplish the feat in a World Series and the third to win the Fall Classic after dropping the first two games at home. New York ended a long World Series drought (for the Yankees) by storming back after being outscored by the Braves, 16-1 in Games 1 and 2. David Cone pitched six innings of one-run ball as the Yankees began their comeback with a 5-2 win as the series shifted to Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. New York overcame an early 6-0 deficit in Game 5 and scored two runs in the 10th to even the Series. Andy Pettitte (8 1/3 innings) and John Wetteland (two-thirds of an inning) combined to shut out Atlanta in Game 6, and a three-run third inning against the Braves' Greg Maddux made the difference.

1986 World Series: Mets over Red Sox
NYM won in 7^
The Mets added more fuel to the fire for believers of the Curse of the Bambino by washing away the Red Sox's 2-0 lead in the '86 World Series. The Mets' offense broke out of its slump in Game 3 with a four-run first frame then kept rolling for a 6-2 advantage in Game 4. The Red Sox reclaimed their lead with a Game 5 win at home, but the Mets staved off elimination with a pair of dramatic victories in New York, winning in walk-off fashion on a ball that rolled between first baseman Bill Buckner's legs for an infamous error and by overcoming a 3-0 deficit with a late comeback in the winner-take-all finale.

1985 World Series: Royals over Cardinals
KC won in 7^
The Royals overcame a 2-0 and a 3-1 deficit in both the ALCS and the World Series against the Cardinals, en route to the franchise's first title. Kansas City defeated its Missouri rival despite losing its home-field advantage by dropping Games 1 and 2 at Royals Stadium. Ace Bret Saberhagen pitched a one-run complete game to get the Royals back in the Series, but fell again as the Cardinals' John Tudor tossed a shutout in Game 4. The Royals rallied for three straight wins, including a walk-off in Game 6 and an 11-0 shutout by Saberhagen in the clincher.

1985 ALCS: Royals over Blue Jays
KC won in 7
The first season in which MLB employed a best-of-seven format for the LCS saw both winners come back from trailing 2-0. The Royals won three games against the Blue Jays by two or fewer runs to force a Game 7. Danny Jackson tossed an eight-hit shutout in Game 5, while George Brett slugged his third home run of the Series to power the Royals' Game 6 win.

1985 NLCS: Cardinals over Dodgers
STL won in 6
In the NL, the other Missouri team completed a 2-0 comeback with four straight wins against the Dodgers. The Cardinals' rebound was highlighted by Ozzie Smith's walk-off home run in Game 5 -- his first homer from the left side of the plate -- which was immortalized by Jack Buck's iconic "Go crazy, folks!" call. The Game 6 clincher was a 7-5 thriller at Dodger Stadium that saw the Cardinals battle back from a 4-1 deficit with a three-run rally -- including a an RBI triple from Smith -- only to lose the lead again on a solo home run by Mike Marshall. Jack Clark then clubbed a go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth inning to clinch the pennant for St. Louis.

1981 World Series: Dodgers over Yankees
LAD won in 6
The Dodgers and Yankees met in the World Series for a third time in five seasons, and the Yankees appeared primed to hand Los Angeles yet another Fall Classic defeat. But the Dodgers turned their fortunes in Game 3 with star rookie Fernando Valenzuela, who earned a complete-game victory in a hard-fought nine-hit, seven-walk outing. L.A. earned two more one-run, come-from-behind victories in Games 4 and 5, then claimed the franchise's fifth title with a 9-2 win in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium.

1978 World Series: Yankees over Dodgers
NYY won in 6
Three years before the Dodgers reversed New York's fortune, the Yankees did the same to them, winning four straight games after dropping the first two on the road. As the series shifted to the Bronx, New York won all three games, including a 10-inning comeback in Game 4, and infielders Bucky Dent and Brian Doyle fueled a 7-2 victory in Game 6 to secure the Yankees' repeat.

1971 World Series: Pirates over Orioles
PIT won in 7
The Pirates were outscored by the Orioles, 24-23, in the Series and dropped Games 1 and 2, but still prevailed in seven games. Bob Robertson's three-run homer in the seventh inning of Game 3 punctuated a 5-1 victory and began Pittsburgh's comeback. The Pirates earned a one-run win in Game 4, the first night game in World Series history, and Nelson Briles pitched a two-hit shutout in Game 5. The Orioles avoided elimination with an extra-innings walk-off in Game 6, but only postponed the inevitable as Series MVP Roberto Clemente homered and Steve Blass held the O's to one run in a complete-game performance in Game 7.

1965 World Series: Dodgers over Twins
LAD won in 7
The Twins, playing in their first World Series, jumped out ahead of the Dodgers with two wins to start the '65 Series. They saw their lead slip away, however, as a dominant LA pitching staff -- featuring Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax -- held Minnesota to two runs in Games 3-5. Drysdale pitched a two-run complete game in Game 5, while Koufax hurled a four-hit, 10-strikeout shutout in Game 6. The Twins managed to defeat Claude Osteen in Game 6, but their momentum ended there. They were shut down by Koufax, who pitched a three-hit shutout in Game 7 on two days' rest and earned Series MVP honors.

1958 World Series: Yankees over Braves
NYY won in 7
Hank Aaron and the Milwaukee Braves upset the Yankees in the '57 World Series, and nearly did so again by taking the first two games in the '58 Series. New York rebounded with a pair of dominant pitching performances by Don Larsen (seven scoreless innings) and Series MVP Bob Turley (five-hit, 10-strikeout shutout) in Games 3 and 5, respectively. The Yankees avoided elimination and clinched with three straight victories, becoming the second team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the World Series (1925 Pirates). New York won in 10 innings in Game 7, and Turley held the Braves to one run in 6 2/3 innings of relief in the Game 7 clincher.

1956 World Series: Yankees over Dodgers
NYY won in 7
The Yankees completed the first of four 2-0 comebacks in the franchise's history in 1956, when they bested the defending champion Brooklyn Dodgers. Whitey Ford and Tom Sturdivant pitched to complete-game victories in Games 4 and 5, then Don Larsen tossed the only perfect game and first of two no-hitters in postseason history. Bob Turley lost a 10-inning pitchers' duel in Game 6, 1-0, after a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk set up Jackie Robinson's walk-off knock. Johnny Kucks' three-hit shutout and Yogi Berra's two home runs sealed Game 7 for the Yankees. Kucks struck out Robinson to end the game in what would be the trailblazing Hall of Famer's final at-bat.

1955 World Series: Dodgers over Yankees
BRO won in 7
The Brooklyn Dodgers became the first team to overcome a 2-0 deficit in a playoff series in 1955, winning the franchise's first and only title before it relocated to Los Angeles. It was also the only World Series title the Dodgers won with Robinson on the team. The Dodgers handed the Yankees their first World Series loss since 1942 by winning all three games in Brooklyn and taking Game 7 in the Bronx. Johnny Podres pitched a three-run complete game in Game 3 and tossed a shutout in Game 7 to win the first World Series MVP Award.