These teams came back from 0-2 holes

Down but not out, 10 clubs have rallied to win 3 straight

October 17th, 2023

The frenetic pace of a five-game Division Series can be either a blessing or a curse -- depending on the eye of the beholder. A team can either move on quickly or find itself backed into a corner before really having a chance to settle in.

An 0-2 hole to begin a five-game playoff series is imposing for the team on the short end, but history has shown it's not an impossible one to climb out of. Here are the 10 teams that bucked the odds and rallied from a two-games-to-none deficit to prevail in a five-game postseason series. (Of those 10 comeback teams, six completed the feat at home in Game 5, while four did so on the road.)

Note: MLB's current format for five-game Division Series is a 2-2-1, with one team hosting Games 1, 2 and 5 and the other hosting the middle two contests. But that has not always been the case; the Division Series used a 2-3 format from 1995-97, and also in 2012. The League Championship Series used a 2-3 format before expanding to a best-of-seven game series in 1985. (The 2020 LDS did use the 2-2-1 format to determine who was designated as the home team, although all games were played at neutral sites).

^Indicates team won Game 5 at home


2017 ALDS, Yankees over Cleveland
2-2-1 format; CLE had home-field advantage
Cleveland was fresh off a record 22-game win streak in September and seemed poised to keep rolling when Trevor Bauer dominated the Yankees in Game 1 and clutch homers by Francisco Lindor and Jay Bruce spearheaded a five-run comeback in Game 2. But New York stormed back in the Bronx behind strong outings from Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino, with the offense figuring out Bauer in Game 4. Didi Gregorius homered twice off American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in Game 5, and the "Baby Bombers" advanced.

2015 ALDS, Blue Jays over Rangers
2-2-1 format; TOR had home-field advantage^
This series can be summed up in a pair of words: "Bat flip." Jose Bautista's grandiose three-run homer capped off a Game 5 that ranks among the wildest postseason contests in history, including a catcher's throw deflecting off a bat and multiple errors by shortstop Elvis Andrus -- all within the same seventh inning. Texas bested Trade Deadline acquisition David Price in Game 1 and outlasted Toronto in a 14-inning marathon in Game 2 before the Blue Jays turned the tide.

2012 NLDS, Giants over Reds
2-3 format; CIN had home-field advantage
Home-field advantage was a moot point in this one, as the road club prevailed in all five contests. The Reds survived a six-pitch start from ace Johnny Cueto to claim Game 1, and then blanked the Giants 9-0 in Game 2 to take a commanding lead back to Cincinnati.

The Reds had three home games lined up thanks to a 2-3 format caused by the Wild Card Game's late introduction, but they could not capitalize on the opportunity. San Francisco eked out a 10-inning win on Scott Rolen's bobble in Game 3, followed by a heroic 4 1/3-inning relief outing by Tim Lincecum in Game 4. Buster Posey's grand slam in Game 5 took the punch out of the Great American Ball Park crowd, and the Giants were on their way to a second World Series title in three years.

2003 ALDS, Red Sox over A's
2-2-1 format; OAK had home-field advantage
The Moneyball A's claimed a thriller in Game 1 when catcher Ramon Hernandez pulled off a bases-loaded walk-off squeeze bunt in the 12th inning, and then bested Tim Wakefield in Game 2 to take a two-game advantage. But the Red Sox stormed back in Game 3 thanks to a pair of Oakland mistakes. Eric Byrnes failed to touch home after Jason Varitek blocked the plate, and then Miguel Tejada collided with third baseman Bill Mueller after Nomar Garciaparra's error seemed sure to yield a run. Boston took advantage of its second chances when Trot Nixon hit a walk-off two-run homer in the bottom of the 11th. David Ortiz showed an early hint of his clutch powers with a go-ahead two-run double in the eighth inning of Game 4, and Varitek and Manny Ramirez went deep in support of Pedro Martinez in the decisive Game 5.

2001 ALDS, Yankees over A's
2-2-1 format; NYY had home-field advantage^
Just as Bautista's bat toss characterized Toronto's comeback in 2015, Derek Jeter's "flip" in Game 3 of the '01 ALDS will live on for eternity. The A's appeared set to end the Yankees' dynastic run when Jeter came out of nowhere to field Shane Spencer's errant throw and toss it to catcher Jorge Posada, who tagged Jeremy Giambi just in time for a most improbable out. New York won that contest, 1-0, before beating Oakland by a combined 14-5 in the final two games.

1999 ALDS, Red Sox over Cleveland
2-2-1 format; CLE had home-field advantage
Travis Fryman's walk-off single for Cleveland's 3-2 win in Game 1 signaled the only low-scoring affair of the series. Fryman's squad blew out Boston, 11-1, in Game 2 before the Red Sox stormed back for 9-3 and 23-7 routs in Games 3 and 4 at Fenway Park. Boston and Cleveland were tied at 8 in the decisive fifth game when the Red Sox summoned Martinez, fresh off one of the most dominant pitching seasons ever, to shut the door. Pitching on what Martinez would later describe as "60 percent" of his powers, Boston's ace struck out eight over six scoreless and hitless innings in one of the most incredible relief appearances in history. Troy O' Leary's three-run homer in the seventh powered the Red Sox to a 12-8 win.

1995 ALDS, Mariners over Yankees
2-3 format; SEA had home-field advantage^
It's the series that many believed saved baseball in Seattle. The Mariners had already pulled off one massive comeback, making up a 13-game deficit to the Angels in early August before defeating the Halos in a one-game tiebreaker. But the Yankees, back in the postseason for the first time in 14 years, showed how hungry they were with tight victories in Games 1 and 2 in the Bronx.

Randy Johnson (fresh off an 18-2 season and his first AL Cy Young Award) righted the ship in Game 3, and Yankee-killer Edgar Martinez's eighth-inning grand slam off John Wetteland in Game 4 set up a winner-take-all at the Kingdome. The teams went back-and-forth in a classic contest, with Seattle coming back against an exhausted David Cone to tie the game in the eighth. New York pushed across a run off Johnson in the 11th, but Martinez came through again, doubling in the bottom half off Jack McDowell to send Ken Griffey Jr. scampering home from first with the series-winning run.

1981 NLDS, Dodgers over Astros
2-3 format; LAD had home-field advantage^
A strike created a split season in which the first-half NL West champion Dodgers faced the second-half champion Astros in a first-of-its-kind division series (the LDS would not become a permanent staple of postseason play until 1995). Houston notched a pair of tight victories at the Astrodome, but Los Angeles went home knowing it still had as many as three games left at Dodger Stadium under the old 2-3 format. L.A. capitalized on early offense in Game 3, followed by rookie sensation Fernando Valenzuela's complete-game masterpiece in a 2-1 win in Game 4. Houston still felt confident with Nolan Ryan on full rest in Game 5, but the Dodgers broke through with three runs in the sixth and never looked back. Jerry Reuss twirled a five-hit shutout in L.A.'s decisive 4-0 win.


1984 NLCS, Padres over Cubs
2-3 format; SD had home-field advantage^
The excitement was palpable on the North Side after the Cubs made their first postseason in 39 years, and it looked like more celebration was in store after Chicago claimed Games 1 and 2 at Wrigley Field. But the Padres stormed back with a win over Dennis Eckersley in Game 3 and Steve Garvey's walk-off homer against Lee Smith in Game 4. Excitement turned to dread for North Siders in Game 5, when Cubs first baseman Leon Durham's error in the seventh opened the floodgates for San Diego. Hall of Famer Goose Gossage closed out the Padres' first NL pennant with a two-inning save.

1982 ALCS, Brewers over Angels
2-3 format; MIL had home-field advantage^
The 1982 Brewers, known affectionately as "Harvey's Wallbangers" after manager Harvey Kuenn, paced the Majors in most offensive categories and this ALCS proved to be a slugfest. The Brewers bested Tommy John and the Angels, 9-5, in Game 4 to set up the finale at Milwaukee's County Stadium, where Cecil Cooper's two-run seventh-inning single off Luis Sanchez proved to be the difference in a tight 4-3 finale.