There are few things more imposing for a team than being down three games to one in a seven-game series, but it can also be freeing. Once a club is backed into that corner, the pressure's off; either it wins three games in a row or it tips its cap
There are few things more imposing for a team than being down three games to one in a seven-game series, but it can also be freeing. Once a club is backed into that corner, the pressure's off; either it wins three games in a row or it tips its cap and goes home for a long winter.
The odds are against slow starters: Through the 2019 League Championship Series, only 13 teams out of 87 had come back to win a best-of-seven series after dropping three of the first four contests. Here's a look at each of those 13 "miracle" clubs and how they came all the way back to win.
2016 World Series: Cubs over Indians
Cleveland was familiar with 3-1 deficits, having seen LeBron James and the NBA's Cavaliers come back from a 3-1 hole against the Warriors just a few months prior. But Ohioans would see their club fall on the other side this time around, thanks to a Cubs team that was desperate to end a 108-year championship drought.
Kris Bryant, as he did throughout the 2016 postseason, came up clutch with a homer to wake up the Wrigley Field crowd in Game 5, and Addison Russell's grand slam in Game 6 sent the series to a decisive winner-take-all Game 7. Then, in one of the most memorable Fall Classic contests ever, the Cubs withstood Rajai Davis' dramatic two-run homer off Aroldis Chapman -- and a momentous rain delay -- to pull ahead on Ben Zobrist's 10th-inning RBI double. Mike Montgomery closed out the bottom half, and the "Curse of the Billy Goat" was finally over.
2012 National League Championship Series: Giants over Cardinals
Not only did the Giants come back in this series; they did so with authority. After winning their final three games on the road to defeat the Reds in the NL Division Series, San Francisco outscored St. Louis 20-1 over the final three contests to punch its second World Series ticket in three years. A resurgent Barry Zito pitched into the eighth in Game 5, and Ryan Vogelsong struck out nine in Game 6. Series MVP Marco Scutaro notched three hits in the finale to help San Francisco seal the franchise's first-ever victory in a winner-take-all Game 7.
2007 American League Championship Series: Red Sox over Indians
Boston looked to be in fine shape after rocking AL Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia in Game 1, but the Tribe stormed back for three straight victories to get Cleveland riled up for its first Fall Classic appearance in a decade. The Indians played the All-American Rejects' hit song "It Ends Tonight" over the loudspeakers before Game 5, but the Red Sox had other ideas. Josh Beckett dominated with 11 strikeouts to send the series back to Fenway Park, where J.D. Drew hit a grand slam to spur Boston to a 12-2 rout in Game 6. Red Sox employees played "It Ends Tonight" again before Game 7, and the home club ended things decisively, 11-2, to punch its second World Series ticket in four years.
2004 ALCS: Red Sox over Yankees
Eighty-six years of Bambino-sized baggage was wiped away over four magical nights in October, starting with Dave Roberts' daring steal and David Ortiz's walk-off homer in Game 4. Ortiz delivered again in a 14-inning marathon the following night to make the Fenway faithful believe, and Curt Schilling's "bloody sock" performance in Game 6 in the Bronx made him a folk hero in Boston. Johnny Damon's Game 7 grand slam seemed to lift whatever burden was left from the Red Sox's shoulders, as the self-proclaimed "idiots" became the first team to erase a 3-0 postseason deficit before sweeping the Cardinals for Boston's first championship since 1918.
2003 NLCS: Marlins over Cubs
Steve Bartman will always be the symbol of this heart-breaking series for the Cubs, but the North Siders had plenty of other chances to claim their first NL pennant since 1945. Beckett, the Marlins' emerging ace, twirled a two-hit shutout in Game 5, and Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez's error after Bartman's fateful reach helped the Marlins tie (and eventually win) Game 6. Chicago even held a 5-3 lead through four innings of Game 7, but could not hold on as Florida prevailed despite being outscored by two runs in the series.
1996 NLCS: Braves over Cardinals
The Braves' 1990s run was one of the most dominant by any team, but this series represented one of Atlanta's toughest tests. St. Louis was able to break through against Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine to win three of the first four contests, but -- like the Giants did in 2012 -- the Braves absolutely surged over the Cardinals once their backs were against the wall. Atlanta's three-headed monster of John Smoltz, Maddux and Glavine returned to form, but they didn't need to do all that much as Braves hitters ambushed St. Louis pitchers and outscored the Cardinals 32-1 over their last three victories.
1986 ALCS: Red Sox over Angels
Fatalism was near its peak in Boston when the "cursed" Red Sox quickly fell behind the Halos and appeared on the verge of another postseason exit. The Angels were within one strike of their first pennant in Game 5 before Red Sox center fielder Dave Henderson blasted a dramatic go-ahead grand slam, setting up an eventual 7-6 win in 11 innings. Given new life, Boston pulled away in the final two contests at Fenway Park before heartbreak struck again on a famous grounder through Bill Buckner's legs in Game 6 of the World Series.
1985 World Series: Royals over Cardinals
Kansas City epitomized the phrase "never say die" in 1985, overcoming a 3-1 deficit in the ALCS before doing it again on the biggest stage. The Royals outscored the Cardinals 28-13 in this series, but still needed a controversial call from umpire Don Denkinger to squeak out a 2-1 win in Game 6 and stay alive. K.C. capitalized on its good fortune with an 11-0 blowout of the Cardinals in Game 7, with ace Bret Saberhagen twirling a five-hit shutout to seal the franchise's first World Series championship.
1985 ALCS: Royals over Blue Jays
As mentioned, this Royals club really was a team of destiny. Kansas City took full advantage of the first year of the best-of-seven LCS format, starting with Danny Jackson's eight-hit shutout in a must-win Game 5. George Brett hit his third homer of the series to power the Royals to a 5-3 win in Game 6, and the star trio of Saberhagen, Charlie Leibrandt and Dan Quisenberry helped K.C. close out Game 7 at Toronto's Exhibition Stadium.
1979 World Series: Pirates over Orioles
The 1979 "We Are Family" Pirates were probably one of the loosest World Series champions, with captain Willie Stargell leading a big comeback over a supremely talented Orioles squad. Stargell hit an even .400 with three homers -- including a crucial dinger late in Game 7 -- to become the first player to capture the regular season, NLCS and World Series MVP Awards all in the same season. Pirates pitchers held Baltimore to two total runs over the last three games as Pittsburgh earned its second seven-game World Series triumph over the Orioles in a span of nine years.
1968 World Series: Tigers over Cardinals
If you like vintage pitching performances, this series is for you. Bob Gibson outdueled Denny McLain, baseball's last 30-game winner, in Games 1 and 4 to put St. Louis on the verge of a second straight title, but Mickey Lolich stemmed the tide with his second win of the series in Game 5 in Detroit. McLain came back on two days' rest to nearly twirl a shutout in the Tigers' 13-1 rout in Game 6, setting up a dream winner-take-all matchup between Gibson and Lolich in St. Louis. The aces traded zeroes for six frames before Jim Northrup hit a two-run triple over Curt Flood's head in center field, and that was all Lolich -- also pitching on two days' rest -- would need in Detroit's 4-1 win.
1958 World Series: Yankees over Braves
Hank Aaron and the Braves shocked the Yankees with a seven-game triumph in 1957, and came oh so close to doing it again the following autumn. Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette -- who beat the Yankees three times in '57 -- combined for victories in three of the first four games, but the Yankees finally solved Burdette with six runs off the righty to stay alive in Game 5. Spahn went into the 10th inning in Game 6 before giving up a pair of runs, and Braves pinch-hitter Frank Torre lined out to end the game with Aaron representing the tying run at third base. That was the break the Yankees needed, as Bob Turley pitched 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball in relief and the pinstripes beat Burdette again, 6-2, in Game 7 in Milwaukee.
1925 World Series: Pirates over Senators
The legendary Walter Johnson had finally claimed his first championship with a heroic Game 7 performance in 1924, but his luck ran out in another Game 7 the following year. Monsoon-like rain and heavy fog created perhaps the worst playing conditions of any World Series game in history, and the Senators' two blown leads didn't do anything to boost Johnson's morale. Kiki Cuyler's eighth-inning, two-run double off Washington's ace erased an original 4-0 deficit for the Pirates, who pulled off the first 3-1 comeback in postseason history.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.