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Rare rematches: Yanks, Astros in select company

@SlangsOnSports
October 11, 2019

"Better luck next time" is a classic phrase in sports, but often, two teams that face off in a crucial series don’t get a chance to meet again too quickly. The 2019 American League Championship Series, however, presents us with an intriguing rematch. The Astros took down the Yankees in

"Better luck next time" is a classic phrase in sports, but often, two teams that face off in a crucial series don’t get a chance to meet again too quickly. The 2019 American League Championship Series, however, presents us with an intriguing rematch. The Astros took down the Yankees in seven games in the '17 ALCS, and two years later, the two teams will meet again.

How rare is it for two teams to go the distance in a best-of-7 series, then meet again within two years? Rarer than you may think. This is the 10th time in postseason history that two teams have played a best-of-7 series that went the distance, then met again within the next two postseasons. What kind of rematch could be more intriguing than one of a series that went to the brink the last time the teams met?

Here’s a look at rematches in postseason history, of best-of-7 series to go the distance.

2019 ALCS (?) -- rematch of 2017 ALCS: Astros def. Yankees
The 2017 matchup between these two teams was essentially decided by home-field advantage, as home teams won each game in the series. The Astros won the AL West and had a better regular-season record, which meant Game 7 was at Minute Maid Park, and the Astros took that one to win the series and advance to the World Series, where they’d win their first title in franchise history. The '19 edition will again feature home-field advantage for Houston, but this time these teams are facing off as fellow division-winners, both having had 100-win seasons. This will be the sixth meeting between 100-win teams prior to the World Series in postseason history. The team with more wins -- which would in this case be the Astros -- won four of the previous five series. The Yankees, in 1977 against the Royals, were the only team to triumph in such a series without home-field advantage.

2014 National League Championship Series (SF in 5) -- rematch of 2012 NLCS: Giants def. Cardinals
Before 3-1 deficits were a concept not to mention in the Bay Area, the Giants put together exactly that kind of comeback against the Cardinals in 2012. Barry Zito was lights-out for the Giants in St. Louis in Game 5 with the club on the brink of elimination. Overall, after going down 3-1 in the series, the Giants held the Cardinals to just one run in Games 5, 6 and 7 combined to win the series and advance to their second World Series in three years, at the time. Two years later -- you may have heard that the Giants made a habit out of even years for a while -- the teams squared off in the NLCS again. It didn’t require seven games again, but the Giants did win the rematch as well, this time in five. Madison Bumgarner pitched 15 2/3 innings in the series, most of anyone on either team, and allowed just three runs while striking out 12, which pretty much set the tone for the entire series. Then Travis Ishikawa sent them to the World Series with his Game 5 walk-off homer.

2005 NLCS (HOU in 6) -- rematch of 2004 NLCS: Cardinals def. Astros
The first series, in 2004, was another where all of the games were won by the home team, much like the '17 ALCS. This was the October of Carlos Beltrán, when he tied a postseason record with eight homers and set a since-broken record with a home run in four consecutive postseason games. But it was the Cardinals, not Beltrán's Astros, who held home-field advantage and took the series in '04. The Astros got their revenge as quickly as possible, meeting the Cards in the NLCS the following year -- though without Beltrán, who had left in free agency to join the Mets. In this one, the team to lose the first matchup did get its revenge in that next meeting, with the Astros advancing to the World Series in '05. Roy Oswalt was the series MVP, pitching 14 innings and allowing just two runs in the series.

2004 ALCS (BOS in 7) -- rematch of 2003 ALCS: Yankees def. Red Sox
Sometimes, the sequel really is better than the original. The 2003 ALCS had all of the drama, ending on a walk-off home run by Aaron Boone off Tim Wakefield in the 11th inning of a winner-take-all game. No way to top that, right? Wrong. These two teams met again the following year, and that time the heroics belonged to Boston, which pulled off the first -- and to this point only -- comeback when trailing 3-0 in a best-of-7 series in baseball postseason history. In '03, the Yankees’ World Series appearance didn’t lead to a title. But in '04, after avenging that '03 ALCS loss, the Red Sox went on to win it all for the team’s first title since 1918.

1992 NLCS (ATL in 7) -- rematch of 1991 NLCS: Braves def. Pirates
The 1991 NLCS was highlighted by stellar pitching. Three games ended 1-0 and another ended 3-2 in extra innings. The Pirates had the best record in the NL in 1991 and were presumptive favorites, but they were knocked off by the Braves. They were making their second straight NLCS appearance, after losing in six to the Reds in 1990. The Braves, on the other hand, had won just 65 games in 1990 and finished last in their division, before winning the first of what would be 14 straight division titles in 1991. The two teams would meet again the next year, but the Pirates did not exact any revenge, as the Braves won in seven games again. This time it was thanks to Francisco Cabrera’s walk-off single off Stan Belinda.

1958 WS (NYY in 7) -- rematch of 1957 WS: Braves def. Yankees
The 1957 World Series was the Yankees’ third appearance in the Fall Classic in a row, a streak that would stretch to four in 1958. It was the first time the Braves and Yanks met in the postseason, a matchup that would go on to happen four times. The Braves won, with Lew Burdette pitching three complete games, including a shutout in Game 7. The following year they’d meet again, and yet again the series would go seven games. But this time, the Yankees won -- the first of three World Series they’d win against the Braves, with the others coming in 1996 and 1999. The Yanks pulled off a comeback after being down 3-1 to win the rematch, just the second time that a team had come back from such a deficit in a best-of-7 World Series.

1956 WS (NYY in 7) -- rematch of 1955 WS: Dodgers def. Yankees
The Yankees and Dodgers met in the World Series six times between 1947 and 1956, and four of those went seven games, meaning that this matchup will be on this list multiple times. The 1955 World Series was the year the Dodgers finally broke through against the Yanks, and it took seven games. The Dodgers took Game 7 behind a strong performance from Johnny Podres, who was named World Series MVP -- the first time it was awarded. The two teams met again the following year, and it took seven games again, but they reverted to the story of the prior Dodgers-Yankees matchups: the Yanks won. The Yankees beat the Dodgers, 9-0, in the decisive Game 7.

1953 WS (NYY in 6) -- rematch of 1952 WS: Yankees def. Dodgers
The 1952 World Series was the Yankees’ fourth straight title, and '53 would make it five in a row. The '52 matchup between these two teams, which had become quite familiar in the recent years, stretched seven games. The Yanks won Game 7, 4-2, in an effort that included Mickey Mantle’s second career postseason home run, after his first had come earlier in the series. The next year, the two teams met again, though it didn’t go seven that time around. The Dodgers took a 3-2 lead heading to the bottom of the 9th, after going ahead with two runs in the top of the inning. But they couldn’t hold the lead as Billy Martin hit a walk-off single to win the series, and the Yankees won the rematch, too.

1949 WS (NYY in 5) -- rematch of 1947 WS: Yankees def. Dodgers
The 1947 World Series was the second time the Yankees and Dodgers met in the postseason, after they first met in '41. After a hard-fought series, the Dodgers took an early 2-0 lead in Game 7, but they found themselves trailing by the bottom of the fourth. The Yanks took a 3-2 lead which they didn’t relinquish, winning the game to clinch the series. Two years later, the two teams met again, but it wasn’t as close this time, as the Yankees won in five games and the Dodgers failed to win the rematch. Allie Reynolds pitched 12 2/3 innings for the Yanks in the series, allowing just two hits and no runs.

1928 WS (NYY in 4) -- rematch of 1926 WS: Cardinals def. Yankees
The 1926 World Series was the first World Series appearance for the Cardinals, and they went on to win it, too. In Game 7, it infamously ended with Babe Ruth thrown out attempting to take second base, with two out and the Yankees down 3-2. It’s the only World Series to end in that fashion. Two years later, the teams would meet again -- and this time, the Yanks would have their revenge and win the rematch. Not only did they win, but they swept St. Louis, outscoring the Cards by 17 runs in the four games combined. The Cardinals scored first in the third and fourth games of the series, but they weren’t able to convert either lead into a win.

Sarah Langs is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @SlangsOnSports.