Making it to the postseason is an accomplishment in and of itself, but everyone knows the ultimate prize is the Commissioners’ Trophy. Until 1968, that quest required one series -- the World Series. But since '69 when divisions were established, there have been other postseason series leading up to the Fall Classic as well. Regardless of how many series it requires, the goal is always that ultimate glory.
Few teams can claim the type of success the Marlins have had in the playoffs -- not having dropped a single series in franchise history. All others have lost at least four series, and many have lost more than that. In fact, there have been seven postseason losing streaks of at least six series, by six different teams.
Three of those streaks were at the forefront in 2020. Entering the year, the Braves had lost 10 straight postseason rounds, tied for the longest such streak in history -- but they beat the Reds in the Wild Card Series to snap the streak. The A’s had lost six straight postseason rounds entering Thursday's winner-take-all game win, tied for the sixth-longest streak in history. On the other side, the Twins extended their series losing streak to nine straight, the third-longest on the list.
Here are the seven longest postseason-series losing streaks in history, with the Wild Card Game counting as a series, as it is its own round.
1-T) Braves: 10 straight, 2001 National League Championship Series to 2019 National League Division Series
The Braves entered the 2020 postseason on a historic losing streak, with 10 consecutive postseason round or series losses, before they beat the Reds to move on. The last time they had won a postseason series was the '01 NL Division Series, which they swept from the Astros, before losing in five to the D-backs in the NLCS. Since then, Atlanta has been eliminated in a winner-take-all game five times, in Game 5 of the NLDS in '02-04 and '19, and in the '12 NL Wild Card Game. In Game 5 in '19, the Braves allowed 10 first-inning runs to the Cardinals, the most first-inning runs in any game in postseason history.
None of the Braves’ last 15 postseason appearances entering 2020 have resulted in a World Series title, the longest such streak in postseason history. That's still on the line as they continue through the 2020 playoffs.
1-T) Cubs: 10 straight, 1910 World Series to '98 NLDS
The Cubs won the 2016 World Series, but as many fans remember, prior to that they were synonymous with postseason shortcomings -- for a long time. This streak ended before 2016, though. The Cubs won two of their first three postseason series in franchise history, winning the 1907 and '08 World Series. They made it back to the Fall Classic in '10 and lost in five games to the Philadelphia Athletics. With that, the playoff futility began. From '10-98, the Cubs appeared in 10 postseason series and lost each one.
They finally won a postseason series again in 2003, when they beat the Braves in five games in the NLDS, one of the series noted above. They infamously lost in seven games in the '03 NLCS, so the switch to winning ways was short-lived at the time.
3) Twins: Nine straight, 2002 American League Championship Series to present
The Twins/Senators’ postseason history has been one of streaks. After a win in the 1924 World Series, the first postseason appearance in franchise history, they went on to lose five straight series from the '25 Fall Classic through the '70 ALCS. Then, they won the '87 ALCS to turn the tide, and through the 2002 ALDS, the Twins won five straight postseason series. But the current streak has been a losing streak -- and it’s close to the overall record.
The Twins lost the 2002 ALCS to the Angels in five games, and have not won a postseason round since. The eight-round stretch includes six losses to the Yankees, the most postseason series losses without a win to a single opponent by any team all-time.
4-T) Astros: Seven straight, 1980 NLCS to 2001 NLDS
The Astros got onto this list with the first seven postseason series in franchise history, losing each, beginning with the 1980 NLCS against the Phillies and going through the 2001 NLDS against the Braves. The first two eliminations were in winner-take-all games, in best-of-five series in the '80 NLCS and '81 NLDS.
Three years after that 2001 NLDS, the Astros faced the Braves in the NLDS again and it was a different story, with Houston finally coming through for the first series win in the franchise’s postseason history. Since the streak ended, the Astros haven’t lost consecutive postseason series at any point, following up each series loss with a win in the next playoff appearance. They’ll put that on the line this postseason, entering on the heels of a World Series loss in '19.
4-T) Dodgers: Seven straight, 1916 World Series to '53 World Series
Like the Astros, the Dodgers’ longest postseason series losing streak came at the beginning of the franchise’s history. They lost the 1916 World Series to the Red Sox, then went on to lose seven total series through the '53 Fall Classic.
Of course, the final five of those were against the Yankees, the Dodgers’ perpetual playoff foe. The Dodgers have faced the Yankees in 11 postseason series, the most common postseason matchup in history. The Dodgers finally got a series win -- both in postseason history and against the Yankees -- in 1955, when they won the World Series in seven games. The Dodgers’ longest postseason series losing streak since was four series, from the '95 NLDS through the 2006 NLDS.
6-T) Athletics: Six straight, 2006 ALCS to 2019 AL Wild Card Game
The A’s had lost nine straight winner-take-all games, the longest such streak in postseason history, before they beat the White Sox in the 2020 AL Wild Card Series. In between some of those, they have won some series that didn’t go the distance, but not lately. They had lost six straight rounds, beginning with the 2006 ALCS against the Tigers. Oakland's last playoff series win before 2020 was a sweep of Minnesota in the 2006 ALDS.
6-T) Athletics: Six straight, 1990 World Series to 2003 ALDS
But it’s not just the series stretch noted above. Overall, the A’s have lost 12 of their last 14 postseason rounds. With that one win coming in the 2006 ALDS over the Twins, the 12 have been evenly split: the six-series streak above and this six-series streak that preceded it before the '06 ALDS win.
On the more positive side, it’s worth noting that the A’s also own one of the six longest postseason series win streaks: they reeled off six straight postseason series wins from the 1972 ALCS through the '74 World Series. The streak ended when they lost the '75 ALCS to the Red Sox.