Teams that owned other teams in October

October 24th, 2022

In this year’s American League Championship Series, the Astros met a familiar foe -- and carried on a recent trend. 

Going back to 2015, when Houston snapped a nine-season playoff drought, it has defeated New York in a postseason series four straight times, if you include the 2015 AL Wild Card Game. Their latest victory in the 2022 ALCS put their streak into truly rare territory.

Since the Divisional Era began in 1969, when the playoffs expanded beyond the World Series, there have been 17 instances of one team winning at least three consecutive postseason series matchups against another team (including Wild Card Games), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. In just 11 of those cases have those three straight series victories come in the span of no more than 10 seasons. When the Astros clinched their 2022 World Series berth, they became only the second team with at least four consecutive series wins against an opponent over a 10-year span.

Here is a look at the longest postseason series winning streaks by one team against a single opponent in the Divisional Era.

^Denotes active streak

Yankees vs. Twins (6 series^)
2003 ALDS, ‘04 ALDS, ‘09 ALDS, ‘10 ALDS, ‘17 ALWC, ‘19 ALDS

It’s not just that the Yankees have won these series -- it’s that they have dominated them. The Bronx Bombers are 16-2 in postseason games against the Twins, with a plus-53 run differential, winning 13 straight since Game 2 of the 2004 ALDS. That’s a big reason why Minnesota has dropped each of its past nine series overall, as well as an astonishing 18 playoff games in a row.

Astros vs. Yankees (4 series^)
2015 ALWC, ‘17 ALCS, ‘19 ALCS, '22 ALCS

With a sweep in the 2022 ALCS, Houston made it four straight series of ownage over New York – and with the Astros having played in the NL until 2013, these franchises didn’t even meet in the playoffs until 2015, so this relatively limited sample represents every postseason matchup between the two clubs.

Yankees vs. A’s (4 series^)
1981 ALCS, 2000 ALDS, ‘01 ALDS, ‘18 ALWC

Of course, the Twins aren’t the Yankees’ only October victims. Those A's losses in 2000 and ‘01 were particularly excruciating, both coming in five games. In ‘01, a 102-win Oakland club won Games 1 and 2 at Yankee Stadium, only to drop three in a row, including by a 1-0 score in Game 3.

Red Sox vs. Angels (4 series)
1986 ALCS, 2004 ALDS, ‘07 ALDS, ‘08 ALDS

The Angels held a 3-1 advantage in that 1986 ALCS and led Game 5 by a 5-2 score entering the ninth inning before the Red Sox rallied. The other three series, which came in a five-year span, were much more one-sided, with the Halos winning just one total game. They did get their revenge in 2009, however, sweeping Boston in a three-game ALDS.

Yankees vs. Guardians (3 series^)
2017 ALDS, ‘20 ALWC, ‘22 ALDS

Cleveland won two of the first three playoff series between these teams, before New York turned the tables. It hasn’t been a cakewalk, however. The Yankees needed to go to a winner-take-all fifth game to emerge from the ALDS victorious in both 2017 and ‘22.

Red Sox vs. Yankees (3 series^)
2004 ALCS, ‘18 ALDS, ‘21 ALWC

The Yankees beat the Red Sox in their first two postseason matchups, in 1999 and 2003. It looked like they would do it again, in ‘04, but Boston pulled off what remains the only successful comeback from a 3-0 deficit in postseason history. Since Game 4 of that series, the Sox have won eight of nine playoff games against their archrivals.

Dodgers vs. Braves (3 series)
2013 NLDS, ‘18 NLDS, ‘20 NLCS

It’s worth remembering that past results do not guarantee future ones. For a while there, it seemed like Atlanta just couldn’t get past Los Angeles in October. But the Braves flipped the script in 2021, beating the Dodgers in six games in the NLCS on their way to a World Series title.

Cardinals vs. Braves (3 series^)
2000 NLDS, 2012 NLWC, 2019 NLDS

It looked as if Atlanta would win that 2019 NLDS, taking a 2-1 lead in the series and a 4-3 lead late in Game 4. But Yadier Molina led St. Louis to a comeback win, while a 10-run first-inning outburst made Game 5 anticlimactic.

Giants vs. Cardinals (3 series^)
2002 NLCS, ‘12 NLCS, ‘14 NLCS

In both of their past two championship runs, the Giants had to go through the Cardinals to reach the World Series. In 2012, they rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to do so. The ‘14 NLCS lasted only five games, but those were decided by a total of only 10 runs, including a Giants extra-inning win in Game 3.

Tigers vs. A’s (3 series^)
2006 ALCS, ‘12 ALDS, ‘13 ALDS

If the Yankees have been the A’s No. 1 playoff nemesis in recent history, the Tigers aren’t too far behind. The two teams played highly competitive, back-to-back ALDS in 2012-13, with both lasting the maximum five games. Unfortunately for the A’s, both winner-take-all contests pitted them against Justin Verlander, who threw a combined 17 scoreless innings with 21 strikeouts.

Tigers vs. Yankees (3 series^)
2006 ALDS, ‘11 ALDS, ‘12 ALCS

The Yankees can sympathize with Oakland’s plight of facing Verlander in October. They’ve done it in recent years against the Astros, and before that, it was against the Tigers. JV faced New York in all three of these series. In both 2011 and ‘12, he authored a victorious outing of at least eight innings.

Phillies vs. Dodgers (3 series^)
1983 NLCS, 2008 NLCS, ‘09 NLCS

The Dodgers beat the Phillies in the NLCS in both 1978 and ‘78, but Philly got revenge five years later. The teams didn’t see each other again in the postseason for another 25 years, before back-to-back, five-game NLCS matchups sent Philly to the World Series. More than a decade later, that Matt Stairs home run might still be going.

Cardinals vs. Padres (3 series)
1996 NLDS, 2005 NLDS, ‘06 NLDS

From 1999-2019, the Padres made the playoffs twice, faced the Cardinals in the NLDS both times and lost six of seven games. But when San Diego finally returned to October in 2020, it overcame a Game 1 loss to beat St. Louis in the NL Wild Card Series.

Braves vs. Astros (3 series)
1997 NLDS, ‘99 NLDS, 2001 NLDS

The Killer B’s-led Astros won the NL Central four times between 1997-2001 but lost in the NLDS each time, while dropping 12 of 14 games. Three of their four series losses during that frustrating stretch were to the Braves. However, Houston fought back to win two other NLDS battles with Atlanta in 2004-05.

Yankees vs. Rangers (3 series)
1996 ALDS, ‘98 ALDS, ‘99 ALDS

The Senators/Rangers franchise, established in 1961, did not make the playoffs until 1996. It then did so in three of the next four seasons -- only to lose to the Yankees in the ALDS each time, while winning just one total game. Rangers fans would finally get some measure of payback in 2010, when their club knocked off New York in the ALCS to capture its first pennant.

Yankees vs. Royals (3 series)
1976 ALCS, ‘77 ALCS, ‘78 ALCS

These franchises have met in the postseason four times, and each matchup came in the ALCS between 1976-80. The Yankees won the first three -- taking win-or-go-home Game 5s in both of the first two -- before the Royals ended that streak with a three-game sweep in ‘80.

Reds vs. Pirates (3 series)
1970 NLCS, ‘72 NLCS, ‘75 NLCS

Currently NL Central foes, these two franchises were in different divisions back in the 1970s, and both were powerhouses. They played four NLCS against each other during that decade, with the Big Red Machine rolling past Pittsburgh in each of the first three.