With their 4-2 loss to the Braves in Game 6 of the 2021 National League Championship Series at Truist Park, the Dodgers were unable to extend their win streak in postseason elimination games to eight dating back to 2020, which would have tied the Royals for second-longest in history.
Postseason elimination games are among the most tension-filled and thrilling contests in baseball, and there have been some teams throughout history with a knack for surviving and advancing over and over again. Here’s a look at the six longest elimination-game winning streaks in MLB postseason history:
1. Giants, 10 (2012-16)
It began with the 2012 NL Division Series, when the Giants found themselves down, 2-0, in the best-of-five series as they headed to Cincinnati, where the Reds looked to finish off the sweep. But San Francisco reeled off three consecutive victories at Great American Ball Park to become the first team to go down 2-0 and win a best-of-five series with three straight road wins.
In the NLCS against the Cardinals, the Giants were again on the brink of elimination, down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series. But a 34-year-old Barry Zito turned in one of the best performances of his career in Game 5, a 5-0 San Francisco victory, before the Giants outscored the Cards 15-1 over the final two games to win the pennant.
In 2014, the Giants faced the Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game, and Madison Bumgarner tossed a four-hit shutout with one walk and 10 strikeouts to send San Francisco to the NLDS. In the World Series against the Royals, Bumgarner capped off one of the greatest individual playoff game performances with a five-inning save in Game 7 to lift the Giants to their third championship in a five-season span.
Two years later, San Francisco again found itself playing for its season in the NL Wild Card Game, this time against the Mets. Bumgarner was brilliant yet again, tossing another four-hit shutout to vault San Francisco into the NLDS against the Cubs. But that’s where the franchise’s remarkable run of playoff success ended -- Chicago won the series in four games before winning its first World Series championship since 1908.
2. Royals, 8 (1985-2014)
The Royals were down, 3-1, in their best-of-seven American League Championship Series against the Blue Jays in 1985, but they rallied for three consecutive wins over Toronto to capture the pennant. Southpaw Danny Jackson was the hero in Game 5, turning in an eight-hit shutout with one walk and six strikeouts to keep Kansas City’s season alive. The Royals won the next two games to complete the comeback. George Brett was named MVP of the series after hitting .348 with three homers.
Kansas City pulled off the same type of comeback in that year’s World Series against the Cardinals, overcoming a 3-1 series deficit to win it all in seven games. Jackson reprised his role as stopper by tossing a complete game as the Royals survived with a 6-1 win in Game 5. With their title hopes on the line in the ninth inning of Game 6, the Royals were aided by a controversial call at first base in Game 6, a 2-1 walk-off victory. Game 7 was an 11-0 blowout win for Kansas City during which World Series MVP Bret Saberhagen threw a five-hit shutout.
It was 29 years before the Royals returned to the World Series, and while they didn’t win it in 2014, it was an October to remember for Kansas City. In one of the wildest Wild Card Games on record, the Royals erased a 7-3 deficit against the A’s with three runs in the eighth inning and one in the ninth. The game remained tied into the 12th, when Oakland scored to go ahead, 8-7. But in the bottom of the 12th, Christian Colon came through with a game-tying single before Salvador Perez delivered a walk-off single to send Kansas City to the ALDS.
The Royals swept their way through the ALDS and ALCS to meet the Giants in the World Series. Down, 3-1, the Royals routed San Francisco in Game 6, 10-0, to force a memorable Game 7, when they fell a run short in a 3-2 loss.
3. Dodgers, 7 (2020-21)
Playing in their fifth NLCS in an eight-season span, the Dodgers were still looking for that elusive World Series title in October 2020, which would be their first in 32 years. They captured it, but it was far from a breeze through the postseason. Los Angeles fell into a 3-1 series deficit against the Braves before series MVP Corey Seager launched three homers over the next two games to help force Game 7. That’s when Cody Bellinger crushed the biggest homer of his career, a go-ahead solo shot in the seventh inning that turned out to be the difference in a pennant-clinching 4-3 win.
In 2021, the Dodgers won 106 games but still found themselves playing in the NL Wild Card Game because the Giants surprised the baseball world by winning 107 in the regular season to end Los Angeles’ streak of eight consecutive NL West titles. Thanks to a Chris Taylor walk-off homer to beat the Cardinals, the Dodgers advanced to the NLDS against San Francisco. In an epic five-game series, Los Angeles overcame a 2-1 series deficit to outlast the Giants and reach the NLCS.
They faced elimination yet again in that series, entering Game 5 down 3-1 against the Braves. But Taylor came to the rescue again, belting three homers and driving in six runs as Los Angeles routed Atlanta, 11-2, to force Game 6 back at Truist Park. That's where the Dodgers' run ended, however, as the Braves clinched the pennant with a 4-2 victory.
4. (tie) Tigers, 6 (1945-72)
This streak began with Game 7 of the 1945 World Series, when the Tigers faced the Cubs at Wrigley Field as they looked to win the second World Series championship in franchise history. Detroit scored five times in the first inning and never looked back during a 9-3 win.
It wasn’t until 23 years later that the Tigers got back to the Fall Classic, this time facing the Cardinals in what became a memorable seven-game series. Behind otherworldly performances from ace Bob Gibson, St. Louis jumped out to a 3-1 series lead. But Detroit was far from finished, riding the arms of World Series MVP Mickey Lolich and Denny McLain, as well as the bat of Al Kaline, to three consecutive elimination-game victories to win the championship.
In 1972, the Tigers met the A’s in what was then a five-game ALCS. Oakland won the first two games, putting Detroit on the brink of elimination. But the Tigers battled back with a pair of wins at Tiger Stadium thanks to a 14-strikeout performance from Joe Coleman in Game 3, and a Jim Northrup walk-off single in Game 4. The A’s won the decisive fifth game, however, 2-1, before going on to win the World Series.
4. (tie) Twins, 6 (1987-2002)
It took about 15 years, but Minnesota’s streak of six wins was as impressive as it was improbable. It all started in the 1987 World Series, when the team was sitting pretty with a 2-0 lead over the Cardinals to open the series. St. Louis stormed back and took the next three, putting Minnesota on its heels for the final two games. Game 6 was close until the sixth inning, when Kent Hrbek launched a grand slam to make it a four-run ballgame. The Twins never looked back, forcing Game 7 with an 11-5 win. Minnesota went down, 2-0, early, but scored four unanswered runs as Frank Viola tossed eight innings and Jeff Reardon shut the door in the ninth to give the franchise its first title in the Twin Cities.
It was déjà vu all over again in 1991, with Minnesota going down, 3-2, in the World Series against the Braves. This time, though, there was even more drama. It took 11 innings to squeak out a victory in Game 6, with Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett playing hero and sending a solo shot into the Metrodome seats to walk it off. Game 7 also went into extra innings, with the two teams locked in a scoreless tie. Jack Morris gave Minnesota all he could, tossing 10 scoreless frames before Gene Larkin laced a pinch-hit walk-off single.
It took 11 years for the Twins to see another playoff run and they were once again put in a two-game hole, this time in the ALDS. They blew out the A’s in Game 4 of that series before winning another close game in Game 5, as Eddie Guardado barely held on to the lead in the ninth for a 5-4 victory to end Oakland’s enthralling season. Minnesota's run ended there, as it was handled swiftly by the underdog Angels in five games, who went on to win their lone World Series title that year.
4. (tie) Cardinals, 6 (2011-12)
The Cards worked their magic two years in a row to stave off elimination. During the 2011 postseason, they were put on the ropes early, going down 2-1 in the NLDS against the Phillies. They rattled off two wins, including a 1-0 nailbiter in Game 5 during which Chris Carpenter battled Hall of Famer Roy Halladay. Carpenter threw a gem in that game, going the distance and allowing just three hits to send St. Louis to the NLCS, but the heart attacks didn’t stop there. The Cards took care of the Brewers in six games next and never faced elimination in the series, but awaiting them in the World Series was the back-to-back AL champs, the Texas Rangers.
After winning two of the first three games, Texas rallied in the series to take Games 4 and 5 and put the Cardinals on the brink of elimination before St. Louis' magic kicked in once again. Third baseman David Freese was the hero in an 11-inning thriller in Game 6, swatting a game-tying two-run triple in the ninth and a walk-off solo home run to force a decisive Game 7. The next day, Carpenter shook off a two-run first inning to go six strong and Freese drove in another two runs for a 6-2 victory.
In 2012, St. Louis took part in the first iteration of the Wild Card Game. The Cardinals handled the Braves fairly easily in a 6-3 game, but it didn’t come without a little controversy at Atlanta's expense. St. Louis found itself in another NLDS Game 5 against the Nationals soon after, and Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma drove in four runs in the ninth to lift the club to a 9-7 win. The Cards' magic wore off in the NLCS, where they fell to the eventual World Series-champion Giants.