Super comebacks: MLB's most unreal rallies

July 17th, 2020

Unlike most other sports, baseball has no clock -- just a limited number of outs. Those conditions have set the stage for plenty of memorable rallies.

Here is a look back at some of MLB's biggest comeback victories.

Regular season

Back in 2016, the Mariners treated their fans to a rare sort of rally. On June 2 at San Diego, the Mariners fell into a 12-2 hole after five innings, the sort of deficit that usually leads to a position player on the mound for mop-up duty by the ninth. Instead, Seattle roared back for five runs in the sixth and nine in the seventh.

It remains the largest come-from-behind win by any team since 2009. That year, the Indians rallied from being behind, 10-0, to beat the Rays on May 25, and the A's rallied from a 12-2 deficit to beat the Twins on July 20.

The game also stirred memories of a time when the Mariners found themselves on the wrong side of an amazing comeback. On Aug. 5, 2001, with Seattle in the midst of a 116-win season, it scored eight runs in the third inning at Cleveland to jump ahead, 12-0. Game over, right? Not so fast. With the Tribe trailing, 12-2, it chipped away with three runs in the seventh, four in the eighth and five with two outs in the ninth. Omar Vizquel ripped a game-tying bases-loaded triple, and Jolbert Cabrera singled home Kenny Lofton with the walk-off run in the 11th in a 15-14 game.

At 12 runs, that tied the record for the largest deficit ever overcome to win. However, the other two instances both occurred early in the previous century. On June 18, 1911, the Tigers clawed back from 13-1 down to defeat the White Sox, 16-15. And on June 15, 1925, the Indians led the Philadelphia A's, 14-2, 15-3 and 15-4, before a 13-run bottom of the eighth wiped that all away.

More recently, there have been some comeback wins from 11 runs down. That list includes the 1994 Astros, who fell behind the Cardinals, 11-0, after three innings on July 18, and trailed, 11-4, after five, then scored 11 times in the sixth and eventually won, 15-12. Another famous slugfest occurred on April 17, 1976, when the Phillies faced a 12-1 deficit after three innings at Wrigley Field but ultimately won, 18-16, in 10 innings. Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt pounded four home runs, including the go-ahead two-run shot.

The Phillies also pulled off a memorable comeback win on June 8, 1989, against the Pirates. The Bucs jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the top of the first, prompting announcer Jim Rooker to tell his audience that if the club didn't win, he would walk back to Pittsburgh. Unfortunately for Rooker, a 95-loss Philly club chipped away, pulled to within 11-10 in the sixth, then scored five in the bottom of the eighth to pull off a 15-11 win. While Rooker didn't actually do his cross-state walk that night, he did make the trip after the season, raising money for charity.

Then there were the rallies of the last-minute variety. On June 14, 2019, for example, the Padres trailed the Rockies, 11-4, after seven innings. They scored once in the eighth but still were down by six with three outs to go. At Coors Field, though, it isn't over until the final out is recorded. San Diego raced back to tie the game on rookie Fernando Tatis Jr.'s two-run single, then put up a five-spot in the 12th and won, 16-12.

On June 29, 1952, the Cubs faced an even-higher degree of difficulty. Trailing the Reds, 8-2, at Cincinnati, Chicago had nobody on with two outs in the top of the ninth. The next nine batters all reached safely, pushing across seven runs to win, 9-8. The Cubs' win expectancy had dropped as low as 0.01%, tied for the lowest in history for a team that ended up winning.

The only other team to recover from a 0.01% win expectancy was the 1990 Phillies, who on Aug. 21 at Dodger Stadium, fell behind 11-1 when L.A. exploded for eight runs in the fifth. Philly still trailed by that score after seven, then scored two in the eighth to draw a bit closer. Finally, with help from two Dodgers errors, the visitors put together a nine-run ninth that included John Kruk's game-tying three-run homer and Carmelo Martínez's go-ahead RBI double. The Phillies won, 12-11, becoming the fourth team in history and the only one since 1934 to erase at least an eight-run deficit in the ninth and go on to win, per the Elias Sports Bureau. (The only successful nine-run ninth-inning rally took place way back in 1901, courtesy of the Tigers).

How about two comebacks in the same game, one in extra innings? On April 21, 1991, the Pirates rallied from being down, 7-2, in the middle of the eighth inning to tie the Cubs, who proceeded to get a grand slam from Andre Dawson in scoring five runs in the top of the 11th. But in the bottom of the frame, the Bucs battled back again, with Don Slaught's two-run walk-off double ending a six-run outburst.


In 2016, the Cubs pulled off a notable comeback on their way to a World Series title. In Game 4 of the National League Division Series at San Francisco, Chicago was down, 5-2, entering the ninth inning at San Francisco, before Willson Contreras' two-run single tied things up, and Javier Báez's single gave Chicago the lead. The Cubs' 6-5 win sent them to the NL Championship Series.

A year earlier, it was the the eventual-World Series champion Royals who authored a storybook ending. Facing elimination in Game 4 of the American League Division Series at Houston, Kansas City fell behind, 6-2, in the seventh, but it rebounded with six runs in the eighth to take the lead and win, 9-6. In the 2014 AL Wild Card Game, the Royals swiped seven bases to stun the A's, who led by four runs entering the eighth.

The Philadelphia A's set the mark for the biggest postseason comeback win in 1929, both in terms of largest deficit (eight) and lowest win expectancy (0.5%) overcome. In Game 4 of the World Series, the Cubs took an 8-0 lead in the top of the seventh before the A's sent 15 batters to the plate in a 10-run explosion, with Jimmie Foxx notching the game-tying single.

When the Yankees began their run of four championship in five years in 1996, they authored a famous rally in Game 4 of the World Series against the Braves. Down, 6-0, after five innings, New York scored three in the sixth and then three in the eighth on Jim Leyritz's home run off Mark Wohlers. The Yanks went on to win, 8-6, in 10 innings.

The Red Sox faced steeper odds 12 years later when they trailed the Rays, 7-0, in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the 2008 ALCS at Fenway Park. Boston then scored four in the seventh and three in the eighth to tie, setting the stage for J.D. Drew's walk-off single in the ninth.