MLB: Late-Season Comebacks

Bobby Thompson’s 1951 “Shot heard ‘round the world,” led to one of the most famous calls in baseball history, “The Giants win the Pennant; the Giants win the Pennant!”. The New York Giants won 37 of their last 44 games to catch the first-place, and intracity rival, Brooklyn Dodgers, resulting in a three game playoff series to determine the N.L. champion. Thompson’s theatrical walk-off home run  was the culmination of an amazing late-season comeback.

Some other noteworthy late-season comebacks include:

1969: On Aug.1, The “Miracle Mets” trailed the Cubs by 6 ½ games. They proceeded to go 44-17 the rest of the way and finish 100-62. In the process, the Mets passed the Cubs to win the N.L.East by eight games – a 14 ½ game swing in two months. They went on to win the World Series while fans of the Cubs…well, you know.

1978: The Yankees trailed the A.L. East leading Red Sox by 14 games on July 20. The Bronx Bombers went 52-21 from that point forward, erasing the deficit, and forcing a one-game playoff with the rival Red Sox. The Yankees’ Bucky “&*#$%” Dent hit a walk-off home run, breaking the hearts of Sox fans again (until 2003, that is). That same Bucky Dent went on to win the World Series MVP as the Yanks defeated the L.A. Dodgers four games to two.

2005: The Astros started the season 15-30 – second worst in the league – and were 12 ½  games behind in the Wild Card race.  However, they went an MLB best 74–43 to finish the year 89-73 – good enough for a Wild Card berth. The Astros rode that wave all the way to the World Series. In contrast, their opponent, the Chicago White Sox started hot, but nearly squandered a huge lead. They led the Cleveland Indians by 11 ½ games at the All-Star break, but the Indians climbed to within 1 ½ games on Sept. 24. The Sox held on, however. In fact, they won 18 of their last 19 games, including an 11-1 record in the playoffs and a sweep of the Astros.

2011: The Cardinals trailed the Braves in the Wild Card battle by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 24. They went 23-9 the rest of the way while the Braves subsequently faltered, including going a miserable 9-18 in September. On the last day of the season, the Cardinals won a day game, forcing the Braves to beat a tough Phillies team later that night to remain tied. In dramatic fashion, the Braves and Phillies went to extra innings. The Braves, however, lost the game, which not only gave the Cardinals a Wild Card berth, but a path to a World Championship.

Will 2015 have a comeback story? Will the A’s, with their +53 run differential find a way to win one run games (they are currently 9-22)? Can Cabrera and Verlander get healthy and help the Tigers overcome the Royals and Twins?  On the flip side, who might collapse in the second half of the season?

The answer is, we don’t really know – and that’s the beautiful thing about baseball.

It isn’t over until the fat lady sings –  or your favorite team’s G.M. trades all the good players prior to the trading deadline.

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