Baseball is one professional sport with a demanding playoff season. When the regular season winds down, the battle for a spot in the World Series begins. The MLB playoffs are often a source of joy, stress, and relief for fans of the sport as they watch their teams pull off the win or fail to hold up. Whether you’re watching from the stadium or from home, every play can keep you on the edge of your seat. As this year’s playoff season approaches, let’s take a look at some of the wildest playoff upsets in MLB history.
1960 Pirates Over Yankees
The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates victory over the Yankees is one of the most memorable MLB playoff upsets in history. This upset features the New York Yankees, one of the most dominant teams at the time. With a roster including greats like Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, and Moose Skowron, the team was set to grab an easy win. To many Yankees fans, it felt like there was no chance of losing. The Yankees had outperformed the Pirates in every aspect that season, including home runs and total points. Bill Mazeroski, also known as “Maz” and “The Glove,” changed the tune of the game in the ninth inning by hitting a home run that let the Pirates get their historic upset over the Yankees.
1968 Tigers Over Cardinals
1968 was known as the year of the pitcher and it was during this season that the Tigers pulled off a magnificent upset again the Cardinals. Down 3-1 in the series, the Tigers entered playoff game five with minuscule odds of pulling off the win. Even worse, as the game progressed, the Tigers found themselves down 3-0 after the first inning. The Tigers had made several comebacks throughout this season and started another one by winning several more games in the series. Without a score for six innings, the seventh game started off slow but picked up in the seventh inning. The Tigers won the game 4-1 and pulled off an upset over the Cardinals.
1969 Mets Over Orioles
Not only did the Mets pull off a historic upset against the Baltimore Orioles, but they managed to do so while winning the series 4-1. During the third game, Tommie Agee put on a performance to remember, kicking off the first inning with a home run. In game five, the Orioles tried to regain their footing in the series and held a 3-0 lead through the fifth inning. The Mets shut them down, finishing the game 5-3 after a clutch double to Cleon Jones. Ron Swoboda, an outfielder, drove the winning run for the Mets.
1973 Mets Over Reds
Another iconic Mets upset is the 1973 NLCS, in which the Mets pulled out a win in the finale, beating the Reds 7-2. This is back when the LCS round was still only a five-game series, and Pete Rose from the Reds managed to force a fifth game with a home run in the 12th inning. Tom Seaver, who had two runs over eight innings, helped to push the team and get them the victory. Unfortunately, though the Mets managed an upset against the Reds, they went on to the World Series and lost to the A’s, who beat them in seven games.
1985 Royals Over Cardinals
The 1985 World Series is known for how the Kansas City Royals pulled off an amazing upset against the St. Louis Cardinals. Though the teams battled it out during games one through six, The Royals shut the Cardinals down during the seventh game. In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Royals raised their lead from 5-0 to 10-0, giving the Cardinals little room for a comeback. During this series, the Royals became the first team to ever win a World Series after losing the first two games at home.
1987 Twins Over Tigers
During the 1987 ALCS, the Twins and Tigers competed to claim the championship and move on to the World Series. Going into this series, the Tigers had a 98-64 record, which was the best in baseball, and the Twins had by far the poorest record of all the teams that made it to the playoffs. In an unprecedented upset, Twins stars like Tom Brunansky, Greg Gagne, and Gary Gaetti beat the Tigers in just five games, then went on to beat the Cardinals in seven games, earning the Twins their first World Series title.
1988 Dodgers Over A’s
You may know this World Series best for the epic pinch-hit walk-off home run from Kirk Gibson of the Dodgers. This is impressive because Kirk Gibson was unable to start, and on day-to-day status because of his pulled hamstring and swollen knee. Gibson was watching the game during physical therapy, and heard an announcer comment on his absence. The announcer motivated him to take a few practice swings and eventually join the action on the field, despite the fact that his team and coach could tell he was in pain.
This was a five-game series, and in the final game, the Dodgers Hershiser struck out Tony Phillips for the finale. The Dodgers became the first team to experience a perfect game and a World Series in the same season. The Dodgers World Series win coincided with the Lakers winning the NBA championship, making Los Angeles the first city to experience both wins in the same year.
1993 Phillies Over Braves
After signing Greg Maddox for the 1992-1993 season, Atlanta was hoping to improve their odds of making to the World Series. With players like Curt Schilling and Lenny Dykstra, the Phillies surprised baseball fans by rising from being one of the worst teams in the league to winning their division title with a 97-65 record. Though the Braves started out strong with a 2-1 lead, the Phillies ended up ending the series during the sixth game with a 6-3 score. The Phillies went on to the 1993 World Series but lost to the Toronto Blue Jays.
1997 Marlins Over Braves
This was the Florida Marlins‘ fifth year in the league, and they had managed to assemble a decent roster. The Atlanta Braves had a powerful pitching lineup and were ahead of the Marlins by nine games when they met in the playoffs. The Marlins made it into the playoffs on a wild card, and Braves fans were confident the Braves would make it to the world series.
This all changed when the teams went into the sixth game with the Marlins up 3-2 on the Braves. The Marlins started off strong, bringing the score to 4-0, and though the Braves did manage to score in the second half of the game, the Marlins came out 7-4. After this amazing playoff upset, the Marlins went on to win the 1997 World Series.
2003 Cubs Over Braves
2003 was the year that the Marlins, with only 91 wins, took down the Yankees in the World Series. But that year wasn’t only special because of the memorable World Series, but also because of the Cubs’ victory over the Braves. There was an 80-point difference between these two teams, but with Kerry Wood pitching strong, the Chicago Cubs managed to pull through. This was the Cubs’ first series victory in the postseason since the World Series in 1908.
2006 Cardinals Over Mets
The 2006 NLCS is another series that’s remembered for its upset. The Cardinals and Mets had an 83-point difference, and the Mets had an entire lineup of amazing players, including the two future Hall of Famers, Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine. After eight whole innings, the final game in this series was tied at 1-1. Yadier Molina hit a two-run homer during the top of the ninth, giving the Cardinals the lead and allowing the team to secure the series victory.
2008 Dodgers Over Cubs
In 2008, the Dodgers managed an iconic upset over the Cubs during the NLDS championship series. There was an 84-point difference between these two teams. The division for the Cubs was much more difficult to win than that for the Dodgers, and coming into the series, Cubs fans were positive the victory was in their hands. 2008 was an important year for the Dodgers, as that’s when Manny Ramirez joined the team. Ramirez was an important force during the series, helping the Dodgers to outscore the Cubs 20-6.
2021 Braves Over Dodgers
One of the most recent examples of a great MLB playoff upset is the 2021 NLCS. This series saw two teams from two drastically different divisions compete for the championship. Braves fans may not have been super optimistic about this series, as the MVP candidate Ronald Acuña Jr. was injured. But with outstanding performances from both Eddie Rosario and Freddie Freeman, the Braves were able to overcome and defeat the Dodgers in this series. This earned the Braves their first pennant since 1999.
As we move into playoff season this year, it can be exciting to look back on the great upsets in MLB history. This list shows that even if your team is an underdog this year, there’s nothing stopping them from pulling through and getting the win. To support your team this playoff season, check out the latest sports collectibles and memorabilia.