Opinion

Royals join a list of other playoff teams who were hard to kill

The 1985 Kansas City Royals are the only team to come back from two 3-1 deficits in a postseason. The first team to fall to the club’s playoff rallies was the Blue Jays, followed by the Cardinals.
The 1985 Kansas City Royals are the only team to come back from two 3-1 deficits in a postseason. The first team to fall to the club’s playoff rallies was the Blue Jays, followed by the Cardinals. File photo by The Star

Baseball postseason comebacks take all shapes.

They can happen in a series or a game. Or if you’re the 2015 Kansas City Royals, they can happen in both.

The Royals entered the eighth inning of Game 4 of their American League Division Series at Houston trailing the Astros 2-1 in games and 6-2 on the field.

About 40 minutes later, the Royals held a 7-6 lead on their way to a victory that day and another in the deciding Game 5.

The Royals wouldn’t trail again in a series, jumping to 2-0 leads against the Blue Jays in the AL Championship Series and Mets in the World Series.

But in those games, some comebacks were remarkable. In Game 2 against the Jays, the Royals trailed 3-0 entering the seventh with David Price having retired 18 straight, including striking out the side in the sixth inning. According to Baseball-Reference.com, the Royals had a 9 percent chance of winning the game in the sixth inning.

A five-run seventh flipped the percentages.

A look back in photos and video as the Kansas City Royals clinched the ALCS title, and defeated the New York Mets in five games to win their first World Series Championship since 1985.

The Royals trailed in every World Series game, after the seventh inning in three of them. In those three games, the Royals’ winning chances were 11 percent in the ninth inning of Game 1, 24 percent in the eighth inning of Game 4 and 6 percent in the ninth inning of Game 5.

In all, the Royals trailed in eight of their 11 postseason victories, including six times by more than one run, breaking a record held by the 1996 Yankees.

Any of those comeback victories would be the most memorable triumph for another team in the playoff setting. For the Royals, it was a Sunday, when they scored seven consecutive runs against the Mets and closed out the World Series with a 7-2 victory in 12 innings.

2004 Boston Red Sox

Trailing the Yankees 3-0 in the ALCS, the Red Sox entered the ninth inning trailing 4-3. Against baseball’s greatest closer, Mariano Rivera, the Sox scratched across a run that sent the game into extra innings. A David Ortiz home run in the 12th extended the series. Another extra-inning victory followed in Game 5. The final two games in New York were settled in regulation, and Boston remains the only major-league team to erase a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series.

2011 St. Louis Cardinals

The Texas Rangers needed a victory in Game 6 to capture their first World Series and took a 7-4 lead into the eighth inning. The Cards got a solo home run from Allen Craig to shave off one run. In the ninth with two outs and two on, David Freese sent a triple over the head of right fielder Nelson Cruz, scoring two and sending the game to extra innings. Josh Hamilton’s two-run homer in the 10th restored a Rangers lead, but back came the Cards with two in the 10th. Freese’s solo homer won it in the 11th, and St. Louis went on to capture Game 7. Twice, the Rangers were one strike away from a title in Game 6.

1929 Philadelphia Athletics

The Chicago Cubs were on their way to evening the World Series at 2-2, taking an 8-0 lead into the seventh. A 10-run inning, sparked by a three-run inside-the-park home run by Mule Haas — the last one in World Series play until the Royals’ Alcides Escobar in 2015 — turned the momentum back to the A’s, who won in five games.

1985 Kansas City Royals

Until 1985, only three major-league teams had won the final three games of a best-of-seven series: the 1925 Pirates, 1958 Yankees and 1968 Tigers in the World Series. The Royals faced that deficit in the first best-of-seven ALCS format and rallied to defeat the Blue Jays. When the Royals dug the same hole in the World Series against the Cardinals, they had already used their quota of good fortune. But with the help of Don Denkinger’s missed call in Game 6, the Royals rallied again and remain the only team to rally from two 3-1 series deficits in a postseason.

Inside a city of 467,000, an estimated crowd of 800,000 Royals fans gathered to salute the World Series champions. The bodies packed from the steps outside the station to the grass of Liberty Memorial.

Blair Kerkhoff: 816-234-4730, @BlairKerkhoff

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