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The Rays fall short of a historic feat

Rays-Astros: Here are the teams that have won a baseball postseason series over a foe with 106 victories or more since divisional play began.
In this file photo New York Mets pitchers Tom Seaver, left, and Jerry Koosman, right, pose for a photograph with Mets manager Gil Hodges before the 1969 National League playoffs against the Atlanta Braves. [Associated Press]
Published Oct. 10
Updated Oct. 11

Since baseball began division play in 1969, only four teams have won a playoff series over an opponent with 106 regular-season victories or more.

The Washington Nationals became the fourth on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

The Rays failed to become the fifth Thursday night after a 6-1 loss in Houston ended their season. None of those previous giant-killers lost the first two games of the series as Tampa Bay did.

Here they are:

In this file photo, New York Mets outfielder Ron Swoboda makes a diving catch of Brooks Robinson's line drive, a play that tilted the 1969 World Series in the Mets favor. [TSN | Tampa Tribune]

1969 New York Mets

Opponent: 109-53 Baltimore Orioles

Result: Won World Series, 4-1

Deciding game venue: Shea Stadium

Memorable names: Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and a 22-year-old relief pitcher named Nolan Ryan.

Memorable moment: Ron Swoboda’s diving catch of a Brooks Robinson liner with two runners on in the ninth inning of Game 4. The Orioles tied the game but the Mets went on to win 2-1 in 10. Robinson swears two runs would have scored and the Orioles would have won the game and the Series if not for Swoboda.

Legacy: The Miracle Mets are usually lumped in among baseball’s greatest underdogs, but they actually won 100 games themselves and swept the Braves in the first National League Championship Series. What made them so memorable was their dramatic turnaround. The Mets had finished 9th or 10th in every previous season since they joined the league in 1962. Beating a Baltimore team that had four future Hall of Famers in the dugout didn’t hurt either.

In this file photo, San Diego Padres' Ken Caminiti watches his third-inning two-run home run against the Atlanta Braves in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium on Monday, Oct. 12, 1998. [MARK TERRILL | AP]

1998 San Diego Padres

Opponent: 106-56 Atlanta Braves

Result: Won National League Championship Series, 4-2

Deciding game venue: Turner Field

Memorable names: Tony Gwynn, Kevin Brown, manager Bruce Bochy

Memorable moments: The upset got underway in Game 1 in Atlanta when Ken Caminiti hit a 10th inning home run for a 3-2 win.

Legacy: When people recall this Padres team, it’s usually because they were fodder for the 114-win Yankees in the World Series. New York swept the Padres in four games, outscoring them 26-13. But San Diego did take down a great Braves team with Armwood High’s Sterling Hitchcock outdueling Tom Glavine 5-0 in the deciding Game 6 victory.

In this file photo, New York Yankees fans celebrate during Game 5 of the American League Championship Series against the Seattle Mariners at Yankee Stadium in New York on Monday, Oct. 22, 2001. [KATHY WILLENS | Associated Press]

2001 New York Yankees

Opponent: 116-46 Seattle Mariners

Result: Won American League Championship Series, 4-1.

Deciding game venue: Yankee Stadium

Memorable names: Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina

Memorable moments: The surprisingly easy victory against the Mariners was punctuated by Alfonso Soriano’s walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth in a Game 4 victory that gave New York a commanding 3-1 series lead.

Legacy: The franchise has 27 world championships, but Yankees fans will always hold a special place in their heart for this team that came up just short. Beginning the postseason a month after the 9/11 tragedy, the Yankees took down the record-setting Mariners in the ALCS to offer a small distraction to a grieving city and nation. The World Series that followed was one of the most dramatic in baseball history, with Tampa’s Luis Gonzalez driving in the Game 7 winner off Mariano Rivera for a 3-2 Arizona victory.

Washington Nationals' Howie Kendrick (47) watches his grand slam off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Joe Kelly, left, during the 10th inning in Game 5 of a baseball National League Division Series on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, in Los Angeles. [MARK J. TERRILL | AP]

2019 Washington Nationals

Opponent: 106-56 Los Angeles Dodgers

Result: Won National League Division Series, 3-2

Deciding game venue: Dodger Stadium

Memorable names: Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer

Memorable moments: Take your pick. Was it the back-to-back homers by Rendon and Juan Soto in the eighth to tie the game, or was it Howie Kendrick’s game-winning grand slam in the tenth to win Game 5?

Legacy: Their legacy could still be embellished by the NLCS or the World Series, but this Washington team will always be remembered for dramatic comebacks in the final innings of both the wild-card game and NLDS Game 5. This is the first Washington team to win a playoff series since the two-time defunct Senators won the World Series in 1924 with Walter Johnson on the mound. To make it all sweeter? Bryce Harper was watching on TV somewhere.


  1. Tampa Bay Rays leftfielder Tommy Pham (29) takes a moment in the dugout after the Rays' 6-2 loss to the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
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  2. The Yankees' Gleyber Torres hits a home run off Astros starting pitcher Zack Greinke during the sixth inning in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. SUE OGROCKI  |  AP
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  3. Tampa Bay Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier (39), right, and shortstop Willy Adames (1) celebrate the Rays 10-3 win over the Houston Astros in Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times
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  4. Nationals starter Anibal Sanchez pitches during the eighth inning of Game 1 of the NL Championship Series against the Cardinals on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. MARK HUMPHREY  |  AP
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  5. Rays catcher Travis d'Arnaud and starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow walk back to the dugout after the Astros score four runs in the first inning of Game 5 of the American League Division Series on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
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  8. Houston Astros players celebrate their 6-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5 of the American League Division Series Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019 in Houston. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
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  10. Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi (26) walks from the field after striking out swinging to end the game against the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the American League Division Series Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019 in Houston. Houston Astros defeated the Rays 6-1. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
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